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whatsthatsound On December - 14 - 2010

Chances are good that you’ve never heard of Cambridge, Ohio. It’s a tiny hamlet located in eastern Ohio, near the West Virginia border, that happens to be my ancestral home. My maternal grandparents, along with relatives and fellow immigrants from the same region of Lebanon, made their way over in the first decade of the last century, set up shop, and had a lot of children, my mother being the final installment (she moved to Columbus, where I was born, to attend nursing school, and has lived there ever since). Cambridge is nestled at the foothills of the Appalachians, and there are some beautiful state parks nearby. It is God’s Country; quite literally, as “The Living Word”, a popular outdoor drama depicting the last week of the life of Jesus, is performed at an amphitheater outside of town on weekends during the warm months. Collectors of glass know Cambridge for its historic glassworks factory that closed in the 1950s. The name “Cambridge Glass” is associated with a high quality, distinctive product line that eventually fell out of favor as tastes moved on. Cambridge has a picturesque Victorian county courthouse, and a quaint main business street. And that’s about it.

Oh, and Cambridge has LOTS of fat people. I’ll never forget an experience I had when my daughter and I were back in the States for a family visit a few years ago. We were in Cambridge, and decided to head down to the charming, and miniscule, downtown area for lunch. The restaurant we had decided upon, we were informed, was famous for its pies. Now, I love pies -blueberry and pumpkin being my two favorites – and as we headed over, one of these was what I was looking forward to wrapping my mouth around. However, to my disappointment, this place didn’t have either on offer. They only served cream pies, which were proudly displayed in the storefront window to attract passersby. These pies; how to describe them? They were gargantuan! They rose up from their dishes like puffy souffles, but they were all cream. Banana cream, lemon cream, chocolate cream, and another one that I couldn’t be sure about, but perhaps it was cream cream! No longer in a mood for pie, but still plenty hungry, I wandered in with my group, and things got surreal.

My family is blessed with a metabolism such that we generally don’t put on excess weight. In actuality, I considered this more curse than blessing for much of my life, as, to my humiliation, I was rewarded with the unlovable nickname of “spaghetti legs” by my second grade classmate Carla. Carla is of Italian descent, and her mom was a great cook, so I can easily imagine that she would love to be called “spaghetti legs” herself these days, but I digress. Anyway, we sat ourselves down, five or six skinny folks at a table in the middle of the restaurant. It was then that my daughter and I, accustomed to seeing Japanese bodies all around us, observed that everyone else in the restaurant was enormous! One of whom was the waitress, who brought menus to our tables and, while walking off, told us to “be sure and leave room for some pie!”

I’m not exactly sure where she imagined that room might be, as the portions of food at this eatery were staggering. The only thing remotely healthy that I could make out was the Greek Salad, authentic enough because the proprietor was Greek, but still an Olympian mountain of feta cheese and olives. Almost everything else was grilled, or deep-fried to the point that one may as well have inserted Super Glu directly into one’s arteries. Barely able to finish what was on our plates, dessert was out of the question. The waitress was aghast. Surely we couldn’t leave without tasting this restaurant’s specialty. As she persisted, I began to get a weird feeling that I had entered a Twilight Zone episode. Perhaps just one bite of pie would have been enough to transform us into the restaurant’s typical patrons. I could practically hear the chant from the movie “Freaks” in the back of my head as I doggedly refused: One of us! One of us! Gobble Gobble One of us! We left, as the waitress saw us off by shouting, “Y’all come back and have some pie next time!”

The U.S. has a weight problem, and Cambridge is hardly outstanding in this regard. As someone who only visits the country occasionally, I may be less inured to this fact then my fellow countrymen, but people from other parts of the world are looking on in amazement. Nearly every Japanese who has visited has a story to tell about the giant portions served in restaurants, and the fatties who order said along with that ultimate gesture of futility, a Diet Coke. If our blubber was just the (elephantine) butt of jokes, it would be bad enough. But with the number of Americans suffering from diabetes, heart disease, clogged arteries, etc. the country’s obesity curse is far beyond a laughing matter.

How did we get here? There are numerous explanations, and as I am not a dietary expert I shall limit myself to my own observations and thoughts on the matter, coming from someone who has spent twenty years in a country highly regarded for the nutritional value of its traditional cuisine, and the longevity and slimness of its citizens. Let’s begin with that Diet Coke mentioned earlier. Leaving aside the hopelessness of doing anything positive for one’s health by slurping one down, one might begin by asking: why have soft drinks with meals in the first place? Japanese people don’t. Certainly, for most of the country’s history, neither did Americans. Where did this habit, of drinking fizzy, sickly sweet beverages with meals come from? And that is the right place to start, because much of America’s fat problem can be attributed to the brilliant (and tragically so) promotional schemes of America’s junk food purveyors. Here is how cokes became a staple of America’s restaurant (and eventually home) meals. The Coca Cola company made a “generous” offer to all food establishments, large and small, all over the country. Install a soda fountain that serves our drinks, and we’ll buy you an electric sign to display outside! What could be better for attracting clientele than a brightly glowing sign? Only one little thing: half the sign space had to be used to advertise – you guessed it – Coca Cola.  And thus it was that a triumverate of American cuisine, an Axis of Dietary Evil, was now complete; a burger (or a BLT, or a grilled cheese sandwich), fries…..and a Coke!

Burgers! Aw, yes, now we are really getting to the meat of the problem!  For burgers mean fast food, and fast food, in two fell swoops, delivered the coup de grace to America the Beautiful (or at least beautifully built). I remember when there was only one Wendy’s on the entire planet. It was a fantastic and hugely popular eatery in downtown Columbus, at the intersection of Broad and High, which, as Columbusites will inform you, is smack in the center of town. It may also be the epicenter of American fast food culture. For not only did it provide the birthplace of America’s third most successful burger chain, Columbus itself is known as an ideal “test market city”. So many of the things that Americans devour in fast food restaurants, from chicken “nuggets” to burritos the size of your head, appear on the menu because they tested well in Columbus. But back to that first Wendy’s. The burgers there were not just good; they were amazing! Pretty much everyone who walked out of there, when it was just the one store, was certain they had just consumed one of, if not the, best burgers they had ever tasted in their lives. They were nothing like the burgers you get in Wendy’s chains nowadays. They were handcrafted antique Swiss watches to today’s mass produced gadgets. But, success breeding excess, Ray Thomas, Wendy’s dad, was not content to leave well enough alone, and Wendy’s was soon challenging McDonalds and Burger King for American burger supremacy. The only thing he had to squander was the impeccable quality that made his burger joint a star in the first place.

Mass production: that was the first ingenious, and disastrous, step that fast food restaurants led the American people down into today’s dietary fiasco. For perhaps the first time in human history, all pretense of there being something special about food, and a human being’s relationship to it, was trashed, or at least drastically altered. Prophetically so. Long before fast food, everyone in the U.S. had heard the expression, “you are what you eat”. That expression could thereafter be modified to say, “…and what I eat are mass produced food thingies that do more harm to my body than good”.

The second step flows naturally, or unnaturally as it were, from the first: drive-through windows. Only in America could such an insult to dining have come about (the first McDonald’s drive-thru appeared in 1975, six years after the first Wendy’s was opened. This period of time should perhaps be thought of as the beginning of the modern American diet). Food had now morphed into what most Americans think of it as today: fuel. Nothing more, nothing less. Your car runs out of fuel, you pull into a filling station, plonk down some money, fill up,  and you’re all set. Same with the body. As all too many Americans practically live in their cars, the metaphor was now complete. Americans are cars! Large objects that move around from place to place, filling up on fuel when necessary, and continually getting bigger. SUV, you ain’t got nothing on us!

Food as cheaply mass-produced fuel. This, I believe, is the key to understanding the obesity problem in America. Truly, you are what you eat. If you think of food as merely fuel, then you do not love it. You do not revere it. You, I believe, dishonor it. 

