Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dear Society

Dear Society,

Forgive me if this gets harsh.  I'm going to discuss fat people in some unpleasant ways while I tease apart some ideas.

We talk about food as if there's a moral component to eating.  We talk about "cheating" on our diets as if we're cheating on our spouses or our taxes.  We talk about "guilt" to the extent that some lines of diet food are labeled "guilt-free" right on the packaging.

We talk as if what is healthful and nutritious for some people is healthful and nutritious for all people, which it isn't.  We talk about that food being good for us.  We separate foods into "good" foods and "bad" foods.  We praise ourselves and each other for eating "good" foods and chide ourselves and each other for eating "bad" foods.  Within that framework, eating "good" foods becomes a pious act.  Eating "bad" foods is a sinful act.

Good people eat good foods.  Bad people eat bad foods.

There's a related problem.  We act as if "calories in, calories out" is a magical formula which never fails and holds true for every body at all times.  We act as if "you are what you eat" means that if you eat food with fat in it, you will automatically become fat.

Put those ideas together, and where does that leave us?  Fat food makes fat people.  Fatty food is bad for you; fatty food is bad.  Bad people eat bad food.  Fat people eat fat food.

Fat people are bad people.

Food has a moral component.

Fat people are immoral.

It's bolstered by "gluttony" being on the official list of the seven deadly sins.  Gluttony is a sin.  Gluttons are wicked.  Fat people are fat because they overeat, which proves them gluttonous, therefore fat people are wicked.

Nasty, gluttonous fat people.  How many fat villains can you name?  How many fat heroes can you name?

I used to see fat bullies on TV and in movies, and that never made sense to me.  In my reality, fat people aren't bullies, they're the ones being bullied.  In addition, bullies are often popular and charismatic people, while I never thought of fat kids as popular.  But I often see fat kids depicted as bullies in popular culture.  Because fat kids are mean.  Fat kids are hateful.  Fat kids are nasty and immoral and greedy and gluttonous.  If they weren't so immoral and greedy, they wouldn't be fat, would they?  And they wouldn't need to steal other kids' lunch money, because they wouldn't want to spend it on extra lunches or candy or snacks like the little pigs that they are.

What good does all of this food morality do?  What do we gain from it?  We praise thin people, or people who eat foods we perceive to be "good," as virtuous people.  We shame fat people, or people who eat foods we perceive to be "bad," for being greedy and wicked.

So thin people can feel good about themselves.  That's nice.  I like for people to feel good about themselves in general.

But they feel good about themselves at the expense of fat people.  But I know a lot of fat people.  I know that they're fat for a lot of different reasons.  I know that they eat the same foods in the same quantities and same ways that thin people eat.  Which isn't to say that Fat Person A and Thin Person B eat precisely the same; what I mean is, if you take all of the thin people in the world and compare them to all of the fat people in the world, you're going to find matching pairs.  You'll find thin and fat people who are vegetarians, thin and fat people who exist almost entirely on fast food, thin and fat people who scarf down gourmet pasta, thin and fat people who nibble on leafy greens, and so on.

You'll find thin and fat people with all sorts of health problems.  And you'll find thin and fat people who are perfectly healthy.

Yet some of them are good, virtuous, and pious.  And some of them are immoral, greedy, and wicked.

Maybe you're worried that people are eating too much crap in their meals.  Okay, sure.  Let's take some of the HFCS out of food.  And let's take some of the morality out of it, too, okay?

With love,
Frank Lee

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