Wednesday, October 03, 2012

City of Ottawa Encourages Exercise As An Excuse to Eat Junk Food?

Sure, I get it. I'm sure I've even done it. I've eaten indulgently, "because I exercised", but when I was driving behind the bus that told me, "Less Sit, More Whip", with a photo of what looks like a mocha frappuccino, I did a double take.

Honestly, it said, "Less sit, more whip".

Yes, if you actually bother finding the URL and heading to it you'll learn it comes from a City run campaign encouraging active commuting and indeed, if your commute to work includes a brisk walk of 1hr and 20mins each way you'd burn off the Quarter Pounder worth of calories in a Grande Mocha Frappuccino with Whip. Cycling's a bit better - there it'd just take you a fair paced 30 minutes each way.

Unfortunately this campaign does two things wrong. It implies exercise burns far more calories than it actually does, and it basically serves as free advertising for junk food.

Off the top of my head couldn't the campaign have focused on things like coming off medications, playing with grandchildren, going on dream active vacations?

Yes junk food's part of our modern day world. And yes, even I sometimes indulge in it, but my double take had to do with the fact that there's no question in my mind cities (and my tax dollars) shouldn't be encouraging the consumption of junk food or suggesting that exercise buys people a free pass to the candy store.

[Also of note - Ottawa's Public Health (OPH) department had privately criticized this message before it was unleashed on the public. In speaking with them yesterday they noted, "it's counter-productive to everything we're trying to do", and that they are, "very disappointed that they (the folks who commissioned the ad) didn't feel strongly enough to change their visuals". Makes me wonder why the OPH isn't given more clout in City sponsored public health messaging?]

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  1. Anonymous9:16 am

    This yummy-looking ad probably does a lot more to trigger a desire to go grab a mocha frappuccino with whip rather than instill the go exercise message it is hoping to promote. Lucky Starbucks: the City is whipping them up some free advertising!

  2. I tried to send the following email to the address on the iwalkibike website but it bounced back. Perhaps they don't want to know what people think about their campaign!
    "I feel compelled to write to you about this advertising campaign. While your goal of getting people to commute more under their own steam is laudable and many of the reasons, e.g. legs of steel, are good ones, reason #45 is terrible. Have you heard of empty calories? I'm sure you know that people require food with all it's nutrients, including essential vitamins and minerals, to fuel an active body. More "whips" is more empty calories and is not an appropriate "reward" for walking or cycling to work. I'm sure many taxpayer dollars have been spent on this campaign and I'm extremely disappointed with the City for funding it with this reason in place."

  3. Anonymous1:30 pm

    Showing pictures of attractive specimens of humans would be much better, as an incentive to become one and as an incentive to be in one... all by exercising.

    1. Anonymous6:40 pm

      Your suggestion would be even worse than the current ad! Not all people who exercise look like models. Unfortunately this type of attitude discourages people from exercising.

  4. Anonymous12:56 am

    There is nothing wrong with the image! Food is pleasurable and I am sick and tired of the guilt tripping...
    - Sitting on our asses all day in 8 hour work days
    - Poor city planning that forces everyone to drive everywhere for basics
    - Sub-par heavely manufactured and pre-packaged food in our grocery stores (don't get me started on private labels)
    - Messed up food supply chain
    - Social tendancy of over indulge. It is never a slice (more likely to polish off the whole cake); never a glass of wine (more likely to down the whole bottle); never a couple of beers (shitfaced and hammered are the goal of a social gatherings).

  5. > Poor city planning that forces everyone to drive everywhere for basics
    I haven't personally experience Ottawa but in Mississauga ... without a car one must add hours per week, even if one's work schedule exactly matches up with the transit's schedules. Then factor in going for groceries & bank & entertainment & ferrying the kids; it's not IMPOSSIBLE to live without a car but making the transit schedule work for you takes, in practice, hours and hours out of the week. Maybe this is why the most popular places in Mississauga are the "condo subdivisions", thousands of people crammed in around big malls - just to escape Miss transit.

    I've been car free most of my life but from the brief period I owned a car - once the car was sitting there in front of the house or in the garage, my bike use trailed off to nil.

    This tendency in myself is one reason I've avoided owning a car since then. I walk or bike or public transit everywhere.

    [0] purchased when I lived in impossible-without-a-car Houston, TX

  6. A dietician's dream! Gotta get those important treat foods in.