A recent story about the top-selling products in supermarkets was revealing. Apart from the fact that bread dominated the "top 10" lists of almost all supermarket chains – suggesting, perhaps, that not as many of us are eating low-carb as social media might have us believe – and eggs proving popular across the board, there was another notable feature.
A 1.5-litre fizzy drink (unspecified brand) popped up on the Countdown top 10 at number seven. A Countdown spokesperson said this "shows that we like to treat ourselves to the occasional treat such as a block of chocolate and Coca-Cola".
I think that while that's a nice idea, if the fizzy is in the top 10, it's more than an occasional treat for many. After all, to make number one we're each apparently eating 18kg of bananas.
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It's timely, then, that it's February and time for the Fizz Free Whānau challenge. An initiative of Māori public health organisation Hāpai Te Hauora, Fizz Free Whānau is a month-long challenge for individuals, marae, kapa haka rōpū and whānau to choose waimāori (natural water) as their first choice of beverage.
It's a simple but powerful thing anyone can do, that can have wide-ranging benefits: improved health; weight loss and better oral health among others.
There's also a wider important kaupapa to the challenge.
"We believe that the answer to our people's health problems is not to shame them, but rather to surround them with aroha and support to achieve their goals," the challenge notes on its website.
"We know that our tūpuna were strong, fit, and healthy, and we know that the negative stereotype doesn't have a place in the future of our mokopuna either."
The challenge believes it can change the narrative, it says, "around Māori being overweight, sick, unhealthy, and lazy".
Harnessing the power of whānau and community is one way to do this. When a whole community is making the change together, it's easier to stick to – and it's more likely people will stick to it for good, so water-only becomes a permanent habit.
In 2019, more than 30,000 people engaged with the campaign, with many keeping it going beyond February.
It's getting easier for all of us to go for water first, with the focus of organisations like Wai Auckland, which is working on making free water accessible to all. It has partnered with RefillNZ, which now has more than 1000 water refilling stations around the country: cafes and public spaces where anyone can fill their water bottles for free. Wai Auckland is aiming to make this behaviour habitual to all of us. Its goal is 1000 water stations in Auckland by mid-2021.
If we can make a quick habit change with plastic bags, I reckon we can do it with drinks. Admittedly it took decisive action from retailers, followed by legislation, for the former to happen. That looks unlikely here. But who says we can't collectively knock the fizzy off its top 10 perch for good by this time next year?