Health trougher wants to save fat bastards by taxing us all

Robyn Toomath is a health trougher and a socialist. She hasn’t yet met a tax that she doesn’t like.

She appeared on Sunday last night re-iterating what she has written on her blog.

If you stop and ask people on the street, nine out of ten (including the overweight ones) will say that you get fat from over-eating and its no-one’s fault but your own. This is not just due to imperfect understanding of geno-environmental interactions, but because the notions of autonomy and self-control are deeply held (1). So when nihilistic biologists such as myself suggest there is no such thing as free will, it’s not just the libertarians but liberal intellectuals who are offended.

I need to remind myself of this tension between free will and socially determined arguments when I feel frustrated at the persistent framing of obesity as an issue of personal responsibility. But no matter how appealing the idea that we can change our body size if we choose to, the reality is that we can’t. At least, not most of us, and not permanently. Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor (and obesity expert), said in a recent speech that over his life time he has lost about 100kg in weight, and put about 95kg back on (2). If motivation and education were the keys to staying slim Sir Peter should be as thin as a rake (he’s not).

It’s all very well maintaining a fantasy if it makes us feel better but the personal responsibility myth causes great harm.

Actually it is the belief that the state can cure-all that causes the most harm. There is only one person responsible for someone being a fat bastard…themselves.

The most obvious harm is the stigmatisation and shame experienced by an overweight person. The impact of this can be quantified by looking at wages earned by fat and slim people, corrected for other factors. In a study of 25,800 people in the US, a woman weighing 30kg above ideal weight earned on average 9% less, equivalent to 3 years of work experience or a year and a half of education compared to a normal weight woman. The penalty for severely obese men was a 20% lower salary (3). Prejudice develops at a very young age and psychologist Andy Hill has documented marked aversion to obesity by children as young as nine and this appears to be getting worse with time despite increasing numbers of fat children (4). In the absence of effective treatments for obesity in children (despite Minister of Health Coleman’s assertions to the contrary), I share Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills’ view that identifying obesity in the B4 school check will likely do more harm than good (5).

That is, a targeted individual-level approach to tackling obesity, which requires identifying overweight and obese people to start with, can perhaps do more harm (stigmatisation) than good.

If Fat bastards don’t want to be stigmatised then the solution is literally in their own hands…put down the fork and spoon and stop stuffing your gaping maw with food.

Her belief that the collective should solve the problems of the individual is a wonky as it is dangerous. She wants to identify overweight and obese people? It’s not fricking hard love…they are the ones waddling through the supermarket wearing a tent, literally a housing and feeding solution for a small African sub-saharan village.

Sally is enraged at Toomath’s suggestions:

Last night on the Sunday programme, Dr Robyn Toomath was promoting a sugar tax and said we must forget about personal responsibility and move to collective responsibility.

Now I have been thinking about her use of the word collective responsibility. According to her the rather overweight woman I see in the supermarket bypassing the veg display and instead loading her trolley with soft drinks, cakes and chocolate it is all big food and drink producers fault. We already pay for her health problems but Dr Toomath wants all of us contribute more to this person because this fat woman has taken no personal responsibility for own health problem. Dr Toomath even advocates that she doesn’t tell people to lose weight because it damages their self-esteem. See this article…

Now, about this collective responsibility that socialist and Marxist are big on. Notice how often academics are one of these. Once upon a time they took some personal responsibility to study hard, to go to university, and get qualified. Dr Toomath didn’t get where she was without taking personal responsibility. Now she can spout on about the collective from her pulpit on high.

We all know the problem with collective responsibility is everyone is dragged down to the lowest common denominator. So Dr Toomath wants to drag us down to the fat woman in the supermarket who hasn’t got the will power to bypass the soft drink shelves.

I maybe not a highly educated doctor but I sure am happier in my personal responsibility world than sitting in the gutter with the lowest common denominator.

KatB adds:

After watching that TV series a few years ago on the Chawner family in England, it became apparent to me that nobody can change somebody else’s relationship with food or help them lose weight. This obese family had every bit of help one would need to lose weight. They had the gyms and the trainers and the dietitians and doctors all at their disposal. They were sent to health farms etc, but hardly any weight was lost and no real change to their relationship with food. I realised then the change had to come from the person themselves and they had to be really ready to change their life for good for it to work and THEY themselves had to put the hard work in. No home delivered food, no personal trainer on call and no sugar tax is going to help anybody if they aren’t prepared to change themselves.

