The Weight

As if the planet were not already under enough stress, now we learn that more than 30% of the people in 9 southern states here in the US are clinically obese. This is up from 25% just three years ago. Meanwhile, over 25% of the people in 38 states nationwide are obese. In 28 of these states, people are fatter today than they were a year ago.

Gravity exercises constant pressure on the earth; to this we must now add additional pressure from millions of lumbering fat people. As global warming inevitably raises the level of the oceans, so too shall global fattening lower the level of the land. Not good.

Animals, at least those in the wild, don’t become obese. A person may think an animal looks fat, but that’s simply a mistake in percep-tion. Sea lions may appear pretty obese, but in truth these creatures are built that way for a reason: to thrive in waters cold enough to freeze to death a human being in less than five minutes. Bears in winter go into the den “fat” so they don’t have to get up and eat for six months; when they emerge in the spring, they’re pretty darn gaunt. And grumpy. A mallard may seem to be carrying a lot of weight there in the chest: well, you try flying 3000 miles, under your own power, and then tell me how much poundage you’d like up there.

Ever notice that those motorized carts in grocery stores are these days occupied less by disabled people than by people so obese that they really ought to think twice about purchasing all those groceries? Animals are not able to avail themselves of these sorts of “fat carts.” An obese rabbit can’t crank up a fat cart to flee faster into the brush; s/he just becomes dinner. Just as an obese hawk will go without dinner.

While animals do not become obese, they do sometimes attempt to engage in activities that are a bit much for their weight. One night I watched a raccoon break the top off a small fig tree. The tree wasn’t very high; about three feet. The coon was methodically clambering around the thing; then, when it attempted to perch on the top, the crown just snapped. The raccoon seemed pretty embarrassed.

Less embarrassed were the pigeons that snapped branches off the mulberry tree, there at the Old Place. For years the mulberries were strictly the province of the foxes. Well, okay, the scrub jays would also hop in there among the foxes, scolding and screaming, but the jays, having to both pluck berries and avoid the foxes, were pretty nimble. Not the pigeons. They’d crack two to three branches a day. It’s not that they were fat. They just didn’t care.

I wasn’t happy, when the foxes stopped showing up to dine off the tree. At first I feared some plague had carried them off, or that the county’s sleepless meth cooks had decided to diversify into fur-trapping. But my friend Woodrow learned that a certain type of berry bush that is manna to foxes had, in recent springs, blossomed in unprecedented profusion. These bushes grow at a higher elevation; the foxes simply moved to where the food is. Leaving behind their former mulberry bounty for those branch-snapping birds.

Animals domesticated by humans will of course become obese. Turkeys, as an example, have been bred to be truly cruelly obese. The wild turkeys running around up here at the New Place look nothing like those bloat boats you see on the dinner table. They’re fast, sleek, and they take no guff from cats.

Zooed animals can get fat. Witness the sea lion pictured above. Dude is carrying an abnormal load of poundage.

Pampered pets can easily become as obese as their “owners.” A local cat vet, a number of years ago, boarded for some months a fine fellow named “Sherman” (as in the tank, not as in the purportedly “insane” general) because his people could just not keep his whiskers out of the food dish. The place was his version of a “fat farm.”

As for dogs . . . well . . . I can’t even think about fat dogs. Much less write about them. Because I no longer drink. : /


13 Responses to “The Weight”

  1. 1 Elva August 31, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Have you ever sat in a medical office waiting room and counted how many people are very obese? Each time I go to have my blood checked I see the room filled with young and older people so large that they have a hard time walking. I bet their doctors tell them to lose weight, but it goes in one ear and out the other. I believe it comes from the wrong kind of food and too much of it. You can save money if you shop correctly and eat the right food. I could go on forever, but you get my thinking.

    • 2 bluenred August 31, 2010 at 8:38 am

      I don’t know if I’ve written about it here, but the “food anthropologist” Peter Farb pointed out that our taste buds respond most to meat and fruit, which are what our bodies were built to run on, way back when we were hunter-gatherer people. The problem in modern industrialized countries is that there is now an overabundance of both. And the cuts of meat available are fattier, while instead of fruit we consume products with refined sugars, which far more satisfy the taste buds. The human body has not evolved to deal with this surfeit, so it bloats. Another problem is that the unhealthiest foods are the cheapest: even people dirt poor can buy a .29 cent McDonalds hamburger and a bag of candy. Starches are cheap too, and those we don’t really need. So poor people often wind up bigger than wealthier people. Then there’s the television factor: eight hours or more a day in front of some kind of screen means not a lot of calories are getting burned off.

  2. 3 Julia Rain (the daughter) September 2, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    I imagine people in 28 states are fatter than they were a year ago in part because of the recession. Everyone in my household has gained a bit this past year, cats included. No work to go to and no money to do much of anything else. David has decided to stop eating all junk food and carry his tool bag up and down our three flights of stairs everyday. Me, well, i cut out most candy but it’s rather hard to exercise when you can’t walk or stand properly and are always in pain.

    Which is why I feel truly terrible for my feline familiar, Winky. Like her mother (that would be me), she sleeps more than most people, and spends her leisure time most days lounging about or snacking. This is not good for kitties. It’s not great for me, either, but since I’m disabled the small amount of exertion I do adds up triple what it would to a normal person. Not so for my poor Winky. Like me, she just loves eating. And she likes to play, but she doesn’t love exercise. But we’re trying to get her weight manageable. She’s due for a major growth spurt soon and hopefully that will help.