And then you put it in your body. So this stuff, that was never loved, not by the farmers who factory-produced it, not by the hands and machines that processed it, and not by the person actually eating it – is it any wonder that when it gets inside it  becomes more ravaging marauder than nourishing friend? When you love the food you eat, really love it, it loves you back. There are plenty of French and Italians and Swiss and Belgians and Austrians stuffing themselves with rich concoctions, washing it down with beer or wine or cream dolloped coffee, and still not bloating up like beached whales. There are Chinese and Japanese and Koreans stuffing their faces with foods that are too salty, too oily, too sweet. But their mentality as they do so is totally different. They love food! Ask the Japanese. Better yet, ask any person who comes here from overseas. They turn on the TV and it seems like all they see are images of Japanese, almost worshipfully, stuffing food into their faces, and then gushing about how delicious it is! Ridiculous? Perhaps, but telling as well. These are very old cultures, and they retain a relationship with food that, even in this age of mass production, of nearly everything we eat coming out of a box or a can or a jar, acknowledges a simple truth that the majority of Americans have lost altogether. What you eat becomes you! You wear it as your cells, and your cells keep you alive, keep you vital and healthy. Or not. Americans have got to relearn that simple truth, as valuable in its own way as The Golden Rule. Otherwise, we may as well just change the “four food groups” to Sugar, Salt, Fat and Artificial Coloring. And save room for some pie.

Written by whatsthatsound

Writer, Illustrator, Curmudgeon. Ferret Owner. Tokyoite, formerly Ohioan. Much nicer in person.

95 Responses so far.

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  1. bito says:

    or, stay lean with Stayle

  2. choicelady says:

    WTS -- Cambridge is very near where I currently AM at the moment. Went to lunch at a lovely, historical restaurant not all that far away, and because it was “upper class” everyone was a pretty normal weight, give or take 10 pounds. But I also drifted around that Cambridge area and saw what you saw -- HUGE people. I must say it also attends a trip to the Iowa Machine Shed in western Iowa or Des Moines. Or Farmer Brown’s in Omaha, all of which are MY roots.

    I have a hypothesis -- you are seeing coal miners and hard labor people in Ohio, I’m seeing farmers in IA and NE -- and none of them is still working. They EAT as if they were, but they are not. Add to that the mass produced food (what a friend of mine once called “another good food product from duPont”… Wait for it. It WILL sink in) in front of us while “good” food is buried in the sides and backs of grocery stores, and you have a recipe for disaster.

    I am pretty much average weight, could lose 10 and be “happy” of course. But extremes in weight tend to afflict those whose work was once manual, stressful, low wage, and uncertain. When once it was the sure thing of our society, when hard labor was a fact, we simply did not have so much obesity.

    There were studies done of slaves who lived on an island off South Carolina and who had guns -- because in addition to tending the fields, they were expected to hunt their own food. Estimates by contemporary researchers showed they averaged -- gasp -- 7000 calories per day, yet NO one had a weight problem. Many lived to be reasonably elderly. Today the Amish eat incredibly rich food and lots of it, and no weight problem. Active farmers tend to be thin. Retired ones -- or those who lost their farms -- are obese.

    The common denominator -- exercise. We live as our forebears did, but we don’t have to. Heft in the 19th Century was a sign of affluence. Not until the health movements of the early 20th C. did people begin to question that. Once there WERE massed produced products such as the heaps and piles of “stuff” shown at the 1901 Pan American Expostion in Buffalo, NY was there some reasonable cognizance that you could pick and choose what you consumed. In a very odd way, mass produced food -- Nabisco’s Shredded Wheat -- gave people access to BETTER food than many had ever known as they moved from farm to factory, from rural to urban. Yes, they lost the capacity to grow their own, but they also had alternatives to fat back, fried dough, and other rather questionable habits.

    During wartime rationing, women’s magazines featured NON butter-lard-meat-eggs-sugar kinds of food. For “Rosie the Riveter” the recommended breakfast was high fiber cereal, whole grain toast with honey plus some fruit. In other words -- what was NOT rationed. Women in those war years were probably better nourished than before or since.

    Post WWII -- very different story. People who survived the Depression and war rationing CRAVED abundance, so abundance they got. They still did not have a lot of money, so food producers helped them stretch their food budgets -- literally. They invented “Merlinex” a NON nutritive cellulose that made the 12-feet long, 1-pound loaves of Wonder Bread and the 3 cubic feet, 1-pound hunk of Velveeta. Your foot got puffed up in a variety of ways so you could feed kids lots of food on very little money. And to make it palatable, they added fats, sugars, and artificial tastes upon which we became reliant and dependent.

    Today -- it’s simply about profit. Total cereal costs more for the box and advertising than for the wheat. There is less than 10 cents worth of wheat in most cereals -- but they’ve been pureed, re-cooked, shaped, formed, colored, and dried into something resembling cereal, but without a lot of food value. Spray-on vitamins, also cheap, are the only nutritive value most cereals now have. Snacks have become a substitute for eating. At the same time, REAL food -- produce -- has been regenerated to be fit for shipping but to hell with the TASTE. It is far more important to producers and grocers that you can drop a tomato 10 feet without damage than it is how it tastes. So of COURSE someone will reach for an apple turnover rather than an apple -- the turnover tastes MORE like an apple than does the apple.

    But it’s the embedded mythology of “the clean plate club children are starving in China” that endures with kids that morphs into obsession in grown ups. I won’t go into the “food is love” issue -- which it IS -- but we simply don’t know how to eat for the bodies we have that sit all day.

    You know. Typing on eletronic keyboards. I read somewhere that switching from a manual typewriter to an electric one caused women (who mostly used them) to gain 10 pound per year from that one fact alone. Now we have other things slowing us down. Such as Blogging. I haven’t pitched hay in, well, quite a long time. But I do write a great deal. Daily. Sitting down. With an electronic keyboard.

    So excuse me -- I’m off for some dessert. This is all just wearing me out.

    Take care, y’all. Even the Size 0 among us. Snort.

    • Questinia says:

      Exercise is at the core including exercising of the mind. The brain runs exclusively on glucose so a sweet tooth can be neutralized in part by doing a crossword puzzle or just plain pondering things using critical reasoning. How many Americans do either?

      If people exercised, and by exercise I mean it as a catchall for stressing or challenging the body and mind in a good way, there would not only be less obesity but we would be less of a Prozac Nation.

    • boomer1949 says:


      Welcome to O-hi-a! Unfortunate we couldn’t meet somewhere between C’bus and C’bridge.

      At one time, when I was forty-something, I was a Size 6, now I am a Size 10 maybe? In reality, clothing “Size” is irrelevant. Manufacturers have admitted to fudging to make us think we wear a smaller size than we really do. So my little black dress may be tagged “Size 10”, but in Calvin’s world it’s a “Size 12”.

      If we want to see true sizing in the industry, just go back to Vintage pieces (40’s, 50’s, etc.). The days of a 22″ waist are long gone — at least for this old fart! 😉

      • Kalima says:

        Life begins at 60. Life begins at 60. Life begins at 60. That’s all I have right now, and you know what, I’m beginning to believe it. It is an age that we really do let go of our inhibitions, the 40’s and 50’s are just a warm up run. You go girl, sizes are not important, they just cripple us, and sell magazines. Who gives a uck when life kicks you in the head or knocks you sideways, the people we love, and the people who really love us, you know, the ones who see our faults, and chose to ignore them. Life is too short to be shallow, love cures so many things. I advocate “more love” in the world, the rest will be that much more easier.

        In this world of uncertainty, I know that what keeps me together is that I know how to love, how to give love, how to receive it, share it, and treasure it. I feel that I am rich beyond words. I might face disappointments, I know that I do, but caring and loving unconditionally makes me whole, and nothing can take that way from me.

        Cheers boomer, prosit and kampai!!

        Repeated here over and over, a frequent HP ball buster, just change the word “man” to “woman” and it sums up the hard work we have put in over the years. Oyasumi nasai.

    • whatsthatsound says:

      yes, c’lady. Definitely, definitely definitely it has much to do with exercising and keeping mobile. In Japan people walk all over the place. And up and down stairs! Stairs to get to trains and subways, stairs up to temples and shrines, and so forth. Movement, just as it is with other animals, is really important to the human species. Modern sedentary lifestyles are harming us immensely.

