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The uniqueness of each Chinese megacity is reflected in the food, which in turn mirrors the culture and the surrounding natural resources. If you’re Indigenous, an immigrant or a person of colour — it’s your fault if you’re fat.

Oh, and you’re also costing Canadians too much in tax dollars.

At least, that’s the message from Canadian health care, says Adele Hite, a registered dietitian who specializes in public health. Food advice, whether from government-issued guides or personal dietitians, is telling these communities that what they choose to eat is wrong.

The notion of Indigenous peoples, immigrants and people of colour having to change their traditional ways of eating to be healthy has created a culture where we only emphasize European food values, Hite says. We’ve come to think that the British and French settlers got it right and everyone else needs to reevaluate their food choices.

“We came along and we told people, you can’t put salt in there. You can’t use lean meat. You can’t use back fat or olive oil or margarine,” Hite said. “We’ve taken these people’s foods away from them.”

According to a 2011 report by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Information, obesity cost Canada $4.6 billion in 2008 — making the consequence of not adhering to Eurocentric beliefs literally billions of dollars.

Got a low income? You’re just as much at fault. Those in precarious situations with money, shelter or even in abusive relationships don’t always have access to the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables and protein. Yet health care professionals encourage the notion that health depends solely on choices, Hite said, and not on one’s social circumstances.

Even if you say you’re doing everything right, health care professionals often don’t believe you. Doctors hardly ask questions relating to poverty, Hite added, causing individuals to be blamed for their health or lack thereof. But how can we blame someone who doesn’t have a choice? Despite all the knowledge and education that an individual has received from a health care professional, they’re not able to make the right choice Jacqui Gingras, associate professor of sociology at Ryerson University, said it’s a form of victim-shaming.

“Despite all the knowledge and education that an individual has received from a health care professional, they’re not able to make the right choice.” Regardless, the onus remains on the individual to have enough money, to buy the right resources and to have the proper knowledge.

Blaming health care costs on lifestyle choices isn’t new — it’s the reason the guidelines exist in the first place. The Lalonde Report, a 1974 federal government document on a “new perspective” on Canadian health, states public health standards aim to decrease chronic illness. It also emphasizes cost increases of health care services, stressing the issue as economic and not just health-related.

The report also “(encourages) Indian and Northern residents to pursue lifestyles conducive to good health.”

This upholds a food culture adherent to a neoliberal system, Gingras said. It takes 2,000 litres of water to produce just one kilogram of avocados, according to the Water Footprint Network. Companies benefit from food lifestyle assimilation because they can market “healthy” products, and sell their products for triple the price. White, middle and upper class citizens benefit by being able to afford this lifestyle. It’s a win-win — unless you’re Black and poor.

So, is neoliberalism making us sicker? According to Statistics Canada’s most recent data, up to 14,222,521 Canadians older than 18 fell into the self-identified “overweight” or “obese” category — an increase from 2010’s figure of 13,099,396. Another 467,969 Canadians who are between the ages of 12 and 17 […]

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