Some readers of my article Obesity in America gently accused me of insensitivity toward the overweight. I am not complaining about these comments and I recognize there are people who suffer from metabolic conditions and cannot hope to be thin unless they set about starving themselves. But, I do think these commenters have missed the phenomenon I am describing. There is a defiant, in-your-face, take-it-or-leave-it fatness in America that is relatively new.
Rather than the fit showing insensitivy toward the fat, it actually works the other way. Fat people are demonstrating insensitivity toward the fit.
Many obese people, despite publicized warnings, continue to publicly consume vast quantities of edible junk. [See Katherine S.'s description below of diners at the Golden Corral restaurant in South Carolina.] The problem is, orgies shouldn’t be public. Those who are committing slow suicide by way of gluttony should at least be discreet. After all, their eating habits are going to cost us all. We will see astronomically increased expenditures for the conditions that result from obesity, particulaly diabetes and heart disorders. If someone is going to flagrantly court disease and an early death, I say he should do it in the privacy of his own home.
Secondly, the obese show little sensitivity to the almost universal human aversion to naked, unclothed fat. They dress in midriffs and unbuttoned shirts, tight shorts and clingy nylon skirts, halter tops and low-cut jeans even when they weigh 350 or 400 pounds. Arguably, many of these people cannot afford nice clothes and obviously it is difficult to find clothes when you are large. I can understand that. But, Good Will and Salvation Army outlets are filled with dirt-cheap clothes and the fabric stores are filled with reams of cheap fabrics. There are alternatives. The unemployed and underemployed often have time on their hands and could sew. Besides, if people can’t afford decent clothes, how is it so many can afford cable TV, electronic games and movies?
By the way, Jamie Oliver, the famous TV chef, is also convinced many people are fat today because they are disconnected from food and don’t cook. He doesn’t make the point, as I have, that this represents a misguided search for ease and a spiritual malaise, but Oliver essentially agrees that it’s not just what you eat, but how you eat. Oliver has set about teaching the overweight to cook.
Here is an article that appeared in the New York Times this week about Oliver’s campaign in the Huntington-Ashland metropolitan area of West Virginia, where nearly half of the adults are obese. Oliver conducted a similar project in Rotherham, England, teaching the locals how to make simple meals. “They thought that cooking a meal and feeding it to your family was for posh people,” he said. Some participants didn’t own kitchen tables and ate take-out food on their floors.
Katherine S. writes: