“This is Bob. Bob had bitch tits.”
—Ed Norton Jr. as The Narrator in Fight Club
I’m going to step away from the political today. OK, well mostly.
Those of you who are regular readers of this space know that I don’t make it a habit of agreeing with Michelle Obama. And unlike her I’m not going to suggest that what I’m going to talk about today is something that needs a government solution. But she’s right about one thing:
Really. Freaking. Fat.
I spent last week on vacation with the family in San Antonio, watching sea lion and killer whale shows at Sea World, riding roller coasters ‘till we puked at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, and slip-slidin’ away at the Aquatica waterpark. And while we had a really good time, I have to tell you the consistent and lasting impression I had was that, on the whole, we are shockingly, colossally, carnival-side-show overweight. Over those four days, I saw more cottage cheese thighs (and calves, and waists, and arms . . . ), man-boobs, belly rolls, triple chins, underarm flaps, and solar eclipse-inducing asses than I’ve ever seen in my life.
It was, well, gross.
What was really startling, however, was how consistent and across-the-board this observation went. Yes, there were the occasional gym rats. But my very unscientific guess was that seven in ten were visibly overweight. Of those seven, five were what anyone would call downright fat. Three were objectively and catastrophically obese. At any given time, from where I was standing I could count at least a dozen people who could have passed for Jabba the Hut without prosthetics. Mr. Creosote had nothing on this crowd, Brother. Even among the three in ten I would call reasonably healthy, most—myself included—were carting around an ample spare tire around the midsection.
While you statistics majors may challenge whether I had a representative cross-section and a sufficient sample size (I will say in this regard we waded through tens of thousands of people), this was no isolated snapshot. It was the same every day, whether walking around downtown, touring the Alamo, or at any one of three different parks. And the phenomenon knew no demographic boundaries. I saw it in the old and the young. Black, white, Asian, and Hispanic. Male and female. I mean, it was across the board.
Saddest—and most inexcuseable—was how consistently I saw it in children. I saw one young man sitting on a bench who might have been eleven years old, plus or minus. He had his shirt off, because he’d been in the pool. Sitting there, slump-shouldered, he had by my count five separate folds in his flesh above the belt: one near his armpits above his breasts, his breasts themselves, and then three different belly folds. This was not an abberational observation. It was typical of what I saw. Kid after kid looked like the love child of the Bibendum (look it up) and Aunt Jemima.
We didn’t used to be like this. Look at photos from the Civil War and World War I—you almost never see fat people, and never the seriously obese. The average adult male fighting for the U.S. in World War II was 5’8”, and weighed 155 lbs. I saw plenty of children last week who were pushing that weight. We’re not getting soft—we’re flat mushy.
What happened to us?
The short answer is we consume too much and move too little, but that doesn’t really tell the full story. The conveniences and abundance of our modern America have separated most of us from what it actually takes to produce food. Our grocery store shelves are packed with pre-fabricated processed foods—just add water and nuke it, and you’re good to go; never mind what's in it or where it came from. Our streets are lined with fat-laden fast food chains. Our TVs bombard us with programming like the Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food, in which the obese host travels from town to town gorging himself on ridiculously portioned—frankly downright shamefully wasteful—foods like 50 pound hamburgers. There’s never a thought given to what it took to generate that burger, how many multiples of people that could have fed, or the cost of the waste if it gets thrown out. That it would have even occurred to anyone to make that thing in the first place, much less create a TV show out of watching some fat guy try to eat it, speaks volumes about where we are now.
This is dangerous. God bless our men and women in uniform, but the AVF won’t be nearly enough to defend us if it really came down to a serious war of conquest against us. If we had to resort to a mass callup to defend ourselves, and if what I saw last week was any indication of the pool from which we’ll have to draw to do it, we’re in trouble. I don’t care how much whoop-ass you think is in that can you’re going to open on those Chinamen, Jethro; if you can’t catch them, it’s not gonna matter much.
You think we have a problem with our healthcare system? Well, don’t look at the insurance companies, and don’t talk to me about coverage for pre-existing conditions or illegal aliens. How much are we spending, and how many resources are we unnecessarily tying up or downright wasting because of the basic lack of conditioning of huge swaths of our population in this country? I submit this is a good place to start.
Look, I don’t expect everyone to be shredded like a Navy SEAL. And I don’t believe in strict numbers like the Body Mass Index that try to dictate a weight for a given height. I’m less concerned about the number on the scale than about what that number’s made of. But here are some clues, based on my observations last week, that can tell you if the weight you’re carrying—and, more importantly, what that weight is comprised of—is too much for your individual body:
1. If you can hide your finger underneath the flesh on your torso (women’s breasts excepted), you’re too fat. And guys, don’t tell me those are your pecs. The Rock has pecs. You don’t. His pecs don’t have a fold underneath. Yours do. Those aren’t pecs, they’re breasts.
2. If your nipples or navel face the ground, you’re too fat. I’ll cut some slack to those who are a little older—gravity does take its toll over time. But for most of us, those things that we started life with facing forward should still more or less point that direction.
3. If you need a brassiere to support the flesh on your ribs below your armpits, you’re too fat. That’s just gross.
4. If your navel is substantially further from your spine than your nipples are, you’re too fat. We’re not supposed to be shaped like pears.
5. If your arms at your sides point anywhere other than down, you’re too fat. Self-explanatory.
6. If you have to go sideways through any opening designed for normal adults to pass through going forward, you’re too fat.
7. Guys, if you have to lift anything out of the way other than the seat in order to pee, you’re too fat.
8. Ladies, one roll for your breasts is fine. Two is too many. Three is, well . . . you get the idea.
9. You should have a chin, not a neck attached to your lip.
10. You should have only one chin.
Let’s all put down the Haagen-Dazs and the TV remote, and try to move around a little more than we have been.
Before it’s too late.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Changes in the demands on my time may reduce the frequency in posts over the coming weeks, but I will continue to post as time permits and the news cycle feeds my muse.