A few weeks ago a pop machine that was giving out free Cokes for hugs made the headlines. The machine was placed in Ottawa’s city hall for a day. Apparently it went widely unnoticed until some teens from a nearby high school caught on. At this point there was a line-up, everyone wanted to embrace the machine and grab a free pop.
It was nice to see the unanimous derision of the machine. I was quite happy reading this article in the National Post until the author made a statement that undermined everything else he said. Can you find it?
If you guessed, “Nutrition and fitness ultimately come down to personal choices” then you were right! (Bonus points if you caught that and you’re not a dietitian or in the employ of public health). Sorry, no free Coke as a prize; just a sense of frustration at the never ending uphill battle that accompanies efforts to fight the status quo.
The whole problem is that no, ultimately, nutrition and fitness DO NOT come down to personal choice. This is precisely why things like Coke having exclusive pouring rights with a city, and public access to free pop in exchange for affection is an issue. If it was as simple as everyone just saying “nah, I choose not to have a pop” then we wouldn’t need dietitians. We wouldn’t be seeing ever rising rates of lifestyle related chronic diseases. It’s never just a free pop. It’s a free pop, free snacks at meetings and leftovers in the lunchroom, samples at the grocery store, discounts on bulk purchases of chips and candy, every social activity revolving around (or at least including) food and drink. It’s sitting all day at a desk, then sitting all night on the couch, parking as close to the entrance as possible, lack of walkable neighbourhoods, locating retail shops and businesses farther and farther away from residential areas. None of this is personal choice. Nutrition and fitness are difficult to achieve in our current environment. It’s not as simple as just not showing a Coke machine any love.