Warning on diet by numbers

Warning on diet by numbers

JESSICA Irvine writes on how she lost 19 kilograms this year ("Body bookkeeping: how to avert the Christmas spread dread", Comment, 16/12). As an economics writer, her approach, though heartfelt, was very much a focus on the accounting approach to diet and weight loss.

Allow me to add a word of caution. Visit any major hospital and outpatient clinic in Melbourne and there, in the corridors and wards, you will meet young women who could talk to you for hours about calorie accounting. After a while, you will find a common thread. In their quest to "balance the books", they have formed a partnership with an apparently very successful accountant. He practices under the name ED, a more catchy title than "eating disorder".

The trouble with ED is that although he delivers weight loss, he winds up killing some of his partners. Many of these are intelligent, talented, high-achieving people, so do not kid yourself that what starts out as an approach to diet cannot be diverted, resulting in unforeseen consequences. Take care that it doesn't happen to you.

David Coppinger, Balwyn North

Disguising decay

BALWYN High deserves congratulations for the success of its elite students ("Balwyn's on a high", The Saturday Age, 17/12).

However, the success of this group at Balwyn High, and similar groups at other government schools, is a mixed blessing. It's great for the successful students, but unfortunately their individual success can form the basis of a view that the state system is doing OK. In terms of overall VCE results, nothing could be further from the truth.

A local real estate agent is quoted as describing Balwyn High as "the fourth-best school in the state". Really? Last year, Balwyn High came in at 62 in the overall VCE rankings. That made it fifth among the non-selective high schools (although even many non-selectives have a selective cohort). The only non-selective in the top 50 was Glen Waverley Secondary College, at 41.

Here's a prediction. When The Age publishes its annual VCE performance results for all schools this week, Balwyn High will again miss the top 50. Later this week we will see the details of the latest chapter in the slow death of state secondary education in Victoria.

Geoff Hjorth, Albert Park

Steady decline

CHRIS Curtis (Letters, 16/12) is right. The only result of expecting 95 per cent of students to pass is that many come to tertiary education totally unprepared for a high standard of intellectual achievement, and expecting that they will continue to pass each year without doing any work, until they are awarded a degree.

I got out of university lecturing about 15 years ago because I could no longer collude with a system that produced "graduates" whom I would never have employed had I been in business, and whose "qualifications" devalued my own. Nothing has changed, and our society is the poorer for it.

Don Jordan, Mount Waverley

Dying death cover

A MONTH ago I received a letter from Breastscreen saying that as I was 69 I was no longer to be advised when my mammogram was due. I thought it had realised that women over 69 could be depended upon to be responsible for their health. But then I got a letter from my superannuation fund, saying that as I had turned 70 I no longer have death cover. Does that mean I am not going to die?

Lesley Jackson, Portland

Export rethink

INDONESIA'S decision to cut beef imports from Australia ("Indonesia set to slash Australian beef imports", The Age, 16/12) is not all doom and gloom for the cattle export industry. It is a long-overdue wake-up call and opportunity for northern Australian breeders and exporters to re-evaluate their industry practices, and a necessary catalyst for change in an industry that has yet to join the 21st century.

I grew up on a property and remain a supporter of animal farming, but not when it involves unnecessary cruelty. The latest move will force those in live cattle export to think laterally, devise new business models and instigate new and improved slaughtering, chilling and exporting methods. Building abattoirs in the northern areas of Australia would provide jobs for many people and bring new life to dying rural communities. A gradual phase-out of live export to chilled export and supplying the local market is not economically impossible. It just requires vision, planning and genuine co-operation.

Roslyn Bourne, Melbourne

A few cracks

THE Australian Egg Industry Corporation is grasping at straws with its latest statement, "Eggs from free-range hens produce more greenhouse gas than caged birds" ("Free-range hens 'boost carbon 20%"', The Saturday Age, 17/12). No doubt it has conveniently forgotten to factor in the power needed to keep the sheds cool and the other inputs required for intensive farming. Whatever the effect, eating factory-farmed eggs equals cruelty, however you label it.

John Mayger, Hepburn Springs

On time, please

WHY do we tolerate late arrivals to a concert? At a world-class performance of Handel's Messiah last Friday night by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in the Melbourne Recital Centre, we were treated to latecomers arriving during the performance. It must be as distracting to the soloists on stage as it is for the audience. This happens with regularity at the MRC. If you arrive late for a bus, train or plane, you miss it. Why should it be any different for the concert hall or theatre?

Joseph Barake, Healesville

More balance

I READ the articles by Michelle Grattan, Katharine Murphy and Shaun Carney (The Saturday Age, 17/12) and it almost seemed as if they had discussed between them what to write about damning the government. By any measure this government's achievements over the past year have been considerable, and against some powerful lobby groups. Legislation introducing a carbon tax, mining tax (lower house only at this stage) and plain packaging for cigarettes (imminent passage) comes to mind against a backdrop of a strong economy.

I have no objection to holding the Prime Minister and the government to account, but attention also needs to be given to the poor contribution of the federal opposition to the policy debate and the factionalism that exists within the Liberal Party. Political commentary needs to be more balanced.

Phil Ritchie, Balaclava

Iraq's success

KA SING Chua (Letters, 17/12), I regard an increasingly independent judiciary and voter turnout higher than most developed nations to be a remarkable success in the course of a decade in Iraq. Such developments took much longer in countries that take these institutions for granted.

Dictatorial regimes should be removed immediately, not eventually. War is the manner in which such regimes are overthrown. How was Gaddafi overthrown? Kind words and inspired rhetoric?

The only reason the likes of trade, education, health, governance and infrastructure exist is because of the reality of security. People need to feel safe to go to school, hospital, and work, and to walk the streets. They need to be safe in their homes, free from arbitrary and violent injury and death. These things don't exist in a vacuum they are sustained by good people not prepared to let evil prevail.

Ramsay Wright, Richmond

No petty matter

AS DAY one of "mad week" begins and we bask in the glory of Red Dog, a delightful film, I would implore anyone contemplating buying a pet to consider this advice. For a dog it's at least a 14-year commitment a cat is even longer. The first year or so they will drive you to distraction as they make Houdini look like a rank amateur and destroy your underwear, socks, pot plants and any movable object. You will spend years caring for them and they will break your heart and die. Is it worth it? Yes, but you must have that commitment.

John Bain, Bunbury, WA

Landmark in itself

LAST month my wife and I visited your fair city. We were not disappointed. The trams and trains took us everywhere. The Botanic Gardens were breathtaking. We investigated the CBD, the Brunswick area, and Victoria Market on the first night market of the season. We went into the museum that gives a history of Melbourne. One nugget of information was that the city desperately wanted a landmark like Sydney's. Don't spend one more penny on this silly idea your gracious city is already a landmark.

David Cartwright, Ontario, Canada

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