      • bito says:

        Whatsie, when you say “the people in Japan” do you mean the people in greater Tokyo? While I do fully agree with your your basic thesis on over indulgence and wastefulness, is it a fair comparison in your analysis to contrast a near mono cultural country like Japan to a multi- cultural as the US? A 5’9″ female is not unusual in the US or Europe, but what of one in Nigata? Remember food is cheap in the US The cheapest in the world, it is one of the most non defense subsidized commodities in the country (after financials and energy).
        Like I said, I do agree with you on over indulgence,but let’s not make comparisons, eh?

        PS: tribes in the Horn of Africa think the peoples of Japan are both short and fat.

        • whatsthatsound says:

          Bito, I think comparisons are valid in this case, but concede that I am being a bit unfair in that most of my observations come from living in Tokyo. Remember that I am writing about the US in comparison than more than just Japan. Perhaps only Britain, from what I can see, has an obesity epidemic on the scale of the U.S. but of course I would need to research that more.
          As for Japan, I have traveled a lot, and wherever I go throughout the country, including the deep countryside, obesity just simply isn’t much of a problem, and that’s the truth.
          If tribes in the Horn of Africa think the peoples of Japan are short and “fat”, they must be watching sumo on their TVs :), and I wonder what they think of Americans?

          • bito says:

            WTS, I do not want to argue this point, but one cannot compare an island country with a mono culture (Japan) to a country as large as the US. Contained body types v. multiple, restrained foods v. unrestrained, minimal area for agriculture v. vast acreage for crops, the height of Marco Polo v. the Peoples of Asia. Comparisons take facts and careful analysis, often in my remorse to my own beliefs. :-)
            I will , as stated earlier, agree that both diabetes and obesity are huge (no pun) concerns in the US. So is malnutrition in many underdeveloped countries.

            I seem to think your theme in your posts is on an over consumption in “developed” countries of food mindless entertainment and various what nots, baubles and unnecessarys, no? I agree. The difference between the haves and the have nots grows daily, not arithmetically but logarithmically, a log E, if my memory serves me.

            What do we do to close the gap from the malnourished to the over fed?

            • whatsthatsound says:

              Again, my belief is that you can argue the point from a certain point of view, that being, as I state, that the culture of Japan has a reverence for food. As do the cultures of France, China, etc. And, although I am only theorizing, I believe that this reverence for food may very naturally show up AS the bodies of the people who eat it. Why wouldn’t it, as the food, after all, BECOMES the body. Junk food, cokes with dinner, very little actual home cooking (opening cans and jars doesn’t count) etc., this is emblematic of a culture that does not revere food. This is my point, though it may be only philosophical, admittedly.

              As to the theme that runs throughout my posts, I think you’ve summed it up perfectly. As to, “What do we do to close the gap from the malnourished to the over fed?”, why not engage in a dialog with me about this? You can start up a post, and I’ll share my thoughts, and others can as well. I don’t have any answers, of course, but in the discussion we just may stumble upon one or two. :)

    • bito says:

      I made cornbread and beef barley soup to night. I used a packaged mix for my corn bread, I used barley, beef and vegetables all purchased from a large grocery store for the soup.
      There was a time when I ground the corn and flour and grew/canned/froze the vegetables,went to the local butcher for the locally grown beef and to the co-op for the barley and wheat. I had-took time, meanwhile Bill Gates was was developing Microsoft.
      I must be getting lazy.

    • kesmarn says:

      c’lady — you’re going to get bored with hearing/reading this.

      I love what you write. Every word of it.

  3. boomer1949 says:

    If you haven’t seen this — it’s a real eye opener. I’m sure things have only gotten worse (not him, but “us”)since the guy made the movie
    a couple of years ago.

  4. Haruko Haruhara says:

    You all hate me now. I can feel it. :)

  5. Haruko Haruhara says:

    Um…. [twiddles thumbs] …

    … I’m a size 0 …

    [runs away and hides]….

  6. Questinia says:

    I knew a woman who was morbidly obese. She’d take the NYC bus everyday and suffer the looks, the sotto voce jeering and demands that she buy two tickets.

    She then had an idea where she would conduct a simple sociological experiment. She put together a mock book, using her graphic arts skills to make it look like it came from a high end publishing house. There was no real text. On the cover was the title;

    “Fat Is Contagious”

    She then would read the book on the bus and observe the reactions. She saw how people steered clear, stopped saying anything and looked at her like she was a witch with special obesity inducing powers. She was later invited to appear on the Today Show after she had written an actual book about her experience.

  7. kesmarn says:

    Just a couple thoughts to add to the discussion:

    I think in low income neighborhoods there are a couple of reasons parents are more comfortable with having really big kids. The first is that a larger child is less likely to be bullied than a smaller, thinner child. This goes for girls as well as boys. Not that this is a good thing, of course. But I think it’s a true thing.

    Also, obviously, low income families are not oblivious to the success of athletes in America. If they can “grow” a child to be a seven foot tall basketball player or a 300 pound football player, they see the opportunity for that child to break out of poverty and achieve the “Dream.”

    Food insecurity plays a role, too, I think. Two of my neighbors and I feed the little herd of stray cats in the neighborhood. (I know, I know, bad thing to do…however…) I also have my own little household feline tyrant. The strays, who are never entirely sure where their next meal is coming from, are, interestingly, almost all quite overweight. My indoor guy, who always has a bowl of dry food and a bowl of water available, is a normal weight.

    When people are uncertain as to when/how much they will be able to eat, they tend to gorge when food is available. The rise in income discrepancy and the rise in obesity in America have taken roughly the same upward angle on the graph.

    Americans have an odd relationship with food/the body in general. There’s not only the obesity issue, there’s the anorexia/bulimia issue. If any celebrity gains or loses even a few pounds, the tabloids are all over it. Paparazzi jostle each other to get photos of bony rib cages or cellulite riddled thighs to sell to the supermarket rag editors. And don’t even get me started on plastic surgery. Are we anything besides our bodies?

    As javaz and e’cat have mentioned: verbally beating up on overweight people is one of the last forms of harassment that’s still considered acceptable in American culture. While people wouldn’t even think of calling President Obama (or John Boehner, for that matter) a negligent, self-loathing slob because of his nicotine addiction (which is at least as destructive to the body as obesity), they don’t hesitate to say the same about — say — Michael Moore (or, to give equal time, Rush Limbaugh).

    I’m not saying that there is no problem, of course (after all, I’m the one who wrote the article about tearing off the price tag, as far as accepting responsibility for ourselves in America), but the form of over-consumption that bothers me even more than seeing large folks lined up at the buffet table is the Jamie Dimon (Citibank CEO) brand. Jamie is slim and fit and well-manicured.

    But he’s a hog slurping at the trough.

    The day that Jamie Dimon and his colleagues are met with as much contempt as Large Marge and her Cinn-a-Buns, we will be on track to a society that might be able to give its citizens the security they need to feel to walk away from the buffet line.

    And while I’m on my soapbox, I would like to make a suggestion to all who are looking to that very good thing called exercise to help us keep fit. You know what is really the perfect whole-body workout? Painting a house in the inner city! Volunteering to build with Habitat for Humanity! Scrubbing floors and washing windows for people who are too old or disabled to do it themselves! The best kind of iron to pump is lifting a handicapped person into/out of bed! Why should that Schwinn Air-Dyne get all your love?

    WTS, you know I love ya, and I totally understand what you’re saying about the need to show reverence for our bodies and what goes into them. But I think part of the cause of that lack of reverence is the fear/despair that people like Jamie Dimon and Rupert Murdoch and Glenn Beck heap upon that national plate. Scared, depressed people are hungry people.

    • boomer1949 says:


      I see what you mean. :roll:

    • Khirad says:

      It’s interesting you brought up Obama and Boehner, because I often thought it was the opposite, that obesity is strangely more acceptable than the stigma of nicotine addiction.

      Then again, I suppose this is personal perspective, and come to think of it I’ve never been teased for it. Just herded into pens, given dirty looks (or pitying) and a snide remark here and there.

      I guess I see it like this: the new images on cigarette packs to be added, the exorbitant sin taxing, etc? Fine, I say. I get it. But try to tax soda and all holy hell breaks loose. Something’s gotta give with double standards (like how about some pictures of internal organs after too many Big Macs on the box?). Hey, at least they’re taxing tanning beds. At least there’s a little consistency there (this trend is easing up a little, but this whole unnatural tanning craze is another rant I could go off on).