And Sally adds the final twist that shows how wonky Toomath is in her thinking:

If we become part of the ‘collective’ we should be entitled to walk up to the fat woman in the supermarket and call her fat and tell her to stop buying junk food. We don’t want to waste the ‘collective’s money’ on her health problems and she needs to do her share.

Indeed we should, fat shaming I think is  a valid tactic…after all it worked on smokers. First they had to go to a designated smoking area in the office, then outside, then down the road…pariahs, stigmatised by people like Robyn Toomath. The thing about smoking is it was rancid and affected us all. Rancid fat people can be fixed with a shower and some deodorant. But let’s carry this collective thing further, perhaps restaurants and cafes could have a no Fat Bastards sign out front with a set of scales activated doors.

It is bizarre that academics think nothing of taxing everyone to maybe, possibly save two of three Fat Bastards from themselves. Why should the guy with the body like a half-sucked throatie have to pay taxes to save a Fatty Boomsticks down the road?

If we must have a tax then apply it to the Fat Bastard and call it the Fat Bastard Tax (FBT)…if someone wants to be fat then they get to pay for it and their health issues themselves.

We don’t need “public health experts” like Robyn Toomath wanting to tax everyone.


– Public Health Expert, Whaleoil


THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • Christie

    What gets me is that she says it is not as simple as diet and exercise – often it is a genetic tendency. And she also wants a sugar tax. By her own definition, surely a sugar tax will therefore make no difference?

    • Tom

      Maybe the answer is instead of a tax cut benefits so they cant afford KFC and beer!

  • Tom

    My record weight loss was 8Kg in 42 days, I was not fat and at the time of the loss was eating 9600 calories a day Mostly chocolate and 250 grams of pure sugar a day. Added to margarine porrige and dehydrated food. Why did I lose? Cold climate and incredibly high work load. It was called the Marine Arctic Ration Pack!

  • Backdoor

    Toomath try to argue correlation is causality. I can suggest an alternative hypotheses to low wages are caused by obesity. How about lack of taking responsibility for the self as the cause of both obesity and low income.

    Is it reasonable to suggest that people who fail to strive with their eating patterns also fail to strive for better income?

    Edited: spell check converted Toomath to tomato. The curse of automation.

    • Miguel

      That is a most reasonable suggestion. Poor areas are also fat areas, high-crime areas, low education areas, poor health areas, untidy/unkempt areas…. People who have their act together by-and-large don’t commit crime, don’t smoke, get and education/trade, and so-on. If you lack the long-term thinking (and familial support) to stay in school, or stay out of trouble, or not get pregnant while a teenager, then you probably don’t have the long-term thinking to keep exercising and eat somewhat sensibly, either.

  • Usaywot

    Last week I was standing behind two women at the supermarket. The woman at the front of the queue didn’t have enough money to complete her purchase. She was short around $5. The woman behind her kindly offered to pay the $5 for her. I was impressed until I looked into the first woman’s trolley…packed to the top with chips, biscuits, fizzy drinks and other rubbish and she and her daughter were both obese. Sometimes being kind isn’t the right thing to do.

    • Miguel

      We’ve done the same, though not for a trolley full of junk food (I’ve refused to buy smokes for others duty-free on health grounds). As much as anything, those few dollars really speed things up when you’re in a hurry to get your own shopping finished, and it beats waiting while the person in front tries a range of different cards, etc…!

  • Oh Please

    Can anyone work out what the sugar tax would need to be to pay for UBI? And would fatties get extra?

  • jimknowsall

    Toomath is starting from some fairly radical views: 1) that there is no free will, and 2) that obesity is not caused by overeating. Sorry madam, but as the saying goes, extraordinary assertions require extraordinary evidence. You’re going to have to provide some seriously convincing evidence before I believe anything else you have to say.

  • Typical socialist in wanting to take away any form of personal responsibility
    Always everyone elses fault and everyone should be taxed because of it

  • Bombastic

    I’m curious about how this “collective responsibility” works. I’m reasonably slim, so may I claim the job of chasing the fatties with a stick to make them run?

