Sunday, September 10, 2006

Obesity and Casuistry

First, know that since I went beta with my blog, I'm not allowed to post at non-beta blogs. So if any of my usual haunts are feeling neglected, Google promises this will be fixed soon.

It's too bad that the taste of food can't be separated from its mass. If you could put a slip of paper on your tongue and experience prime rib, you would not feel as if the taste belonged to you unless you also swallowed the strip. The pleasure of eating is not just taste; it includes mastication, swallowing and satiety. The enjoyment of food is inextricably linked with these other sensations: the crunch of nuts, the slide of an oyster, the abdomen pleasantly distended.

I ate seven or eight tacos tonight. Not all at once but in stages. I am satiated but not in pain. I can't imagine the satisfaction of taste alone without the sensation of swallowing it, to claim that food for yourself, to swell your stomach with the triumph of having consumed something so tasty--which may or may not be good for you. Experts say fudge and fried chicken are bad for you, but how can they be if they taste so good? It goes against biology. Too bad biology has failed us until obesity is a plague. I read that there are more obese people in the world now than people in hunger. The fat get fatter and now the thin get fatter, too, in modern times. I don’t know whether to call this trickle up or down.

I sometimes think of the grinding poverty depicted in Angela's Ashes, or the depressing privation of some of Dostoyevsky's characters. How will obesity affect literature? It has already affected style, with many resorting to the combination of loose-fitting tops and form-fitting pants, as if the normal-appearing legs made one look normal weight while a massive belly is disguised by billowy material. What, they think they’re fooling us? Sorry, the joke is on the fat people, a group to which I now belong. And it was easy to get here. Just eat what I want and shun exercise. Sit on my ass and write.

But there’s obese and morbidly obese. Doesn't it freak you out a little when you see someone, usually a woman, who hides her arms with long sleeves only to reveal rolls on her wrists? Especially when the woman seeks further camouflage by wearing fancy bracelets? Ecch!

The plague is upon us. According to body mass index I need to drop about 20 lbs to achieve the distinction of being only overweight. To be "normal" weight I'd have to drop about fifty. Yet I am not so fat as to gross someone out, unless it's someone I haven't seen for a long time, someone who must readjust their image of me. Before my failed back surgery I was trim; afterwards I rolled slowly uphill to the well-padded club, where I now check in at 270 lbs. And my worst habit is late night binging. This is partly the fault of two medications I'm on, lithium and Zyprexa. If I'm sensible I realize the treatment of my depression is more important than my looks, especially since I don’t have a lot of physical vanity (though I do have some or wouldn’t be writing this schlock). What I really need to do isn't to take up an exercise program, but stop one. I need to quit the exercise of lifting my hand to my mouth so often. I should have my arms strapped to my sides between meals.

Doesn't everybody know that obesity is caused by a virus that the processed food companies put in the American water supply? The Department of Agriculture is in cahoots with the ranchers and farmers and Kraft and Nabisco. These same concerns own the weight loss companies too, I suspect, through dummy corporations. They get you coming and going. Imagine that perhaps the same people who tempt you with Twinkies are also milking you to take those Twinkie pounds off. That’s a slick marketing approach: sell the cause of a disease and its treatment at the same time. If I were a reporter and not merely a bloviator I might do an expose' on these connections I suspect, but I can't concentrate because I crave another taco and they’re all gone.

I made my bread and I'm going to have to lie in it.

I have a poem on weight gain, of course:


In the early September heat
with no hint of October,
my thin hair plasters my scalp
like spaghettinni—and I am fat.

I wasn’t always fat. In home movies
I am skin stretched over a xylophone,
taut as a kayak, yet now
my body feels thick and foreign
as a space suit or a sleeping bag.

I understand breasts better now,
like sacks of coins beneath the skin
that jiggle when you jump.

As an antidote I try to see myself
more as the sum of my existence
than any single frame, thus base my weight
not on this moment but as an average
of all my years on earth. Using this method
I’ll never be as fat as I am now.
(Besides, everyone knows it’s glandular.)

I'm not heavy I'm your brother!

At 0.5 kilorats,



  1. A great poem. So many interesting images.

  2. I thought I didn't have enough images, that the last stanza degenerated into abstracts despite my best efforts-- How poetry works sometimes; it overrides us. Thank you, I meant to say.



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