      There’s plenty of judgment to go around, and given my vices I’m not overly critical of others’. But, if you’re smoking 2+ packs a day or morbidly obese and double ordering the greasiest fare, that’s when I get a little ‘uppity’. I have minimal standards, I’m no nanny or Nazi -- but it’s like you’re smoking or eating (or even tanning) not when you get a craving, but just to indulge, just because you’re bored or something. Like, get a real hobby.

      • kesmarn says:

        I hear you, Khirad. And, btw, I am totally on board with a tax on soda! There is no minimum daily recommended allowance on that stuff.

        But I guess I’d say that that goes along with my take on the whole subject. In an extremely over-simplified version: Hate the crummy food, not the eater. Hate the cigarette, not the smoker. Hate the crack, not the crack-head.

        But it is okay to hate Rush Limbaugh. 😉

      • whatsthatsound says:

        Hey Khirad, have you ever made your own “coke”? It’s kind of fun to try to come up with palatable substitutes. Here’s one that works pretty well:
        Start with maple syrup. Add some cinnamon, some lime juice, and some vanilla essence.
        Just mix it up so you get a somewhat cola-like flavor, but too sweet.
        Pour the syrup mixture into the bottom of a glass, pour in soda water, and stir.
        You’ll be surprised!
        Rum is optional, of course. 😉

        • Khirad says:

          Yes, Whatsie, I heard about these, but never done it. It would be fun to concoct my own ‘elixir’.

          Much of the flavoring is vanilla, not kola.

          I once found a reverse engineered recipe for Coca-Cola.

          But, the maple syrup I hadn’t heard of. That would be interesting to try.

          Off soft drinks and to syrup, have you ever had agave syrup? I was surprised!


          Apparently it’s supposed to be better for you -- somehow. Not really sure if that’s true or not.

          • whatsthatsound says:

            The maple syrup keeps it syrupy, and I think is a little more healthy, at least more natural, than white sugar. But, like you write, it’s fun to experiment.
            Haven’t tried, or even heard of, agave syrup. This could be just what is needed to concoct the perfect elixir!

            • bito says:

              Maple syrup, honey (yes, the bees refine it) and white sugar are all refined sugars. Simple carbohydrates once ingested. Trace minerals, yes, but basically all metabolized the same way. If soda’s were all sweetened with honey instead of sugar the results would be the same. I remember when a bottle of coke was 6 1/2 ozs. and enjoyed rarely, what are they now sold in at the corner quickie store? 1/2 gallon cups and gulped constantly during the day?

    • whatsthatsound says:

      I appreciate and laud your comments, kes, and you know I love ya too! 😉
      But I think we are not completely on the same page about this. I don’t know how often you travel overseas, but I can tell you there is something happening to the U.S. now that is freakish and very disturbing, as far as body sizes go. In other words, many countries have corrupt politicians, most countries have way more smokers than we do, all countries have people who don’t do enough to help the poor.
      In terms of obesity, if the U.S. were just slightly off the scale it would be one thing, but I assure you that it’s not. The American diet is harming its citizens, to my mind even more than the things you write about. Not just the bodies, but the brains as well, I fear, because our brains are our bodies too. They are made up of cells just like the rest of us. If the brain has nothing to build itself up with but additives, steroid-fed meat, sugar, artificial color, etc., that brain is not going to maintain the health IT needs to think properly and make wise decisions. I’m not sure you can have a well informed citizenry when brain cells have junk instead of food to work with.
      So I think we perhaps respectfully agree to disagree on this matter.

      • kesmarn says:

        WTS, we really are more on the same page than you might think! I totally agree that something scary is going on. Working in health care I see firsthand the consequences of dietary madness. The jumbo beds, the heavy-duty lifting devices, the extra-wide wheelchairs. And….ooooooh….my aching back by the end of a 3-11 shift!

        I guess I was just trying to explore a little more deeply the motives of some people/families for over-eating and to put dietary gluttony in context with other forms of gluttony. And-- even though I’m on the receiving end of the wear and tear involved in caring for these folks — I always wince when I hear phrases like “beached whale” or “blubber butt.” Inducing even more self-loathing has not — historically — been seen as an effective motivator. Most of the people I’ve known who’ve lost significant amounts of weight have done it in the context of feeling loved.

        PS…A word of thanks, too, WTS, for the way that you always maintain civility in debate. You’re able to candidly express your POV while still respecting others. That is so much appreciated!

        • whatsthatsound says:

          Kes, for your last paragraph -- thank you so much! I basically have two ideas I try to keep in mind, that disagreement is a healthy thing, and that my thinking something doesn’t confer any greater validity on it than something thought by someone else. So long as I can keep those two ideas in my head (not always!) I will hold to what I hope comes off as respectful discourse.
          I also feel that it’s just responsibility. If I put an opinion piece up here, I feel that it is my duty to welcome and validate any contrary ideas that come up in the comments that follow. I defend my own pov as best I can, perhaps too stubbornly at times, but everyone else should be made to feel that they can do the same.

          In the final analsis, as to your point and mine, I think we are pretty close. I totally agree with you about people growing through love, not criticism. The only thing I hope to see happen is that people start feeling that love for their BODY. We tend to take our bodies for granted, and this I think is a terrible thing. St. Francis of Assisi referred to his body as his “donkey” and spoke about the importance of caring for it properly, regretting that he had subjected his own to harsh deprivations (he WAS a monk, after all!)
          That’s how I wish people would be brought up, to consider it almost like a pet, one’s biological friend for life. Overfeeding it and feeding it only junk is a form of cruelty to our dearest and most loyal companion, I feel.

          • bito says:

            Oh, to be the perfect vessel. Made in perfection, never to be tainted with impurities, to be cleansed, bathed with love and joy. To be placed upon upon the mantle to be admired and used only with perfect reverence. Never to be used to haul the the water from the night soil but only the holiest of waters. Never to get bruised, abused or to see the labor but only see our adulation.

            “Medicine and disease cure each other. The entire earth is medicine. What is the self?”

  8. PepeLepew says:

    I don’t like passing judgment on others’ parenting skills (though I do it all the time I guess) :), but it always bugs me when I see really obese small kids. Maybe that’s genetic or hereditary and I know nothing of what I’m talking about, but I suspect most of the time it’s kids drinking lots of pop and eating lots of junk food. When I see that, I just feel so much sympathy for those kids. You have to deal with it as a parent before it gets to that point.

    • whatsthatsound says:

      Yes, filling a house up with Twinkies and Pop Tarts and sodas and ice cream in the freezer, and serving supposedly “savory” foods like spaghetti sauces that are still loaded with sugar is just the thing a child DOESN’T need in the way of responsible parenting. And add to that the sugary bubble gum and candy kids get to eat as “treats” on top of that -- yeesh! Maybe we should start by banning Halloween! It’s just a marketing scheme to get shoppers to buy more junk than they usually do at this point.

    • Khirad says:

      No kidding. My parents fed me right. Even sugary cereals were only once in a blue moon, as a reward. Usually it was Cheerios or something. And even though I’m bad now, pop was also limited. I certainly drank no more than two a day in Junior High and High School. Usually one. And in elementary? Forget about it.

      Seriously, that’s the disturbing part. These kids are just following their parent’s habits, and the parents no no better. I’ve seen these horrific shows where they open up the drawers and there’s all sorts of junk food pouring out -- twinkies, chips, you name it, and no limit.

      I mean, fer chrissakes…

    • BigDogMom says:

      It is sad to see the number of kids today with weight problems, I just want to run up and smack the parent.

      A lot has to do with the food we have these days in our stores, they are cheap and easy to prepare, something every parents wants. Unfortunately, most of these foods are filled with high fructose corn syrup and other un-godly things, that make the body become addicted to them. The more you eat the more you want them….

      Nothing like seeing not so little Johnny, who is only 3 ft. tall and already 100 lbs., take a tantrum in the cereal aisle, because he needs his fix a Captain Crunch!

    • javaz says:

      Part of it could be cooking styles -- like using lard to make pie crusts or not draining the fat from frying bacon and then frying eggs in the grease.
      Or slapping butter on everything and pouring pancake syrup over sausages.

      Cooking passes down from generation to generation, too, as does the way we eat food.