    I think a number of issues contribute to the obesity problem. Bad food is cheap. High Fructose Corn Syrup is everywhere. If we just banned that we’d go a long way. Another problem is the symbiotic relationship between the unhealthy foods industry and the diet industry. This is explained quite well in the book Deadly Persuasion that you bought me. It goes something like this:

    Tell a normal sized woman she is too fat and needs to go on a diet. Bombard her with ads that tell her that chocolate will help her feel like she is doing something to make herself feel good. Then sit back while she spends the rest of her life yo-yoing back and forth between diet pills and Hagen Daas. If we could actually be realistic about how women’s bodies are supposed to look, we wouldn’t have so many insecure women drowning their sorrows in a tub of butter.

    I wonder if the birds we feed are getting fat. We have to refill the bird feeder at least four times a week….

  3. 4 bluenred September 3, 2010 at 3:29 am

    Well, chocolate does make you feel good. That’s a fact. But so do some other things. ; )

    Your birds will actually want to start getting fat about now, because winter is coming on, so they need to put on some seasonal poundage.

    David has entered an age when he needs to move beyond junk food. If he starts cooking more, he’ll eat better. So will you. ; )

    As for your cat, I will mail you this amazing new toy that has cats here in The Men Den up and about. It is a life-size mouse that makes a mouse-like noise when it is batted. There is also catnip inside. Because of the mouse-like squeak, cats believe this toy is a real mouse for much longer than they do with other faux mice; long enough to vigorously beat the thing around the room for awhile.

  4. 5 Julia Rain (the daughter) September 3, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Great, thank you! Both kitties’ favorite toys are the little mice that have real mouse hair on them, so I’m sure they’ll go for realistic mouse noises.

    We’re trying to cook more. I’m going to make the Rosemary Garlic Chicken with Shallots & Potatoes soon. I’m also thinking of taking a cooking class so I can get more comfortable with cooking terms.

    • 6 bluenred September 3, 2010 at 4:24 pm

      That’s a good dish. Especially the potatoes, with the caraway heaved all over them. I have some spuds here: maybe I’ll make that later, if I can overcome this ennui. Right now I’m being an American: eating soup from a can.

      USA! USA!

      Can’t the intertubes tell you about cooking terms? I have some books here that do that. But the class is no doubt best: actually performing the tasks yourself will make the terms better stick to the ol’ brainpan.

  5. 7 Julia Rain (the daughter) September 3, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Well I just had Parmesan flavored Pasta Roni and a sliced apple. I eat soup from a can frequently, I must say.

    The intertubes could tell me about cooking terms but the real problem is that I THINK I know what a term means, and then it turns out that I don’t. I made a mistake a year or so ago because I knew the word “simmer” meant to just let cook, but I didn’t realize it meant to do so on low heat. I ended up permanently scarring the bottom of my pan with burnt rice.

    Also, if directions don’t specifically tell me what heat to have something on I’m totally lost. You’re just supposed to KNOW what heat something needs sometimes and I just don’t.

    • 8 bluenred September 3, 2010 at 7:25 pm

      Do you still have the cookbook I made for you some years ago? In the various directions it explains basic terms like “simmer.”

      Also, good recipe directions should always tell you at what level of heat you need to cook something. If they don’t tell you, they aren’t good directions. : /

  6. 9 Julia Rain (the daughter) September 3, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Of course I still have the cookbook you made for me – from whence did you think I would procure the chicken and potato recipe? It is one of my most prized possessions. It’s on my list of things I must save in a fire, along with the original copy of my book with the edits you and T made, and my British Edition Harry Potter books.

    I suppose maybe I just need to make every recipe in the cookbook, and then I’ll know what the cooking terms mean. That would probably be cheaper than a cooking class, plus I could keep all of what I cooked, but I think the trust would be more likely to pay for the cooking class. 😦

    (Interesting note – “whence” is a recognized word on wordpress; “succubi” is not)

    • 10 bluenred September 3, 2010 at 7:43 pm

      I think the class is a good idea; that cookbook doesn’t have anything but the most basic terms. You’ll learn a lot more in the class, plus you’ll learn new recipes. They’ll probably force you to make scrapple, though. ; )

  7. 11 Julia Rain (the daughter) September 3, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Scrapple? Oh, no! Well, they can’t force me to eat it, I suppose. I’ll take the class. Then maybe when I make what’s in the cookbook, I need not fear that I will botch it beyond recognition.

  8. 12 Plink Piano September 7, 2010 at 10:07 am

    I agree with The Daughter in regards to the recession contributing to the problem. Healthy food is more expensive than the cheap stuff as I discovered when diabetes reared its ugly head in our household. I try very hard to cook as much as I can from scratch as I know this is better, but others living here have issues with controlling how much they eat. This becomes frustrating at times! Anyway, thought you might like to see the latest statistics from this area, especially the fact that Stanislaus County ranks third-fattest in the state. Perhaps I should move… 🙂

    The hardest-hit counties were in the San Joaquin Valley, where 34 percent of the population was obese and 9.4 percent had diabetes in 2007, the report said. The slimmest region was the Bay Area, where 18.8 percent of the people were obese and 6.8 percent had diabetes. Statewide, 22.7 percent of the population was obese and 7.5 percent had diabetes.

    Imperial County, at 39.6 percent, had the highest prevalence of obesity, followed by Merced County at 34.3 percent and then Stanislaus County, where 32 percent of the adult population was obese.

    Read more:

    • 13 bluenred September 7, 2010 at 10:51 am

      Well, you people in Stanislaus did recently invite Sarah Palin to speak there. And she, I believe, is the patron saint of fat people. Or at least fatheads. : /

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When I Worked

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