The Thinking 

Food and Health

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The Living

December 25, 2009


In James Joyce’s short story “The Dead,” friends and relatives gather at a Dublin townhouse for a yearly Christmas dance at the home of the elderly Morkan sisters, Julia and Kate. The guests dance to piano waltzes played by the Morkans’ niece Mary Jane, who like her aunts is a music teacher. Freddy Malins shows up not as drunk as expected. The conversation includes opera and a local monastery where the monks sleep in coffins. The guests are served goose and ham, punch and steamed pudding while the elderly spinsters fret over their welfare. Every year, Gabriel Conroy, nephew of the Morkan sisters, gives a toast at the close of the meal.

Gabriel leaned his ten trembling fingers on the tablecloth and smiled nervously at the company. Meeting a row of upturned faces he raised his eyes to the chandelier.

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Carbs Kill

October 9, 2009


Richard writes:

Your writing is usually refreshingly free of modernist claptrap. But that’s not the case with your “Obesity in America” article, and certainly isn’t so with much of the Oprahized conventional wisdom from your correspondents on that article. The current obesity epidemic is the result of four decades of bad public policies and cultural cues based on some truly awful science and preconceived notions. The science is finally catching up, but it may take generations for public perception do so.
Most of the increase in obesity seen in the last few decades is a result of a condition called metabolic syndrome, which results from a steady decrease in sensitivity to insulin. Many people have chronically high insulin levels due to a diet high in certain carbohydrates. Insulin enables fat cells to rapidly convert glucose into energy stores. Over time they develop insulin resistance, and eventually related problems like Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus.
To put it simply, people are not fat because they eat a lot. They eat a lot because they are fat. Their chronically high insulin levels mean their fat cells are using up their supplies of glucose, and telling their brains that they are starving even when they have just eaten. It is a form of malnutrition. Their fat cells are quite literally robbing the rest of their bodies of nutrition. They aren’t being gluttons – they are being poisoned.

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More Criticism and Comments

October 8, 2009


Nadege Armour writes:

Although I realize that there is an obesity problem in America, I do not believe that the majority of folks experiencing  this phenomenon  have “spiritual problems of over-eating”.  I do however believe that illness and limited funds play a significant role in the people being described in your article. Did it ever occur to you that these folks are obese because they are ill?

A Criticism, and Comments on Fat

October 7, 2009


Rita writes:

I’m a little hurt. I have an underactive thyroid (probably because my mother insisted on feeding me milk, which I was allergic to) ….do I get off a little easier? You sound a teensy bit mean in Fat and Unhappy and Obesity in America.

If you have any suggestions for someone who can eat “perfectly” and still only lose 1 pound per month, I’m all ears.

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Obesity in America

October 6, 2009


A new veterans’ cemetery is being built about 20 miles from where I live. The entire periphery of the enormous landscape will be reserved for bodies that are too large to fit in the normal vaults. It’s just one small example of something we all know: Americans are hideously fat.

Obesity in America is not simply the result of environmental forces, as is so often argued. It also comes from an immoral approach to food, to the body and to daily living. The eating habits of vast numbers of Americans are a dangerous and costly rebellion against nature itself. It’s as if a third of America is killing itself slowly and as if our most valuable natural resource is being willfully trashed.





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