      I totally agree about pop.
      Pop is nothing but empty calories and very bad for teeth.
      If people stopped drinking pop, and switched to water or even diet soda, they would save 100 calories per can!

      Also, mayonnaise is another bad thing.
      100 calories for one tablespoon and fast food burgers -- even $1.00 Jack-In-The-Box burgers or Whopper Jr. use real mayonnaise.
      Always ask them to skip the mayo and save 100 calories!

      Miracle Whip is what I was raised on and I love Miracle Whip and they make a LIGHT version that is only 20 calories per serving!

      Never order potato salad or cole slaw or macaroni salad, because it’s all made with real mayonnaise.
      It’s so much better and healthier to make your own!

      And bagels!
      Skip the bagels!

      • BigDogMom says:

        It could be that the parent is placating the child with food, or using food a an incentive to have the child behave in a certain way…when food is used a a means to an end, then it looses it’s true meaning and creates an abnormal relationship for the child with food.

  9. Chernynkaya says:

    I add all this just for discussion—it is not at all the point Whatsthatsound was making, which I entirely agree with!

    I love the TV show House. In one episode, the patient was morbidly obese—about 600 pounds. It set up a good opportunity to discuss, not only the health issues of being so overweight, but of the prejudices of people towards the obese—including physicians. Why treat the Suicidal?

    The twist to the episode was that the patient refused treatment for anything that contained a diagnosis relating to his weight. He had been to many doctors, and definitely did not have diabetes, high cholesterol, or even heart problems. So that was the challenge (only on TV—I know!)—to find out what was wrong EXCLUDING his weight. Of course, Dr. House (aka Sherlock Holmes) solves the medical mystery, but it was some of the points made that stuck with me.

    For example, the patient said he loved and enjoyed all aspects of food—selecting it, cooking new recipes, and eating it. He thought about food—not just eating—all the time. He honored it, while not honoring his body. In a sense, he was Mindful of his food. (I guess this shows how, from a Buddhist perspective, one can be mindful and attached at the same time.)

    Another thing the patient pointed out when told there was an Overeaters Anonymous in the hospital: “If I wanted to jump out of airplanes or climb Mt. Everest would you be telling me to go to Daredevils Anonymous?” He reminds them that the only people you can still make fun of are the overweight, without being called a bigot. He tells them: I’m not an imbecile, and I’m not miserable. I’m just overweight.

    In the end, he accepts his fate—“ If I’m going to have a heart attack, I would rather it be caused by a perfect pan-roasted Ris de Veau than running 26 miles for no reason other than to brag that I can do it.”

    Whatever happens is going to happen. Ultimately it’s all out of our control anyway. (I swear there is a Buddhist on the writing staff there somewhere.) The name of the episode was Que Sera.

    • Khirad says:

      That was my friend to a T.

      The irony?

      He was a recovering meth addict.

      I wonder if he’s still alive.

      I’m serious. I really do.

      But that fictional character was my old friend and that was his philosophy on his weight, and on food (the Food Channel was his porn, the way he eyed it). He seemed to accept it (though still had self-esteem issues, of course).

    • whatsthatsound says:

      In “Diet for A New America”, there is a pity quote
      “Tis better to eat beer and franks with cheer and thanks,
      than sprouts and bread with doubts and dread”

    • javaz says:

      Cher, I know a man who was nearly identical to the character you describe from House.

      He loved to cook, he loved to drink, and he loved to eat.

      He was morbidly obese and swore up and down that he was healthy and that his doctor even told him that he was healthy when he had physicals.
      He used to proudly say that he was constantly asked if he were a Cardinal Football player.

      Well, the guy had a major stroke before he reached 50 years old, and that left him paralyzed on one side for quite some time and he still has partial paralysis in one hand.

      It was his wake up call and he still loves to cook and eat, but he prepares meals differently and healthier.
      He watches portion-size and he still drinks, but instead of a 12-pack, he sticks with two beers.

      And he walks his dog twice a day, every day.

      He’s lost close to 200 pounds and he no longer suffers from painful knee joints.

      • Khirad says:

        Thanks javaz, this is what I’m talking about.

        Even little changes can make a big difference.

        You don’t need to start jogging or preparing for a marathon or become Vegan.

        Just moderate and put minimal effort into improving your quality of life.

        It is interesting that he seems to have been in the same type of denial alcoholics get into.

  10. escribacat says:

    Great post, Whats. I love that line about we being cars. My love affair with food began later in life. When I was younger, I didn’t pay much attention to it and rarely gained weight. I had a job for some years where I got to travel internationally quite a bit and eat at really good restaurants. I think one of the best meals I ever ate was in Tokyo — an hours-long ritual that began with a very small and delicious fish alone on a plate and ended with a very small and delicious plum alone on a plate. What a performance that meal was.

    Once I hit my 40s, I started gaining weight, even though I work out and hike a lot (that just makes me really hungry!) I also work at a computer all day so I’m generally sitting sitting sitting. I also discovered that certain types of food are associated with comfort and happiness — and they’re all fattening! Now I’m stuck in that awful routine of losing and gaining, losing and gaining. I think that over-eating fills a void (not an original idea). In my own case, I’ve given up all my other vices so I have this voice that tells me that I deserve that piece of fudge because of all the other naughty things I didn’t do. Belgian chocolate fudge (which I just bought this morning at the store) is a harmless vice to have. (Well, maybe).

    I live in Colorado so I’m surrounded by all those jocks and superjocks that make us one of the skinniest states. I have to say that I’ve never met a more humorless, self-righteous, and narcissistic bunch of bores in my entire life (okay, that’s a stereotype, but it’s a pattern I’ve noticed). I know an obsessive-compulsive runner who eats nothing but bananas and Grape Nuts. He IS a Grape Nut. I hike a lot so I encounter these folks on the trails all the time — both bikers and runners. Almost without exception, they expect the rest of us sub-human species to scramble out of their way. They also tend to wear these shiny outfits that make them look like sleek little motor oil cans — especially the mountain bikers. The outfits are apparently designed to make them look like racers. When I first moved back here from California I thought, “Gee, Boulder sure has a lot of professional bike racers!” Then I realized, it’s just the fashion. They’re so phony!

    Okay. Got off track a little bit there. (I do have a resentment against these a-holes because of their public behavior.) So, the moral of my rant here is that I really find nothing to admire in these super sleek jocks and the last thing I want to hear about is what they eat.

    However, what I do admire and aspire to is the Japanese and French relationship with food, where dining is an art and it’s done slowly and with great appreciation. My sister in law broke her collar bone recently in a car accident and she’s told me several times how she now appreciates her meals because she has to eat slowly (with her left hand). She’s learning something important from her injury. Maybe I’ll make that my New Years resolution: Eat slowly and taste every single bite.

    • Khirad says:

      I hate those self-righteous jocks too.

      It’s not even envy -- though I do wish I were half as fit as them.

      But they take it to a level where it’s an addiction itself.

      I was listening once to a psychologist saying they’re starting to consider perfectionism a disorder.

      It fits others, like OCD, etc. But, of course, we value perfection, so how could it be a disorder?

      I wish we’d stop looking up to these a-holes. Not that they’re all like that, but I know what you’re talking about.

      And in being a sub-human the way they look at you.

    • whatsthatsound says:

      Hey, e’cat! Colorado IS officially, “the thinnest state”! So thanks for your perspective on the “health junkies”, I have met a few too. They seem to take not so much pleasure in staying fit as in seeing it as some sort of duty they are bound to. Here in Tokyo, the foreign personal trainers seem to be doing a good business with the ex-pat community. The high fliers and their wives who can afford to spend a bunch of money being just the RIGHT kind of fit. Hmmm….me, I’ll just go to the local pool, thank you. Or run in my neighborhood. It’s amazing how cheap and easy it can be to do something good for your body, instead of going all whole hog about it. Why, it almost seems like we’re designed that way? After all, I don’t think gorillas have personal trainers and they all seem pretty fit. :)

    • javaz says:

      That’s very true, e’cat.

      The French make a real production out of meals.

      Unlike Americans, whereby we place all courses on the table at once and call it ‘family-style’, the French serve each course separately.

      The formal French dinner usually begins with wine, and then soup with rolls and they clear the bowls, and then salad, clear the plates, and then serve the main course with vegetables, and clear those plates.
      Then they do a cheese plate with a variety of cheeses and they clear that, and then they serve dessert.

