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December 10, 2006 2:51 PM   Subscribe

The English may be obsessed with sport - but for half of the population that does not go beyond picking up the remote control. A study of nearly 364,000 people in every corner of the country, commissioned by Sport England, reveals half of the population are doing no exercise at all. If things don’t change, England will be as fat as America by 2010.
posted by four panels (128 comments total)

 
hey you leave America out of this!
posted by j-urb at 2:54 PM on December 10, 2006


Dream on. You'll never catch us.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 3:01 PM on December 10, 2006 [2 favorites]


How do you say "hurf durf butter-eater" in the Queen's English?
posted by psmealey at 3:02 PM on December 10, 2006


Who's got a wet towel?
posted by dhammond at 3:05 PM on December 10, 2006


I'm an American, I am NOT fat... take your sweeping generalizations and stuff them in a scone or some other type of food that really isn't worth eating!
posted by HuronBob at 3:10 PM on December 10, 2006


Native-English speakers may not outnumber China or India, but we're sure gonna outweigh them!
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:16 PM on December 10, 2006


I'm an American, I am NOT fat...

Welcome to the minority, pal. About 1/3 the pop can say that; it breaks down 30% not-fat, 30% 'overweight', and 30% obese.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:17 PM on December 10, 2006


Kuwait I believe is one of the fattest countries in the world, on average. It all has to do with average income. As average income goes up, so does average weight.
posted by stbalbach at 3:19 PM on December 10, 2006


Are you suggesting, four panels, that American-style obesity will supplant the Battle of Hastings as the last successful invasion of England?
posted by Kwantsar at 3:23 PM on December 10, 2006


Kuwait I believe is one of the fattest countries in the world, on average. It all has to do with average income. As average income goes up, so does average weight.

Interesting. Stastistically, poorer areas in the UK and USA have much higher incidency of obesity than rich ones. The people in Britain who tend to exercise more are rich caucasians. a link
posted by Arcaz Ino at 3:28 PM on December 10, 2006


Are you suggesting, four panels, that American-style obesity will supplant the Battle of Hastings as the last successful invasion of England?

William of Orange, yo. Someone missed Starkey this week.
posted by cillit bang at 3:42 PM on December 10, 2006


The people in Britain who tend to exercise more are rich caucasians.

Anecdote. I remember remarking that one office I worked in seemed very progressive -- they had bike rooms where people stored their preferred mode of transport, and I often saw many people jog at lunch. Within a week, however, the breakdown was clear: many of the lawyers were biking to work, jogging at lunch; support staff never did this. I was never able to find out why.

The English may be obsessed with sport - but for half of the population that does not go beyond picking up the remote control.

I like that you phrased it that way, four panels. I always thought it a sad irony that so many sports fans engage in no sport -- and many are not reliving past sports lives but are simply couch potatoes of a different flavour.
posted by dreamsign at 3:44 PM on December 10, 2006


I'm assuming that the English cricket team falls into the half of the population that does no exercise at all.

Not that they are particularly fat, though.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:48 PM on December 10, 2006 [2 favorites]


It's hard to be embarassed about living in a country where luxury is the biggest killer.
posted by Citizen Premier at 3:59 PM on December 10, 2006


Be embarassed.
posted by dreamsign at 4:05 PM on December 10, 2006


Luxury? I put obesity down to laziness & chronic stupidity.

(with exceptions for those who are strongly genetically predisposed)
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:05 PM on December 10, 2006


William of Orange, yo. Someone missed Starkey this week.

I am so confused.
posted by Kwantsar at 4:16 PM on December 10, 2006


Interesting. Stastistically, poorer areas in the UK and USA have much higher incidency of obesity than rich ones.

The "poor people are fat" stereotype is probably not a significant factor. Fatness is all around.
posted by stbalbach at 4:24 PM on December 10, 2006


Dream on. You'll never catch us.

In twenty-ten you'll only be as fat as we were in aught-six, shrimps. er prawns.

One positive, though is that after all this, maybe they'll actually be-knight Sir Mix-a-Lot.
posted by kickback at 4:44 PM on December 10, 2006


If the food was better they'd catch up much faster.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:47 PM on December 10, 2006


The "poor people are fat" stereotype is probably not a significant factor. Fatness is all around.

Bullshit. Sometimes "stereotypes" are true, or at least predictive. To quote from the linked paper:

"A review of 144 published studies of the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and obesity reveals a strong inverse relationship among women in developed societies. The relationship is inconsistent for men and children in developed societies."

In developed societies, rich people (or, at least, according to this paper, rich women) are thinner. In developing societies, rich people are fatter.

The reasons are manifold. Cheap corn, in the US, is an obvious one. The fast food places pump out tons of cheap food that can be cheap because of corn subsidies. Fast food makes you fat. Plus, marketing is more effective the more you're exposed to it, and poorer people watch more TV.

