Is Fat Phat?

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Here's a happy story: A quarter of the world is overweight, according to the International Obesity Task Force, which sounds like a 21st-century version of SMERSH or, worse still, something out of a Matt Helm movie (shouldn't Victor Buono be the head of the IOTF?).

The main culprit in intercontinental corpulence is–damn them all to hell–"cheap, plentiful food. Even in poor nations, the relative cost of eating is declining."

And what about Mexico, a con queso test case for the new fatness? "[Forty] percent of its 105 million people live in poverty. Yet two-thirds of men and women there are overweight or obese."

Let's not mince words: There's something worth celebrating about a world in which even poor people have so much to eat that they can become fat.

So how does this good news get translated into newspaperese?:

Obesity now gluts the globe

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  1. Obviously the basic problem is the lack of a governmental authority to redistribute food from places where obesity is a problem to those places where starvation is still a problem. If we just had a government authority to handle this it would all work out! 🙂

  2. Apparently the public schools in New Haven, Connecticut have banned fattening foods like candy bars and cookies. I don’t mean remove them from school vending machines (which I could support) but banned them outright. The story talked about the principal (who is overweight) waddling around the cafeteria shatching up forbidden items.

    Crap. Now I want to renew my teaching license just long enough to get a job in a New Haven school and eat a candy bar for lunch. I would then like to hear why I–a woman standing five feet and three and one-half inches tall, weighing in at just over 100 pounds–cannot eat anything fattening.

    Some people are incapable of opening their mouths without shoving a donut into them. It’s their problem–not mine, and surely not the government’s. If exceeive poundage is the worst health problem in the world today, then I’d say we’re damned lucky to be alive right now. The bellyache I get when I eat too much is far better than the bellyache I get when I haven’t eaten anything.

  3. Obviously it’s great that we can all kick back and get fat. Most famines today are man-made in one sense: it is governments getting in the way that prevent food distribution. The solution is less government, everywhere (?)

  4. Connecticut school takes action on child obesity

    By NOREEN GILLESPIE, Associated Press

    Last Updated 6:24 am PDT Thursday, April 29, 2004

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) – At Nathan Hale School, candy bars are confiscated. Bake sales are frowned upon. The vending machines don’t carry soda – only water, milk, or juice.
    This is a “junk food-free school,” an early phase of a districtwide initiative to fight childhood obesity. It’s where third-graders have salads if they don’t like the main course, and where seventh-grade girls take Pilates after school. . . . “There isn’t a candy bar in this school,” says principal Kim Johnsky as she surveys the maze of lunch tables.

    http://24hour.sacbee.com/24hour/healthscience/story/1327068p-8493802c.html

  5. Jennifer, tax proposals on “junk” food, are not new… http://washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20040420-115112-4093r.htm , and are further proof that guv’ment knows best. Or at least other people know best and want the guv’ment to enforce their beliefs.

  6. Couldn’t resist compare and contrasting this link recently aired on Viridian …

    WORLD FOOD SECURITY DETERIORATING:
    Food Crunch in 2005 Now Likely

    http://www.earth-policy.org/Updates/Update40.htm

    The four harvest shortfalls have dropped world carryover stocks of grain to the lowest level in 30 years, amounting to only 59 days of consumption. Wheat and corn prices are at 7-year highs. Rice prices are at 5-year highs. (See data.)

    Apocalypse or Global Atkins Diet?

  7. The problem is that because of this rampant capitalism, some third world villages have no safe drinking water but plenty of Coca Cola!

    I say we should tax sodas. And if that means the villagers get nothing, fine. Say what you will about dying of dysentery. It’s a lot better than being fat.

  8. {this outbreak of girth is occurring just as doctors everywhere except in sub-Saharan Africa are winning the fight against infectious diseases from smallpox to malaria.

    Already, one-third of all deaths globally are from ailments linked to weight, lack of exercise and smoking.}

    Absolutely. Everybody dies once. If you virtually eliminate deaths from infectious disease, more people must die from other causes, like heart disease, etc.

    {“The developing world in particular is going to bear the enormous brunt of this weight gain,” said Neville Rigby, policy director of the International Obesity Task Force.

    Researchers from Columbia University’s Earth Institute examined Brazil, China, India, South Africa and the Russian republic of Tartarstan. They found that the heart disease death rate for adults ages 30 to 59 was up to twice as high as the U.S. rate, and in Russia the rate was up to five times higher.

    The global trend toward weight gain and its associated illnesses is not restricted to the well-off. High-fat, high-starch foods tend to be cheaper, so poor people eat more of them.
    In Mexico, 40 percent of its 105 million people live in poverty. Yet two-thirds of men and women there are overweight or obese.

    Countries with extensive health care have stalled the onset of heart disease into old age. But in much of the world, fatal heart attacks and strokes are much more common among working-age adults. Over the next 30 years, the trend is projected to worsen.}

    IOW the cure for poor eating habits is the same as the cure for environmental damage, technology resulting in a higher standard of living.

    {A food fix always is within arm’s reach. Almost no one can resist.
    “I compare the propensity to eat as somewhere between the propensity to breathe and the propensity to have sex,” said Stephen Bloom, chief of metabolic medicine at the University of London’s Imperial College. “It’s much worse than stopping smoking.”}

    Really interesting analogy, given the falling birth rate in industrialized affluent countries. Technology solves another problem.

    {In 1990, no more than 15 percent of food bought in Latin America came from supermarkets. Now 60 percent is from six supermarket chains.

    People spend more time sitting in the car, at the computer and especially in front of the television set – an average of 1,669 hours a year in the United States, a habit that is extending internationally.}

    Again, everybody dies once. Not only are people exercising less, they are working at occupations that are much safer than hard manual labor. And as the accidental death rate drops the number of individuals dying of other causes, like heart disease, must increase.

  9. Well, yes, the newspapers are whining. Media tends to be a the-glass-is-half-empty profession.

    But be fair. It’s the scientists of the health organizations who are providing the material. If your research is pitched as “We’ve eliminated world starvation” it’s difficult to use the study as justification for spending money and making rules to cure the problem.

  10. According to the Onion, the world is experiencing a massive death epidemic. Drownings, infections, heart attacks, car crashes, murders, falling down stairs, war, malnutrition, AIDS, suffocation, cancer, you name it. It shows no sign of abating. It is running rampant around the globe. It doesn’t discriminate by gender or ethnicity, but it seems to be biased toward the elderly.

    http://premium.theonion.com/news/index.php?id=2311

    You need a subscription to the Onion’s premium content to view this, unfortunately.

    I think it’s high time that the government appoint an official to do something about this epidemic of death!

  11. Absolutely true. For all human history, a large portion of the population was in fear of starving to death. We’ve finally defeated (or have made great strides against) one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and all the papers can do is whine.

  12. But whiiiiining is what we do best!

  13. The Horsemen of the Apocalypse, version 2.0: War, Pestilence, Death, and High Cholesterol.

    How long before someone recommends a hefty tax on fattening food, to artificially inflate the price and thus reduce the amount of fat in the world? Actually, I’m willing to bet it’s happening already.

  14. I just read the article and would love to ask the writer: would you rather die ten years too early because you ate too much, or fifty years too early because you couldn’t eat enough?

  15. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned here is the realtionship between economic status and obesity. I started to think about this while shopping at a “Wild Harvest” whole foods market recently. It seems to me – and this is just a personal observation with no hard data to back it up – that the very poor are not obese becasue they can’t afford to buy food (i.e. they’re starving). The folks who are at or just above the poverty line are obese (a broad generalization I know)becasue they have enough money to be able to afford McDonalds and other junk foods, but not enough to be able to shop at “healthy” whole foods- type markets. Those of us in the “middle class” can probably afford to spend the extra bucks on “healthy” foods, but we’re so pressed for time between our jobs, kids, soccer, etc. that we don;t hav ethe time to prepare the stuff, so we eat out or eat pre-packaged “quick” foods.
    The super rich can afford to hire pople to shop and preapre “healthy” foods for them, so they eat them regularly. How many millionairs do you see stopping by your local Burger King for lunch?

    Anyway, it’s a thought. If you go to a natural foods store or a whole foods chain like Wild Harvest, Bread and Circus, etc. check out the prices. All that good for you organic, low fat all natural stuff costs a lot more than the regular “bad” foods avaialable at your typical grocery store. As I said to my wife in my best Jesse Jackson imitation: You gotta be wealthy to eat healthy.

  16. My question is, what happens to the candy bars after they’re confiscated? I’m sure the principal wouldn’t want to let them go to waste…

  17. The candy bars (munch munch) are sequestered in my office (gulp) for 7 days then properly disposed.

    Since we’re confiscating donuts, too, we’ve had a lot more police raids, guns drawn. “Drop the donut and back away, young man! I said DROP IT!”

  18. Brian:

    My local Safeway has a wide selection of cheap and healthy foods: spuds, rice, beans, peanut butter, good vegetables, etc. Maybe they aren’t organic, but I think the all “natural” food stores are overpriced con jobs. Anybody can eat well on $100 a month and not get obese.

  19. Poor people have less opportunity to prepare meals at home, Mark. Lousy shifts, exhaustion after long hours of physical labor, inferior or no kitchens…there are all sorts of disincentives that disproportionately disfavor lower income people.

  20. Him who the lord loveth, he maketh fat.

    And the lord gathers those little piggys up quicker too. Didn’t MIT do research and find that if you really want to extend your lifespan what you need to do in almost starve all the time?

    Why is a long miserable life automatically better than a short happy one?

  21. Next up, auto related deaths! As the cost of acquiring and operating a car has declined, along with general increases in the total population of those of driving age, the number of people driving in cars has increased which has resulted in a dramatic increase in auto related deaths. This even as the number of deaths per 1000 miles driven has declined! This is a scourge and outrage!

