But Jesus Is Still Skinny

In a study just published by the International Journal of Obesity, Cornell marketing professor Brian Wansink teams up with his brother Craig Wansink, a professor of religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College, to show that food portions depicted in paintings of the Last Supper get bigger as time goes by. The Brothers Wansink compared the size of the bread and the main dish to the average size of the diners' heads in 52 Last Supper paintings spanning 1,000 years. They found that "the relative sizes of the various dishes have increased in a linear fashion over the past millenium." Specifically, "the main dish (entree) has increased by 69 percent," "the bread has increased by 23 per cent," and "the size of the plates has increased by 66 per cent."

It's plausible, as the authors suggest, that the trend reflects a growing abundance of food, but whatever portion expansion was occurring in the real world clearly was not enough to cause an "obesity epidemic," a phenomenon observed only in the last few decades. In addition to increased calorie intake, expanding wastlines in developed countries reflect reduced calorie burning as the need for back-breaking labor has steadily declined. But again, that trend began long before Americans and other Westerners started becoming noticeably fatter in the 1980s.

I reviewed Brian Wansink's book Mindless Eating in the January 2008 issue of Reason.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Maybe heads are getting smaller.

  • Spoonman.||

    Well, it's possible that improved perspective and realism did decrease painting head size over time.

  • The Gobbler||

    "But Jesus Is Still Skinny"


  • Brian Sorgatz||

    Jesus stays skinny in art for aesthetic reasons. He gets pretty much naked on the cross, so he had better have an attractive physique. How successful would Christianity have been if the guy on the crucifix were shaped like Kyle Gass?

  • ||

    I should also be noted that Jesus' COD was no way attributed to obesity or diet.

    I doubt very seriously when he was dying of asphyxia due to being crucified some especially capricious Roman stuffed a tiramisu in his mouth and nostrils.

  • ||

    Wow... fat people will find any excuse.

  • sage||

    International Journal of Obesity,

    Sounds to me like a fancy way to say Diary of a Fat Bitch.

  • BakedPenguin||

    It's a journal. So that'd be Diary of a Fat Bitch, PhD.

  • ||

  • Warty||

    This is a remarkably shitty feminist blog, even by your standards. You continue to be a hero for finding these.

  • ||

    You're just being a judgy-Mcjudgerstein.

    That bitch with the PH.D. would agree with me.

  • Federal Farmer||

    sage, the International Journal of Obesity is my personal journal, thank you very much.

  • ||

    If the Last Supper had taken place at my local Chili's, it would still be going on.

  • The Gobbler||

    "If the Last Supper had taken place at my local Chili's, it would still be going on would all still be puking and shitting blood


    Really, who eats at Chili's?

  • Jeff P||

    Jesus tore off a cluster of batter-dipped onion petals and said "take this, all of you, and eat it. This is my body. Mass-produced and pre-packaged, it will be dipped in a tangy ranch sauce so that sins may be forgiven."
    Whan supper was over he salted the rim of a glass...

  • The Bishop of Ruby Tuesdays||

    "Today is the feast of Triple Dippers, the fifth Mojito Monday of ordinary time"

  • BakedPenguin||

    ...and Judas Iscariot turned away, for he did not have enough flair.

  • Peter||

    So are you gonna eat your fat?

  • Ron Livingston||

    You know, the Nazis had pieces of flair they made the Jews wear.

  • Jeff P||

    And the entire wait staff came out clapping their hands, surrounded Judas and sang "betray him, betray him, you're going to betray him..."

  • God here||

    Jeff, you're a sick little m f'er.

  • Entitled Slacker||

    I was going to say Red Lobster but since that's shellfish I thought better about it.

  • ¢||

    The International Journal of Shrinking Heads disputes the finding.

  • ||

    We need to tax the paint to keep the portions smaller.

  • The Gobbler||

    We also need a new Reason Gear Girl alt-text. A new one each week would be nice.

  • Spoonman.||

    I had never noticed that. That's fucking hilarious.

  • ||

    Me neither.

    Very clever, Reasonoids. Now I'll have to mouse over your ads.

  • creech||

    Is that Peter warning Mary Magdalene to stay on her diet?

  • ed||

    Did the authors of the study mention how life expectancies have increased by about 50 years since Biblical times?

  • ||

    How dare you!

  • ed||

    What's comical is how national news organizations have picked this up. Not that they are advocates of any particular social engineering agenda.

  • ||

    The fact that this is treated at all seriously is foolish in the extreme. And yes, it shows the strong biases of certain people.

  • ABC News||

    It would be a shame if somebody were to take away your Twinkies. Fatty.

  • ||

    Wrong again, ABC. Is there no news story you don't fail at?

  • Peter||

    Depends on where you start your timeline:

    Genesis 5:30 (King James Version)

    30 And Lamech lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters:

  • ed||

    Good point. And he managed that without ObamaCare.

  • ||

    Yahwecare was an amazing insurance company.

  • ||

    Is their stock ticker YHWH?

  • Dr. Jones||

    In the Latin alphabet, Jehovah starts with an i.

  • Jeff P||

    Secret Policeman's Ball has a skit about a Last Supper with three Christs, because "the fat one balances out the two skinny ones"

  • Fluffy||

    This analysis is silly.

    What is probably happening is that the cultural memory that Jesus and the apostles were at a Passover seder and not an actual meal has been receding.

    A depiction of the event emphasizing Jesus' Jewishness would tend to show a tiny little serving portion of unleavened bread.

    A depiction of the event with no consciousness of Jesus' Jewishness would be more likely to have it look like the buffet line at the Sizzler.

  • Warty||

    Every Seder I've been to has been a fucking pigout. Maybe you need to find some better Jews.

  • ||

    Hmm... bitter herbs...

  • Warty||

    Of course, it's possible that I eat a disgusting amount of food and enjoy myself tremendously at any social gathering. Seder would be a lot better if they'd eat some fucking Easter ham like normal people, though.

  • ||

    Boy, that was really crass and insensitive...and funny.

  • ||

    I guess you can really put away the Gefilte fish, then, Warty. I kind of get my fill right away, but then, I'm not a gargantuan hog like you.

  • Warty||

    You should see me pound the Manischewitz. Oy.

  • Farting a Rainbow||

    I love your use of metaphor!

  • ||

    Culminating in a Last Supper that depicts them all going town on pork chops and chicharrones.

  • ||

    And shrimp cocktail.

  • ||

    The only major dietary change around the 70s was the massive infusion of HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) as a replacement for sugar. Coindcidence?

    Hmmmm......I mean, mmmm, syrup....

  • Jesus||

    Guys, could some of you sit on the other side of the table? This has got to look kind of gay.

  • ||

    But Master, can't you please put a speed-painting spell on Leonardo? This pose is getting old fast!

  • ||

    the main dish (entree) has increased by 69 percent...the bread has increased by 23 per cent

    Those damned Atkin's freaks....

  • EJM||

    See this batch of Last Supper parodies (which I found only because the folks at Relevant apparently used "Fast Food Mascots Last Supper" in their post on the story).

  • Warty||

    Last supper parodies, you say?

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    Who the fuck cares?

  • ||

    Don't forget the lobster bisque.

  • yum||

    my favorite


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