Poor people are not to be blamed, per se, for being fatter, but they are fatter.
posted by gurple at 4:48 PM on December 10, 2006


It's hard to be embarassed about living in a country where luxury is the biggest killer.

Luxury isn't what's making poor people fat, it's poverty. Food-insecure people seek satiety rather than nutrition, and they get that via sugary and fatty foods of poor quality, especially foods containing hydrogenated oils and high-fructose corn syrup, both of which are found in enormous proportions in cheap convenience foods.

If poor people would cook from basic ingredients they'd be able eat both cheaply and well, but it seems to be characteristic of economically insecure members of the wealthier nations that they either won't or can't do this; it's probably a little of both.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:48 PM on December 10, 2006


I am so confused.

William of Orange/William II

Starkey = historian, who presents history programs on TV. Thus, if you'd watched him, you'd know.

Although I'd dispute that it was an invasion - he was, after all, invited.
posted by djgh at 4:53 PM on December 10, 2006


It's also a bizarre paradox of our energy-intensive branch of civilization that exercise is a luxury, but it is. Only the better-off exert themselves on purpose; it simply wouldn't occur to anyone else. Someone struggling to make ends meet with no help doesn't think of exercising, and neither does someone who doesn't know anyone else who exercises.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:54 PM on December 10, 2006


Within a week, however, the breakdown was clear: many of the lawyers were biking to work, jogging at lunch; support staff never did this. I was never able to find out why.

Because the support staff actually works for a living?
posted by frogan at 4:58 PM on December 10, 2006


Because the support staff actually works for a living?

Yeah, I walk by a law firm every morning, and I always see the staff chopping wood, laying brick and climbing mountain trails with 60 lb. packs on their backs.
posted by gurple at 5:02 PM on December 10, 2006


Yeah, I walk by a law firm every morning

We have a standing bet at my office ... you win if you spot an attorney lifting anything heavier than money.
posted by frogan at 5:06 PM on December 10, 2006


I was one of the support staff there, taking a break from law school. The lawyers were far busier than the support staff. But they made time for exercise. The support staff usually spent breaks chatting in the breakroom or with the local tabloid. At first I thought there must be some informal "stay put" rule that made sure they were on hand for lunches, etc, but looking into it I found that it was just the opposite -- there was a longstanding campaign trying to get the workplace exercising (hence the bike rooms) but one half of the workplace wasn't buying it.

Attribute it to money, title, education, what-have-you, but it was clear-cut and had nothing to do with how much time people had on their hands. (This was a notoriously busy office of the Ministry of the Attorney General)
posted by dreamsign at 5:08 PM on December 10, 2006


Yeah, but you take my point, right, frogan? Sure, there are plenty of lower-paying jobs that are physically taxing (chopping wood, laying brick... and waitressing, bartending, etc.).

But for the rest of us, the physical component , or lack thereof, of the work we're doing isn't really the point. There are myriad reasons why rich people are eating better and exercising more, but I submit that it has little to do with low-paying work burning more calories.

Working two non-physical jobs to make ends meet, that's a good reason why a poor person might not exercise or have time to cook.
posted by gurple at 5:10 PM on December 10, 2006


If poor people would cook from basic ingredients they'd be able eat both cheaply and well, but it seems to be characteristic of economically insecure members of the wealthier nations that they either won't or can't do this; it's probably a little of both.

I'm just gonna cut and paste what I said last time someone said something stupid like this: "You know, all the people who squeal about people with no money buying fun stuff clearly weren't forced to read The Road to Wigan Pier in school. In the book, a report on conditions in the mining towns of northern England, Orwell discusses the budgets of average families, including how much they spend on what food. He contrasts this with an "ideal healthy diet" some newspaper suggested; of course, the miners and family are spending way more money on less healthful food. You know why? Because when your life sucks, you want the tiny luxuries you can have. That's just human."

When you live in a developed nation, cheap, good-tasting food is one of those luxuries.
posted by dame at 5:11 PM on December 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


With all this fatness going around, won't the eventual trend be towards acceptance rather than opposition? I am sure that people worldwide are more likely to accept short, fat lives as the norm than actually get up off their asses and live healthily.
posted by tehloki at 5:12 PM on December 10, 2006


Oh, and when I say I was never able to find out why -- that's after encouraging and asking most of my cohorts about it. (I was young, and a bit incensed by the breakdown of this behaviour) They just weren't interested.

Working two non-physical jobs to make ends meet, that's a good reason why a poor person might not exercise or have time to cook.

These were full-time government employees. I would estimate that at least a third of the professional staff biked to work. I counted one of the support staff other than me doing so. If you can think of a good reason why this might be, I'd be interested to hear it. I've been wondering about it for a long time.
posted by dreamsign at 5:14 PM on December 10, 2006


With all this fatness going around, won't the eventual trend be towards acceptance rather than opposition?