    • sonovaMin

      So it is our collective responsibility to fat shame – it worked in the past.
      Why does she get to decide what the collective responsibility is?

      • Sunshine

        It would be great to have a return to the collective responsibility of pre 1980s, a time before the PC brigade started silencing the collective. I remember society quite nicely self policing gluttony, acceptable standards for treats/normal foods and the expectation that one didn’t hand over responsibility for health and body composition to others.
        Society has gotten so whimpish. How come schools have stopped telling students that they are to refrain from visiting the dairy on the way to and from school? How come it is not school policy to walk or cycle to school for the majority of the time? How come no one is allowed to comment on the poor standard of lunches or no lunches sent by irresponsible parents? How come it’s not ok to remind someone they are looking rather rotund and perhaps they should do something about it? Why do people think it is ok to abdicate responsibility of good food choices and expect the Government to mandate this control? Why are Doctors/Nurses/Public Health Professionals avoiding being more direct with parents who have allowed their offspring to become overweight or obese? Why are we so scared of critiquing each other’s food choices/lifestyles?
        The problem as I see it is the total erosion of personal responsibility and it must be someone or something else that solves the problem.

  • PersonOfColor:WHITE

    The corollory is that they should be as fat as they like, but then they should also take responsibility for their own health care costs related to their obesity. The only motivation that sometimes moves the dial is the personal cost. Collective responsibility my fat arse.

  • Jman

    How about charging people for their healthcare needs according to how well they look after themselves? A fit, healthy person who hardly ever makes any demands on the health system breaks their arm and gets it fixed for free. The fat bastard who crushes their hip because it can’t hold their body weight up has to pay through the nose. I think that would be a great incentive for people to get in shape.

    • Christie

      What about overweight people who make no demands on the health system?

  • redeye

    Robyn Toomath appears to promoting her book Fat Science.

    But no real self interest here:-)

  • Cadwallader

    I think that paying for the downstream effects of obesity is a damn fine principle. A good place to start would be with the airlines reducing baggage weight allowances for those who weigh-in above an accepted norm. This wouldn’t be hard to do and would be something of a reward for those who fall under the prescribed weight norm. Gerry Brownlee would only be permitted a small paper bag as his luggage.I suppose the objection would be that some people weigh a lot but are not fat and in countries like Vietnam the weight norm would be lighter than in USA, Samoa etc..

  • Dave

    Here is some news for Robyn. I’m Just back from the doctor after countless blood tests and a full exercise test to check BP and stamina. SO, I’m overweight, bordering on Obese, bmi 32 and also close to 60 years old. People like Robyn would be shaking her head and demanding change. Sure, I like my food, and apart from the occasional severe headache, im in fine form. This morning, after countless tests, the doctor reassured me, just for Robyns benefit.
    Cholestoral NORMAL
    Prostrate Normal, no markers
    Diabetes Nil, no indications
    cancer markers Nil
    Blood pressure Slightly high, due to Angry Andy and people like Robyn
    Recovery times after peak exercise EXCELLENT – above most 40 year men.
    So at almost 60, after years of a high fat / high sugar diet, just keep the exercise regime up, cut down on portions, NO MEDICATION NEEDED.

    That after a lifetime of quite a high sugar and high fat diet, the difference is I’m active, and able to burn most of the energy / fat off, but I do need to cut my portions down, and no amount of sugar / FB tax will fix that. Perhaps a footpath outside everyone’s homes so they can go for a walk Robyn?????

    • Cadwallader

      Mind you, you once lived in Palmerston North which would set anyone up for anything!

      • Dave

        :) Thankfully, I escaped. In all honesty, its a safe s…l…o…w…. place to live in, and to bring up kids in, but one needs to get out to realize how life really is, and can be.

  • CheesyEarWax

    That Sunday program investigation is a joke. Using the same old “expert” that no one has been listening to for 15 years, attacking the same old capitalist companies Coke and McDonalds, using the same old obese people as subjects. This was paint by numbers for journalism, sad really.

  • Urbanviper

    She’s missed the boat on a number of things. Philosophically you can believe in the absence of free will but also understand that in the generally understood life we live there is the perception that we can make decisions and ‘choose’ to do things. If she didn’t have such a perception herself then she wouldn’t give advice.

