Don't count on counting kilojoules.

Don't count on counting kilojoules.

Recently, the NSW Government announced its next phase in the 8700kJ initiative. Premier Barry O'Farrell said under the changes, supermarkets must now display the kilojoule content of ready-to-eat foods like hot chickens, hot deli meals and bakery items including donuts, cakes and custard tarts. Further, he said, "the NSW Government's 8700kJ initiative is educating consumers about their kilojoule intake by giving them easy access to nutritional information".

So, will it work in NSW and all Australian states? I wouldn't uncork the non-alcoholic, low kilojoule champagne just yet. Here are five reasons why counting kilojoules isn't the answer:

1. People who eat this type of food are ready to eat junk. They are not ready to count kilojoules. The ready-to-eat food being targeted is often chosen by people who impulse-buy when they enter the grocery store. Presumably they don't have a healthy eating plan, so they head into the supermarket for sugar, fat, flavour, and taste – not for health. Equipping them with kilojoule information is like giving golf clubs to a koala.

2. Habits are harder to break than just supplying numbers. I don't foresee a chap picking up a 12-pack of donuts, turning it over to check out the kilojoule content and saying “Whoa, I had no idea! Me and my work crew will opt for the trail mix instead'. It just won't happen. Developing healthy habits is less about numbers and much more about psychological, lifestyle change. That journey is more challenging, but it lasts.

3. If McDonald's is an example, counting calories needs to be reconsidered. Nutritional information for McDonald's has been available for years. The result? CMO Mark Lollback said McDonald's had increased its market share within the quick-service retail sector in 2012, hitting 50 per cent share in NSW. One type of food can't speak for all, but I'd like to see a study that says posting kilojoule content on high kilojoule food is indirectly correlated to consumer spending.

4. People have no idea what 8700 kilojoules actually looks like. Some people say calories, some say kilojoules, and I say "I have no idea". Maybe I'm the fool here, but I've never been a counter. Not so long ago I was a chubby impulse eater. I didn't look at kilojoule information once – I just chose the tastiest food I could find, then shoved it in my gut. And when I made a healthy lifestyle change for good? I still didn't look at kilojoule information. I just knew that salmon and veggies was healthy. I knew that push-ups were healthy. I knew that sweating during a run was healthy. Concerning my health, I did more good than bad – it was just that simple. Inherently, we all know.

5. They are not dangling the money carrot. If I had a meeting with the government, I wouldn't be spending so many dollars on weight loss campaigns. I'd rather create incentives, because the simple economic fact is this – people react to money. Create tax breaks for gym memberships. Give tax refunds for zero days lodged in a hospital. Give another tax refund for being a non-smoker and falling within healthy indicators. Companies could give bonuses for zero sick days used. Dangle the money carrot, and people will hop towards it.

Being a University of Chicago Economics graduate, maybe my attitude stems from being a semi-Milton Friedman disciple. I don't believe it's the government's job to worry too much about what's in our refrigerators. It's not a Liberal, Labour, or Greens issue. It's a personal issue. We only need to question ourselves what we are putting into our bodies. That's damn important because diabetes and heart disease, along with the health care costs to treat them, are going to skyrocket.

Inherently, I think we all know what is good and what is bad for our bodies. Last night I stood next to a chap in the supermarket who had a cart full of energy drinks, cheesy crisps, fizzy drink, frozen meals, and the biggest chocolate Easter bunny in the shop. I passed him again after his last stop –ciggies. Now, that chap doesn't need a kilojoule counter, he needs a good slap in the face to wake up.

Most importantly, he needs lifestyle change.

My last blog saw my personal inbox fill with more than 10,000 emails, which tells me that people want to make real, honest lifestyle changes. The seven-day diet I offered to share with people for free doesn't have kilojoule information but rather motivation, inspiration, and a no BS plan. My simple thought is this: the mind is like a waterfall - when you can get into somebody's head, change will flow down to a new body and a healthier lifestyle.

I don't know how a government creates that waterfall; that's quite a task. But I know it's not from counting kilojoules. Count push-ups. Count how many days you had fresh fish and spinach salad. Count how many healthy snacks you had instead of convenience store junk. Count how many outdoor runs you performed and how many swear words you exclaimed after a burpees session.

The best smartphone app isn't a kilojoule counter – it's the weather application. If it says the Aussie sun is shining, we should all be out there - walking, hiking, doing CrossFit workouts, pump classes, Zumba, and capping it off with a salmon and spinach salad dinner.

We should be doing it because we love it, and it leads to a happier and healthier lifestyle.

@MichaelJarosky

citycaveman@hotmail.com

Do you count kilojoules? Will government initiatives around Australia like this work?