Instead of taking the GST off fruit and veges, the Labour Opposition would be better off giving every slugabed beneficiary a membership to Les Mills. Not any old gym, mind you - it has to be Les Mills. I have to admit I am a bit of an evangelist about this place. I honestly believe doing one of instructor Keri Ropati's pump classes has the power to change people's lives.
Body Pump is a group exercise class using weights which Les Mills has exported round the world. It is very good, and trust me: I am not an athletic person. No fast twitch muscles. But when I was at my lowest ebb I knew if I could just schlump my sorry arse along along to a class - wearing my ex-husband's old baggy shorts as it was the only gym-type gear I owned - and spend an hour hauling weights, I would leave feeling totally different. On a high buzz not a low buzz, as the gays say.
It's not just the actual endorphin-producing huffy puffy, it is the way it is taught, which is with an uplifting message of encouragement. The message is that whatever level you are at, you're winning. Loud music - so bone-wobbling it must break health and safety rules - helps too. I believe in the redemptive power of exercise but it took a lot of Les Mills pixie dust to get me started.
Not everyone is so lucky. Les Mills doesn't have a gym in the most deprived parts of town. But if only we could somehow give all the downtrodden, morbidly obese solo mothers living in squalor their own Les Mills personal trainer we could transform their lives. And while we're at it, let's replace Winz staff with life coaches. Drat, I am starting to sound like Christine Rankin.
But we spend so long jawboning about social problems - booze and pokies and boy racers and saturated fat. We never seem to talk about the real reason most people live disordered, dysfunctional lives. They feel like shit. Most of the people who schlep along to Winz to ask for extra money after their fridge has broken down or needing their state houses fixed have spent their total existence being told how useless they are.
The way to change those people's lives is not to keep telling them they are useless. It's to teach them how to stop the voices in their heads that scold themselves and replace them with a coach's positive encouragement. You got out of bed. "Good job!" You made your kids breakfast. "Good job!"
This week the Government introduced its change to the DPB rules to encourage women whose children are over 6 back into the workforce. This is a good thing. Research has shown that getting back to work is very good for the mother and for the family, and not just for the extra money, but for the positive direction it gives the household. But at the same time, the best way to motivate people is to teach them to accept and love themselves. That's how you transcend the pain of what in most cases have been sad, awful lives, full of criticism and misery.
Yes I know I sound sappy. John Key should lead a giant New Zealand-wide jazzercise class. But when you are dealing with people who are engulfed in a dark cloud of self-hatred and anger, it's going to take more than a few cheap carrot sticks to pull us out of it.