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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Food and exercise

We have entered the twilight zone between Christmas and New Year, when some of us go back to work, whilst others take the opportunity to relax with their families. It is also that time of the year when we start to take stock of the damage we have done to our bodies over the last two days. Perhaps a brisk walk might help or is it about time that we joined a gym?

Intuitively, the Western Mail (and no doubt other papers I have not had time to read yet), have the solution, a series of stories on health and well-being. These are not helpful features on diets or exercise though, at least not yet. Instead, there are a number of news stories featuring doctors dictating yet more restrictions to our lives so that they might improve them on our behalf.

First up is Dr Stephen Monaghan, public health director of Cardiff Local Health Board, who has called for a debate about what type of restaurants are granted high street planning permission. he believes that the best way to curb the current obesity epidemic is to stop fast food franchises opening. But why stop there? Could he not also have suggested a law whereby we can only eat what our doctor's prescribe for us or to make it compulsory for a dietician to oversee all produce sold by supermarkets and other shops? I feel a Legislative Competence Order coming on already and it is still recess.

As if to prove that there is a Santa Claus a later article takes an opposite tack to Dr. Monaghan. Dr Colin Waine, from the National Obesity Forum argues that a complete ban on chocolate and sweet foods can be more damaging to children than occasional indulgence. He believes in the power of education and recommends a visit to The Chocolate Factory in Swansea. Here pupils can learn everything from botany to business studies through the medium of chocolate. Now this man is talking my language.

Sales and Marketing manager, Martin Holt, comments: “We cover geography, through where chocolate comes from, and history, in how it was discovered.”

“The science of how it was developed is looked at and the chemistry involved in melting and changing materials.

“For business studies we look at how the product is marketed and we also explain how the cocoa trees grow.

“Teachers can even use the topic for literacy by reading Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.”

Carol Evans, head of business studies at Bishop McGrath Catholic school in Bridgend, has taken GCSE and A-level students to the factory. She admitted that they did enjoy the free samples but said there was a genuine educational benefit too.

“They learned about the seasonality of the product and production,” she said. “Chocolate is in greater demand at different times of the year and they learned how businesses coped with that. A lot of the pupils said they were very focused on the free samples.

“These stuck in their minds and helped them remember what they had learned and how free samples can be used in marketing. What is interesting is that chocolate is actually manufactured in only a very few places.

“It isn’t made from scratch at the factory. They buy it in and mix and mould it. “Some aspects of business studies courses can be a bit dry so chocolate is a good way to interest pupils.”

Meanwhile, the paper also covers the annual Boxing Day swim in coastal towns around Wales. This time it is the story of more than 200 bathers taking part in the traditional 10-minute dip, which is held annually on Boxing Day in the freezing cold waters of the Bristol Channel at Pembrey Park, near Llanelli. What a pity that the paper's photographer could only find a 19 year old girl in a bikini to pose for a picture.

Finally, we are gratified to see that Wales' top doctor is urging all smokers to make giving up their number one New Year's resolution. Dr Tony Jewell’s advice comes as the latest figures reveal that there has been a 20% increase in the number of smokers who sought professional help to quit during 2007. And the paper tells us that a new survey has found that public support for Wales’ smoking ban is continuing to rise, eight months after smoking in all enclosed public places was outlawed. The biggest rise in support, they say, is among smokers, suggesting they have embraced the new legislation.

Although it was always likely that people giving up would be a side-effect of the smoking ban, it was never intended to operate for that purpose. Still it makes the health professionals feel better and providing that we are assisting people who have made up their own minds to kick the habit then I am happy to endorse their efforts.

For me though there was only one Doctor I was paying any attention to this Christmas, that played by David Tennant. Together with 12 million other viewers I was gripped from beginning to end. I think I will watch it again.
I watched Doctor Who this year and I must say it was a great improvement on last years. I enjoy the series but found last years special to be a bit of a disappointment - I'm not overly pleased that Catherine Tate shall be returning as I wasn't too fond of her character.

There's been some quite good Christmas TV this year although having a newborn I've missed the majority of programmes I wanted to see. Never mind - there's always repeats!

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