      Every course is served with wine, and some times the wines change from course to course.

      Coffee or espresso is drank at the very end of the entire meal.

      I’ve been to formal French dinners that have taken hours, up to 3 even 4 hours, because as you said, they savor and enjoy and they are really into presentation.

      And the French eat their last meal quite late and I never understood how they could drink espresso at 11:00 at night!

      Their breakfasts are quite small -- a small croissant with coffee or just a yogurt and biscuit or leftover hardened baguette from the night before that children like to dip in bowls of milk.

      The biggest meal of a normal French day is lunch and they get longer lunches than Americans, and wine is served.

      • Khirad says:

        I remember a French exchange student we had. He had a big cup of hot chocolate for breakfast.

        I’m sorry, that’s insane.

        But, so is eating heavy pancakes which make you want to just go back to bed again.

        I was watching what they eat in SE Asia and Egypt -- light, hot meals with some sort of grain (bread, etc.). That made the most sense to me.

        As to eating that late, I’ve always thought that was a no-no, to go to bed that soon after eating a meal, but then again, by that time you may have digested a good amount already.

        Because, the French really do have the right idea when it comes to dining. As to breakfasting, I still think their ‘tarded. Seriously, you -- or me at least -- really needs something in my stomach at the start of the day until lunch.

        Have the French not heard of the most important meal of the day? Hullo!

        Okay, it probably shouldn’t be the most important, but somewhere in between toast & coffee, and a massive IHOP smörgåsbord sounds about right.

        In other words, I liked the Cairo idea.

  11. PepeLepew says:

    Weight issues in my family run the gamut. I really, really struggle to keep my weight down. I am on the “John Madden” diet, slimfast shakes for breakfast and lunch … then a light dinner. Then once a week I go nuts with dinner. That averages out to about 1,500 calories a day, and I’m lucky if I maintain my weight. There has to be some genetics involved.

    Meanwhile, I have a brother who is morbidly obese, eats these ridiculously huge meals … and he’s beginning to have a lot of health problems as a result — type 2 diabetes, problems with his legs and feet.

    Meanwhile, others in my family struggle to keep their weight up. We go through a big regimen of increasing their calories intake and weighing them.

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    • BigDogMom says:

      Sounds like you might have thyroid problems in your family, it’s hereditary, sometimes even if it’s off just a little it will cause weight problems, too much or too little.

      Hope all is well with you Pepe…

      • PepeLepew says:

        I’m doing fine.

        I don’t know what my problem is. How you can exercise, eat 1,500 calories a day … and still not lose weight. At one point, I managed to drop from 215 (ugh) down to 170, but I’ve drifted back up to 180. One of the ways I lost all that weight is I just gave up pretzels and tortilla chips. I love ’em. Can eat ’em all day, but they are insanely fattening. Now, I just have a nutrigrain bar or an orange for a snack.

        In the case of the one person, they do not generate enough red blood cells. She has to take a ton of vitamins and iron pills. She’s actually very healthy, but she has to get blood tests every three months.

        • Khirad says:

          You and I should have different problems, Pepe.

          You the active hiker and me the light walker at most.

        • BigDogMom says:

          You may be better off eating like me, 6 to 8 small meals a day, it’s actually better for you than no food for a period of time, then a big meal all at once..it sends your body into shock and it can’t metabolize it fast enough, especially if the meal is in the evening.

          I’ve stayed the same weight, slim, most of my life until two years ago, when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, the slow deterioration of your thyroid gland, my metabolism really slowed down, and I have put on 15 lbs., up from a size 8 to a 12…shocker for me, now I make sure I walk even faster and longer than I ever did before….the dog is exhausted by the time we are done!

        • javaz says:

          I have to chime in and ask if you’ve had your TSH levels tested?
          They should do the test every time you go for a physical and have blood work along with the peeing in the cup thing.

          Hypothyroidism runs in my family and honestly, no one in my family is thin.
          We’ve always been a BIG family on both sides.

          For being a man, you should be losing weight at 1500 calories per day!

          Anything above 5.0 for TSH levels is not good.
          I feel the best at 4.0, but right now am doing okay at 4.5.
          Thyroid disease is very hard to treat and there are lots of people, including doctors, that do not believe in hypothyroidism.

          There are specialists that believe that TSH levels should never be above 2.0!
          I’d love to be able to see one of them!

          And anyone who does not believe in hypothyroidism has never experienced the effects.

          • BigDogMom says:

            You know I just might try that…especially since he’s one of my husbands clients and they also fish together!

            Thanks for the tip!

            Gotta run, time to make dinner, baked oven fried chicken with Cornflake crust!
            Sounds fattening, but it’s not!

          • BigDogMom says:

            Javaz, it had Hashimoto’s disease for the last two years…can’t tell you how tired I get at times. My TSA is at 4.5, not high enough for my doctor to prescribe Synthroid yet…but it’s coming I know it.

            • javaz says:

              I forgot about the dry skin and dry hair and you are right, it’s another horrible side effect.

              I went through the same thing with getting my doctor to put me on Synthroid, so you know what I did?

              I brought my husband with me.

              I hate that, but I brought my husband because people do seem to take men more seriously.

              He told the doctor that I had changed and was not my normal bubbly self and VOILA!

              We walked out of his office with a prescription.

              Maybe you could try that?

            • BigDogMom says:

              Javez, I keep asking my doctor for it, but he keeps saying to wait, it’s not high enough yet.

              I see him in Jan., to be retested, I am hoping this time he’ll put me on it…the thing that I can’t stand about this is my itchy feet at night and really dry skin, I itch all over, it drives me crazy!

            • javaz says:

              Oh, BDM!

              I researched Hashimoto Disease and understand it is the worst.

              I understand perfectly about the fatigue and tiredness.

              Before I was diagnosed, I was drinking 24 cups of coffee per day -- I’d brew two 12-cup pots per day, and am not exaggerating plus, I would mix instant coffee into the coffee.
              And I was still tired.

              I could sleep for 12 hours straight, and wake up so tired and need to go back to bed for a nap during the day, and there were days that I’d nap for 4 hours, and never feel refreshed.

              I used to eat candied coffee beans.

              Nothing worked, until I was placed on Synthroid.

              They start you off at the lowest dosage and it takes months for it to kick in and then if you’re still fatigued, they increase the dosage.

              It takes about a year, but it is so worth it.

              I do hope that you find relief soon.
              You will be so surprised at the difference.

  12. BigDogMom says:

    Thanks WTS for the great article…as a nation we have become “Super Sized”, why?

    Just because we can…”they” told us we can, “they” told us, “WE MUST!”, “Because we are the Greates Nation on the earth and under GOD”! And NO ONE is going to tell “US” what to do, what to eat, how to behave, gosh darnit! We have the biggest, bestest and fastest of everything, including our food! We are consumers, so we consume! So stick that in your hat and eat it!

    My husband and I just happed to watched the food network show, “Diners and Dives” this weekend, OMG I have never seen so much food piled onto a plate…and the owners where proud of it! No wonder we are a nation of fatties…

    As a person who has had low blood sugar all their adult life, food to me is my medicine. I look at food as a series of proteins and simple and complex carbohydrates that regulate my sugar levels, where over indulging sends me into severe downward crash and not eating causes tremors, slurred speech and stumbling around like a drunk. So I can’t quite grasp what all the hoopla is about when you stuff your face with that amount of food and find joy in it…I would be in a coma!

    Don’t get me wrong, I do love my cookies and cake, but understand that if I over indulge, I pay the price. Luckily the price is not so severe when I bake it myself, at least I know what I put in it, plus I never really like eating my own cooking anyway!

    As for roughing it, there is no need for it now, things are easier for us than in our parents or Grandparents time, we have become soft.

    We have lost the art of walking to where we want to go to, except in the inner Cities, we drive, because we all have cars now. We don’t mow our own lawns and if we do we use a powermower that is “self propelled”, not a push mower, or heck, have someone else do it for us. We don’t even clean our houses the way our ancestors did…who still sweeps their kitchen floor here or gets on their hands and knees to scrub it? Easier to wip out the ol’vacuum and SwifferWet! Forget the vacuum, that’s even too much work, get a rumba to do it for you!