  22. Joe-
    It is indeed bad when people eat too much junk food and suffer poor health as a result. It’s worse when the government decides it needs to expand its powers to stop it, and it’s worst of all when the government mandates a one-size-fits-all policy to handle the problem. At the Nathan Hale school, 15 percent of kids are fat; ergo, one hundred percent of kids are forced to adjust their diets.

  23. While yes, I would say it?s better to have a bunch of fat people as opposed to starving ones, but wouldn’t the ideal be less junk food and more healthy diets?

  24. Citizens:

    The real reason why the Government is against people being fat is a simple matter of geology. The earth’s crust, relative to the size of the planet, is very thin and delicate. If you have a bunch of fatasses concentrated in one area (especially if they’re bouncing to “Sweat’n with the Oldies”), the resultant stress on the ground could be disastrous. We’re talking about earth quakes and volcanos, okay? We’re only thinking about your safety.

    Have a nice day.

  25. “…wouldn’t the ideal be less junk food and more healthy diets?”

    Only if that is what people choose.

  26. Jennifur, when you are right*, you are sooooo right. [*when you agree with me]

  27. Joe, the tailpipe solution is unfortunate, but it seems to me to be the only type of solution that has a chance in hell of working.

  28. What we need to do is extend the free market to flavors — help those healthy but tasteless foods compete by geneticly engineering them to taste like candy!

  29. Thanks for remembering Victor Buono, Nick. Now there was a great man.

  30. Jason, free choice is a wonderful thing. But it is not the ONLY thing that matters in the world. A foolish action doesn’t become any less foolish if it becomes popular.

    It is bad that so many people have unhealthy diets and get fat. No?

  31. >>…wouldn’t the ideal be less junk food and >>more healthy diets?
    >
    >Only if that is what people choose.

    Interesting exchange there. It almost sounds like Jason Ligon is saying that what people freely choose to do is definitially optimal. But that’s not true; this is a case of lots and lots of people making lots and lots of bad decisions. It is good to have free choice, but it’s still bad when people make the wrong choices.

    Anyway, I give this obesity epidemic 20 years or so… eventually someone will create the “miracle” anti-obesity pill we’ve all been waiting for. Then this situation will be turned on its head as the rich will be thin and fit and those too poor to afford miracle drugs will be fat. Then we’ll just get more whining from the media:)

  32. Shit!, I agree with Joe. Time to rethink my position here…

  33. Anti-obesity pills. Always with the tailpipe solutions.

    Feel better, Andy?

  34. Isn’t arguing “a fat epidemic is better than malnutrition” a bit like “the abuse by Americans at Abu Gharib is better than that of the Baathists?” Yes, that’s true, but your ideological preferences are driving you to come down on the side of a really idiotic position.

    Which is a shame, because there is a strong case to be made that government intervention in the agricultural sector is distorting the food market by making high fat, high carb, high sugar foods cheaper, without offering similar support to vegetables.

    Ideally, you’d base your interpretation of the facts on, well, the facts. But since that seems to be out the window, and the political implications are driving your interpretation like some Soviet geneticist, then at least base your ideologically-driven interpretation on a complete understanding of the issues involved.

  35. dear too phat..i`m breakin gurl from malacca..we(malacca hiphoper)and all ur fans want to see you..we`all missing you..can you come down to historical malacca and demonstrate ur dj`s,ur breakin boy and ur songs..it will be very disappointing if you are not coming..we`all always waiting for you..

  36. To everyone,

    The majority of fat people are not fat because of macdonalds or less exorcise. The majority of fat people are families, husband,wives and children, most can’t afford macdonalds and is usually a once a month treat. The fact is that even though your local save market sells healthy fruits and vegetables by time you buy enough to feed an average family of four you’ve spent $20 on one meal however you can buy pasta and sauce for $2.00 and have leftovers. Hot dogs and buns for $3.00 and if you have a good week you can even buy a 5lb bag of potatoes and have potatoe salad with your hotdogs and still be under what it would cost to buy lettuce (1.09), tomatoe (3 for 1.59) cucumber (.99) salad dressing (1.50) and thats just the salad what would you do for a healthy main course skinless chicken is always a dollar or more per pound so you buy regular cheap dark meat chicken and skin it yourself and you can’t cook in .99 butter cuz that defeats the purpose so you buy olive oil for $9.00. The fact is everyone sees fat people and think burger king but I am one of those chunky people trying my hardest to feed my children and we don’t eat fast food unfortunatly we eat pasta 3 times a week. My children are not obese they have great energy and burn it off but I am not so lucky weighing in at 185 lbs at 5’5. So even though everyone may think they have a fix it actually isn’t one specific thing that makes people fat. the cost of food is a big factor but for those of us with a slow metabolism need a booster that you find in diet pills. I want to know why i can buy a box of fruity pebbles for $1.99 but if I want to be healthy a box of special k is $3.99. Thats a big difference when you buying for four people or more. I think the price of food should be more regulated and I also think the bigtime scientist should find a way to make my metabolism work just as good as the next guys metabolism. Either that or maybe the media should start making chunky woman desirable.

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