I DID the government’s new health quiz yesterday. Well, I started it but stopped for lunch. Those double cheese burgers don’t eat themselves, you know.
That’s a joke by the way, in case my doctor is reading. We had spiced lentils, cabbage, roast carrots and roast potatoes. Only the potatoes were bad but they were very good, quick roasted from raw with a slosh of olive oil and salt and black pepper.
The quiz is part of Public Health England’s One You campaign/big nag aimed at telling unhealthy middle-aged people to improve their lifestyles if they want to enjoy a healthy retirement.
One of the slogans is: “Do you want to cough all the way to your coffin?” Well, no it isn’t but it could be. What you don’t need me to tell you is that the campaign advises the over-40s to “drink less, exercise more, eat better and give up smoking”.
This is the first national campaign to specifically nag the over-sized pants off the middle-aged. I went back to the test after cycling to the University of York and back for a game of squash (all good there) and eating cooked salmon from the freezer mixed with cream cheese (full fat, am I suicidal?) and spread on toast, plus one apple and one orange (a fruity star there).
The squash/cycling thing happens twice a week, and I also play badminton once a week with a group of friends, and run once or occasionally twice. All of this is good, but my One You score was still ‘only’ seven out of ten, though I did get a pat on the back for not smoking.
My minus points were these: too much alcohol, hard cheese and bad sleep. Now I have a bit of an issue with the booze warning, especially as the email from One Nearly Dead You said: “Your drinking levels put you at higher risk of damaging your health. Cutting down to 14 units spread over the week with a couple of alcohol-free days will lower the risk.”
This is odd as I already have four alcohol-free days nearly every week, as I indicated in the survey, although every day I do like a good coffee or two (oh foolish man, have you not heard of water?).
My long habit of drinking on three days of the week and having four days without alcohol has been redefined as a problem thanks to the government’s new lower recommended level of drinking. Public Health England rewrote its advice on units of alcohol in January, indicating that men should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week – down from the previous recommendation of 21 units. The new stance warns that there is no such thing as a safe level of drinking. This is true, I suppose, but then there is no safe level of anything.
Thanks to the reduction, I have been redefined as a potential problem drinker, whereas under the old system I wouldn’t have been.
If you are a reasonably intelligent bundle of cells, nerves, neurons and creaking middle-aged bones, you know what is good for you and what is not, and you decide accordingly, mixing the good with the bad, and perhaps telling yourself the occasional fib.
While the One You campaign is well intentioned, the finger-wagging is irksome, a primary school approach to adults long departed from the classroom. Assumptions are made, so for instance my bad sleeping habit is put down to drinking, whereas my personal brand of insomnia comes and goes at random, and seems unaffected by alcohol. I can sleep well after a drink and I can sleep appallingly when I’ve not touched a drop in days.
As I write this a drowsy numbness pains my head, to borrow from Keats, and the inside of my skull feels granular thanks to about four hours of sleep. So stubborn is my sleeplessness that I swear I could give up alcohol and coffee and still see the night ruptured. It seems to be the way I am, with the sheet-tangled nights broken by the occasional sound and solid sleep.
The One You campaign warns middle-aged people that unless they change their ways they “could die early or face a retirement blighted with ill-health”.
Perhaps we all kid ourselves to a degree, but I have always believed that mixing mostly good behaviour with an indulgence or two will see me through. And that’s what this One Me still believes, however much I am nagged or harried by official advice.
And with that I am off to have my porridge.