    We are a nation of consumers and that we do, consume, too much so….

    • whatsthatsound says:

      Thank you, BDM.
      You know, I probably could have tweaked the angle of the story only slightly and made walking, not eating, the theme of my story. Like you, I am amazed to see people get in cars automatically and drive where they need to go, even if it’s only a six or seven minute walk away. Getting into a car has become so automatic (like an extension of the body) that folks don’t even stop to think, “hey, it’s so close; I’ll just walk.” So, coming from always bustling Tokyo, when I go back to Columbus it feels like a ghost town. My first thought is, “where are all the people?” Not on the street, certainly. Which means they’re in cars or buildings, NOT getting the movement their bodies need to stay healthy.
      Too many Americans have lost the simple art of being in a body.

      • BigDogMom says:

        We have lost the art of doing many things, due to the fact that we have been told how we must be, how we are to do things and what we should buy in order to accomplish it…

        We live for bigger, better, faster, easier and less money! It’s the America way!

        This meme has been pounded into our head since the early 50’s when those Madmen figured out a way to get into our minds to make us buy their clients product.

        Unfortunately this way of life for us here in the US is slowly killing us…but hey, great for the bottom line!

  13. Chernynkaya says:

    What a great post, Whats-- and that illustration is actually photo-realism! Everyone is the color of fat! This topic has been discussed a lot in the media, but honestly, until now I never gave it a lot of thought, somehow.

    It reminded me vividly of the gestalt I had about this several years ago at Disneyland. I grew up going to Disneyland, so I think at some point, something changed. I looked around and was struck by how huge almost every single person there was. I felt as if I was in a strange country, where the residents were a different race. (And I am not sure about this, but I think I read somewhere that parks like Disneyland had to re-size the seats for the rides.)

    Fast food is assuredly a significant reason for our obesity. And it is indicative of lots of things wrong about our society—too many to list. But along with the bad kinds of food at fast food joints, I wonder how much lack of things like public transportation contributes. Here in LA, even though we tend to be thinner, we must drive everywhere. I wonder how that keeps us form even moderate exercise. We don’t even walk a couple of blocks to the train or bus. I feel like we are those last passengers aboard the corporate ship in the movie Wall-E.

    And while I know that fast food producers like McDs spend fortunes actually chemically tinkering with food to make it addictive, I can’t but wonder if there isn’t a psychological component to our overeating. I think we are mildly depressed, and turn to food for comfort—while getting none. Or to numb us, more likely. Just as we overuse so many of our electronic toys. Anything but deal with the difficulties of life in 21st Century USA. Or am I projecting?

    As AdLib wrote in a great essay, we are children: Dave and Busters, iPods and iPhones with fun apps—you get the picture. And kids don’t usually eat their vegetables. This reminds me of something I watched on National Geo. about domesticated animals. It’s kind of a chicken/egg phenomenon, but the animal (in the Paleolithic) that first came in contact with humans was an animal that had the least fear. And animals with the least fear are juvenile ones. Thus, the most puppy-like wolves were the first dogs. (Greatly over-simplified, but the basic premise.) You spoke about what ever happened to “rugged individualism.” Well, maybe we became “domesticated.” We are tame as sheep now. And that we have regressed to a child-like state might not be a coincidence. Or have I watched the Matrix too many times?

    That reminds me: Great video here based on that, called the Meatrix:

    Thank you, Whatsie!

    • whatsthatsound says:

      GREAT link, Cher! Thanks! I hope everybody here watches it! I first became aware of these issues when I read John Robbin’s “Diet for a New America”. That book is perhaps twenty five years old now and if anything, things have gotten worse, not better, since he pointed to a brighter alternative.
      I haven’t become a vegan since reading it, but I have altered my diet significantly, and meat is a rarity on my plate these days.

      Please read Questinia’s comments below. I think you and she are on to something that my piece didn’t really touch upon. The regression, the childish choice to willfully overeat and avoid greens, the docile, stupefied “fat” brains that develop as a result. And how that contributes to problems for this country that go even beyond our physical health.

      Really good points, Cher. I’ll come back to this later.

  14. javaz says:

    As a person who has struggled with weight her entire life, this is difficult to write about and deeply painful.

    You see, just by commenting on this subject and sharing, I know that I am opening myself to the ridicule of being ‘fat’ and the judgmental call of being lazy.

    I’ve never been extremely obese -- thank you God -- but have always been a member of the larger crowd, you know, size 16 and not the treasured single digit-size.
    I’m going to guess that I’ve lost maybe 1,000 pounds since adolescence, only to gain it back,and then lose it again, over and over.

    Children can be so very cruel, as we all know, and growing up with an additional 20 to 30 pounds made for some fun times of hearing cruel rhymes.
    “Fatty-Fatty-two-by-four, can’t get through the bathroom door,” is one example.
    Or clever witticisms --
    “Hey, I heard you went swimming in Lake Erie! It was on the news about the flood!”

    And it wasn’t just the kids in school.
    It was from siblings and my mother, even though my mother didn’t mean to be cruel, but I just think that she believed that shaming me into losing weight was the way to go.

    You have no idea how hurtful it is to go through life with low-self-esteem and self-hate and humiliation because of weight.

    I suffered in other ways -- physical problems that resulted from nerves -- chronic eczema and asthma.

    I can’t tell you how hard it was in school to have to stand in front of the class, reading a book report, and having the kids make fun of me because of my weight.
    Back in those days, there were times that even the nuns laughed, too.
    It is a shame that carried into my adult life and it was hell.

    The first diet that I went on, I was in the 6th grade and they sold a diet caramel candy thing that was supposed to help with controlling appetite.
    I remember inside the box was an offer for a calorie counter for ten cents so I taped a dime on a piece of paper and sent for the pamphlet, and I was on my way to a never-ending cycle.

    I was determined and was very successful in losing weight.
    In fact, I lost so much weight that I passed out in church.
    But no one made fun of this fatty anymore!

    I gained that weight back and then dieted again in the 8th grade and went from the dreaded size 16 down to a size 7.

    Oh, how scared I was on the first day of gym class in the 9th grade when the instructor chose me to model one of the ‘uniforms’ for gym.
    When she first chose me, I was aghast and mortified, because I still had that fat image in my head and thought the uniform would never fit and the girls would taunt me and laugh at me again.
    I cannot express how proud and shocked I was that the uniform fit and instead of taunting me, the girls were awed by my weight loss.

    I gained the weight back and lost it throughout high school -- I was thin for graduation! -- and repeated the pattern throughout college and my working life.

    Oh, and I’ve also exercised in one form or another.
    I’ve always enjoyed exercise and still exercise to this day.

    I worked in a predominantly male field -- engineering -- and once again, you cannot imagine the shame and humiliation of walking into a room filled with men and having them make jokes about my weight.
    The first time a coworker shouted out about my ‘thunder-thighs’ is quite memorable and the laughter and taunts from the gang is something I will never forget.

    Finding gym memberships or coupons for weight machines on my desk with the snickers from coworkers was devastating.

    So, I lost weight, and gained it back, lost it, gained it back as my eczema worsened and my asthma kicked into high gear.

    I joined Weight Watchers in my early 30’s and lost over 20 pounds, but you guessed it.
    I gained it back.

    I joined a gym and I really loved that, and dieted at the same time of course, and I lost so much weight that they rewarded me with a tiny leotard!
    Then I broke my arm in an accident and stopped going to the gym, and the weight was back.

    I thank God every single day for my husband, because he is the only man in my life, besides my father, who has never cared about me being a size-16.
    My husband has always made me feel beautiful and has taught me, and continues to teach me so much about life and living.

    That’s not to say that I have not dieted and lost since meeting my husband, because I have done that several times over the last 24 years, but my husband has never NEVER shamed me when I’ve gained the weight back.

    A few years back, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and type 2 diabetes.
    I knew something was horribly wrong before then, because I am somewhat of a pro at losing weight, and I couldn’t lose even with increasing the exercise to 3 hours per day -- yes, you read that right -- and after exercising I was so exhausted that I’d crawl into bed and sleep for hours and never wake up refreshed.
    And the pounds kept packing on.
    So, it was a relief to find the cause, and the doctor told me that it was a very good thing that I exercised so much as the weight gain would have been much more pronounced.