    Secondly, she is broadly correct about social conditioning and environmental factors but in the end only the individual concerned can be responsible for breaking these. Try as the government might it is up to the individual to have a chat with their family, make it clear what they will eat and put their foot down when everyone decides to go for McDonalds for dinner.

    Thirdly I’d love to know the correlation between being obese and having mental health issues (depression, anxiety etc…). I’ve been through it. It is tough to loose weight have have hope for tomorrow when depressed, and it can become a dangerous spiral. For me it took tackling the mental health side of things before I could deal with the physical health side. Point I’m raising is do doctors like pointing to traditional answers (don’t eat this, eat that, do this, do that, substance in, substance out) because it distracts from what is often needed; a psychologist. Both because psychologists aren’t really funded so doctors are adverse to recommending expensive treatments, or because doctors are afraid they will loose control over this subject.

  • Disinfectant

    Imagine that there was suddenly no fat people.
    Oh dear, end of Robyn Toomath’s career.
    Ah I see it, she must keep the fat people, well fat.

    • Urbanviper

      I hinted at something like that below. If a lot of obese people really need a psychologist to deal with underlying issues rather than a doctor, is this a possible motive for doctors to keep focusing on their realm of specialty as the answer?

  • Ruahine

    The real crux of the matter is that 1,000,000 of us are suffering from fat inequality.

    It is very similar to child inequality.

    A new day, a new slogan for the troughers.

    • PersonOfColor:WHITE

      Of course…I forgot… is only the OUTCOME that matters not the inequity of inputs….must shift left to even understand what is writ.

    • Sailor Sam

      So are we then a little party’s missing million?

  • InnerCityDweller

    Next thing you know, they’ll try offsetting fatties with skinnies, like they do with carbon emissions.
    Shovel it in as much as you like, as long as you have skinny mates to offset your obesity it’ll be ok.

    • PersonOfColor:WHITE

      Can’t call them ‘indulgences’ though, eh?

    • KatB

      That is brilliant and probably as good a suggestion as anything these “experts” are touting. If, as Toomath suggests, these obese individuals can’t help themselves, then what hope is there for them, because short of locking them up without food, nobody else can control their eating habits for them.

  • Brian Dingwall

    The giveaway is that Swinburne wants the tax, if implemented, to fund more research. Not to support or subsidize better diet choices, nor medical support for the obese. This mooted tax is a pure “more money for me and my research colleagues” play. For a topic that is being publically researched ad infinitum overseas……

    And I was intrigued when I heard Toomath refer this morning to bad foods…not so long ago we talked about bad diets, rather than bad foods…that no longer fits the narrative they wish to push, obviously, so certain foods get the bad grades.

    My own bullswool detector goes to hi-gain everytime I hear a simple solution offered to solve a complex problem with a large number of causes (Eg food never relatively cheaper than now, never more available, more sedentary work and lifestyles, increased screen times, less walking/cycling to work or school, prepared foods, two working parents, fewer hi-labour jobs, more fat reduced foods that do not offer satiety, link between gut microbes and fatness, genetics, long time between the famines we are programmed to store nutrients for, the questionable advice over the last 40 years to prefer carbohydrates over fats, etc).

    I have a solution…its worth a try and costs zip…if you are too fat, try hunger, exercise, and persistence…it works.

  • Toby

    Why don’t we just simplify it and bump up GST on all food to 50%. Then nobody will be able to afford food at all and will lose weight.

    Or even better why don’t we introduce a tax on your weight directly. Tax people $1 a day for every kg over the healthy BMI that they weigh. That would be a direct tax that the socialists would love wouldn’t they?

    Oh no wait that wouldn’t work because it wouldn’t penalise those nasty big corporates that make all our food. That’s the only thing they really care about.

  • Mark

    One of the best things the government could do is to stop pushing the low fat high carb diet espoused since the 80’s when obesity really took off. It turns out exactly the opposite is needed ie High saturated fats and low carbs.The government is to blame in part for perpetuating the myth via the MOH. Oh and thatnk god it’s the last we will hear of Toomath. She was part of the problem not the solution.

  • Old Dig

    The thing about these trougher taxes is they never solve the problem. Have you ever heard a socialist say “we have more than enough funding now, we can solve this problem.”? Of course not, this will be another never ending stream of revenue to add to all the other never ending revenue streams. All paid for by us plebs.