    I started the thyroid meds and researched extensively about diabetes, because diabetes runs in my family and I’ve always sworn that if I were to ever be diagnosed as a diabetic that I would do everything in my power to avoid taking insulin.

    I dropped 18 pounds within weeks after starting the thyroid meds, and over 6 months time, the fatigue went away.

    I read everything that I could get my hands on about diabetes and changed the way I cook and the foods we eat -- you know, every time that I go on a diet, my husband goes on the diet, too!

    Corn byproducts are an enemy, as is sodium, and anything ‘white’ meaning breads, rice and pasta.
    Processed sugar is very bad as are fried foods.
    Red meat should only be consumed once a week.

    In this day and age, there are so many healthy options that allows me to have my cake and eat it, too.
    Splenda is wonderful for baking as it does not break down and there are so many sugar-free and tasty products available.
    Instead of frying, the oven is my friend -- coating chicken or fish with spiced cornflakes and baking is better than fried!
    Dark chocolate is okay in limited quantities, as it is very low in sugar and high in anti-oxidants.
    Limiting red meat to once a week and switching to Egg-beaters and eliminating pork entirely is key.

    Finally, once I reached 50 years old, I decided that I’d had enough of worrying about my weight.
    I had to train myself to stop focusing on my weight and going on diets.
    Of course, being 50+ years, and a size 16 is more acceptable -- you know, I have that plump grandmotherly thing going on.
    I’m fortunate that I’m tall at 5’8 so I can carry a bit more weight than a shorter person.

    My diabetes is fully under control and I am no longer considered a diabetic, but borderline.
    My asthma is fully controlled and my eczema is gone, except for times of extreme stress.

    When I see heavy or obese people, I look at them much differently than the skinny amongst us.
    I understand the shame and self-loathing.
    Being heavy is not fun and being called a ‘fatty’ is so very cruel.

    • Mightywoof says:

      I have avoided this conversation as I belong to the same club as you Javaz and I think you are so courageous to have spoken from your heart on this issue. I come from a family that is hefty -- really really hefty. I can show you a pic of my great, great grandmother in 1896 and she’s the size of a house. I guess I can honestly claim that genetics are against my family but our eating habits did not help. I am the child of a mother who wouldn’t let me leave the table until I had cleaned my plate -- growing up in the UK that meant a huge adult-sized portion full of potatoes, meat and soggy veggies. To this day I find I cannot leave a morsel of food on my plate (the Jesuits had nothing on my Mum when it came to imprinting impressionable young minds).

      While I never suffered the excrutiating humiliation of fat jokes, I did decide at 9 years old that I wanted to be a ballet dancer and, while not yet fat, I was a chubby 9 year old. All the exercise helped keep me relatively thin but the day I was told I’d never be a dancer (I was about 14 at the time) because I had the wrong body shape -- short and mediterranean -- was the day I was crushed and started the yo-yoing. I hardly ate a thing, lettuce leaves were my new best friend and still I had the wrong body shape. Depression set in -- not clinical depression but that sense of why bother, nothing I would ever do would make any difference. I kept yo-yoing until I was about 35, losing more and more self-esteem and going deeper into that shell that most fatties develop.

      So I stopped trying -- I’m now 63 and ‘grandmotherly’ -- I don’t feel good about this and I don’t join in discussions about weight because those who have never been where you and I have been do not seem to understand. This isn’t a slam against all my dear, and fortunate, Planeteers -- who have either been born with good genes or have had the intestinal fortitude to recognize early enough how destructive your eating habits were and to have done something about it ……… but there is far more to the overweight epidemic than simply not treating one’s body as a temple.

      BTW -- this is one of the reasons I decided not to have children -- the bad genes/bad habits stop with me!

    • Khirad says:

      I’m glad you got it all off your chest, javaz, but my only judgmental side comes out with the morbidly obese. Even then, maybe I could be wrong, maybe they too try their best, but I dunno, I still can’t understand that level. Yours was quite understandable, though. I’ve only really gained weight two times. Once before eighth grade and another time when I was drinking, and just not taking care of my self in any way. One must have been 20 pounds, the other 40-50. But, unlike you, I didn’t have considerable trouble losing it again. Of course, I do worry what I would balloon to should I finally kick the cigarettes (and please, I’m working on cutting down my own way, this is my sore spot). But, overall, thanks for sharing. I know what it’s like to be teased, not for being overweight, but for being different in my own way. So, no worries. I don’t think anyone was talking about you. :-)

    • whatsthatsound says:

      Thank you for your honest comments, javaz, and I am sorry for the pain my article induced. Like you, I DO know “how hurtful it is to go through life with low-self-esteem and self-hate and humiliation because of weight”, but for the opposite reason, that of being always underweight for much of my life. I don’t know where the idea came from in American culture that making fun of people for being skinny is somehow more all right. “Spaghetti legs” aside, I once had a wrestling coach induce laughter in the whole team by calling me a “scrawny little runt”. Can you believe that? Even as a fourteen year old (who had just recuperated from pneumonia and was slowly regaining the weight I lost), my mind was protesting. I wish I had said what I was thinking then. “We PAY guys like you to steward the hopes and ambitions and physical/mental well being of children, and you do THIS?” Needless to say, I felt humiliated and that pain has never really gone all the way away.
      So I do emphasize. I am glad for your comments, and your honesty. Also, I am so happy for you that your husband has helped you to love yourself and feel worthy and beautiful! I hope that you realize I wrote this not to make fun, but because this issue is crucial, one of the most important, in my mind, and needs to be looked at and pondered. How did our country get this way? And what can be done about it?
      (btw, I tried to give your comment five stars, but clicked on four instead……sorry)

      • javaz says:

        One of the reasons that obesity is such a problem, in my very humble opinion, is poverty.

        The price of lean meat, low-sodium, low-fat food, and healthy bread is much more expensive than the fatter, less healthier versions.

        I also think that another reason is time.

        Canned goods, frozen foods and pre-packaged foods are high in sodium and cornstarch or a derivative, and preservatives.

        Fast food is called fast food because it’s FAST food!

        It’s easier to nuke a frozen dinner, go through a drive-thru, or open a can than prepare a meal every single night when people are tired from working all day and picking up the kids.

        Plus, with dollar menus, fast food is cheap.

        It used to be, a long time ago, that people had to go to the store nearly everyday to purchase fresh produce and meats.
        Even after refrigerator/freezers came into our homes, the freezer sections in units were quite small as were the refrigerators.

        So, there wasn’t the storage available to keep much fresh fruit and vegetables, thus people resorted to canned goods out of necessity.

        Whenever we go out and I see an obese person, I must admit that it scares the bejeebers right out of me, because I know how easily that could be me.

        It’s a “there but for the grace of God go I” type of reaction.

        And I feel sorry for obese and heavy people, because I do know that they are embarrassed and shamed by their size.

        It’s socially unacceptable to be heavy, but I also think that being heavy is easier for men than women.

        Look no further than television where couples are paired and there’s a heavy husband with a gorgeous skinny wife.

        One time, years ago when I was in a heavier-phase, I was walking through a department store and looking at outfits when a saleslady came up to me and very loudly and rudely told me that there was nothing in that department meant for a person of my size.
        I left in shame and went on an instant diet again!

        I could give hundreds if not thousands of rude and mean experiences.

        I do feel comfortable with my body finally and have maintained my size-16 for at least 10 years.
        I think the yo-yo dieting is dangerous for the heart and I accept that I was never meant to be a skinny person.

        When I went for a bone-density test approximately 5 years ago, I had the most wonderful technician. He was a young man, and a very handsome man, and when it came time to step on the scale I placed my hands on my cheeks and said how I dreaded being weighed more than anything else.
        That wonderful man said to me -- “You’ve got to own it, girl!”
        And I laughed and took his advice!

        And I always like to remember that Marilyn Monroe was a size 14 for most of her life and she was only 5’5″!

        (of course, having her hourglass figure is another matter!)


        • PepeLepew says:

          Bingo, look at poor people, especially in the South.

          During Katrina, I was amazed at how many of the poor people trapped in New Orleans all seemed morbidly obese.

          It’s a lot of cheap, fatty foods … and that Southern diet. And they can’t afford health club memberships or have time to jog…

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