Don't we already see this? You can't have a discussion about body weight without someone attacking the medical definition of obesity, etc, as unrealistic. I've seen it happen enough on MeFi.
posted by dreamsign at 5:16 PM on December 10, 2006


English exercise
posted by CaptMcalister at 5:16 PM on December 10, 2006


Two thoughts, dreamsign.

1. Did the biking lawyers live closer to work? That is, was it a case where living in the center city was more expensive, so the support workers had longer, less-bikablw commutes?

2. "Working out" is a pretty culture-specific ideal. I know a lot of working-class folks who are, say, the first in their families to go to college get a lot of anti-intellecuctual shit from their socioeconomic group; could this be similar?
posted by dame at 5:19 PM on December 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm just gonna cut and paste what I said last time someone said something stupid like this:

I don't want to get in the way of your being angry or anything because you obviously enjoy it, but what exactly in what you quoted was "stupid", or even substantially disagreed with your response?
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:19 PM on December 10, 2006


I'm not talking about the current climate of a few people vehemently contesting what is and isn't obesity; I'm talking about big n' tall stores becoming the norm, twinkie shares going through the roof, and 300 pound supermodels. An economy based on heart bypass surgeries and insulin.
posted by tehloki at 5:20 PM on December 10, 2006


In fact, in the part that you didn't quote, I said that they "eat for satiety, not nutrition" which entirely agrees with what you said.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:20 PM on December 10, 2006


If you can think of a good reason why this might be, I'd be interested to hear it. I've been wondering about it for a long time.

I think poor people getting less exercise has to do with:

-television programming is mainly targeted at the low-middle class
-many sports have a high perceived (and sometimes real, as with skiing) $$$ cost
-money buys free time, in the form of babysitters, day care, and reduced commutes

And, additionally, obesity in poor people has to do with:

-where marketing dollars for fast food companies are targeted
-corn subsidies and other factors that make disgusting food cheap
-the TV thing again

And on and on and on, but I think those are the main ones.
posted by gurple at 5:22 PM on December 10, 2006


WHO ATE ALL THE GABBAGOOL!?
posted by phaedon at 5:23 PM on December 10, 2006


"Working out" is a pretty culture-specific ideal. I know a lot of working-class folks who are, say, the first in their families to go to college get a lot of anti-intellecuctual shit from their socioeconomic group; could this be similar?

Ok, that touches a nerve. (none of my fam or friends did, and I received much of this sort of thing)

Could be. Have to think about that. The "biking-to-work" thing particularly conveys a certain image that some of these guys may have wanted to avoid. Ditto the jogging at lunch. I'd hate to think that image was getting in the way of healthy living but... look at smoking. Thanks for the insight, dame.
posted by dreamsign at 5:27 PM on December 10, 2006


Responses can get lost in a fast-moving thread, so I'll just do a little indexing: my responses here and here were to Dame's response here.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:28 PM on December 10, 2006


Man, all you people tripping over your correlations & causations relating to obesity & poverty.

Laziness & stupidity make you obese, just as they make you poor.

(Which is not to say that all lazy & stupid people are poor, nor that all lazy & stupid people are obese, nor that all obese people are lazy & stupid, nor that all poor people are lazy & stupid)
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:28 PM on December 10, 2006


Yeah, but you take my point, right, frogan? ... for the rest of us, the physical component , or lack thereof, of the work we're doing isn't really the point.

Yes, I see your point, but I wasn't making mine very well, apparently. The support staff at a law firm aren't exactly digging ditches, I know.

My point is lower paying jobs = less education = lower socio-economic scale = higher likelihood of complicated living situations that make "exercise at work" the height of luxury. I'm sure those attorneys knocking off for two-hour lunches where they go running and take showers, etc ... I'm sure they're staying late and/or taking work home with them.

Now try taking work home with you when you have three kids. Laundry. Homework. Taking care of an elderly parent. Housework. Making lunches for the kids. Getting the kids to school, etc.

Your running-biking lawyer is likely single, or perhaps married to someone of a similar educational and salary-level background and have a very small family. How many of them have maids? How many pay for lawn care? How many have weekly dry-cleaning bills? Nannies? Tutors? Gym memberships with free daycare? At work, how many of them CAN take two-hour lunches, because they're high-profile assets to the company? Remember, the support staff might be ordered back at their desks the second the lunch hour is up?

Now, aggregate this across the entire population and you start to see trends ... some poor people are fat because they just don't have time for anything else. Quick, grab a Big Mac, I'm running to my next job...
posted by frogan at 5:28 PM on December 10, 2006


The can't part. I'm pretty sure being poor doesn't make you incapable of cooking. But maybe I read you wrong and hey, I'm sorry.
posted by dame at 5:29 PM on December 10, 2006


(That was to you, George_Spiggot, and to elaborate a little more, I was perhaps seeing in you overtones of Mr. Lazy and Stupid.)
posted by dame at 5:31 PM on December 10, 2006


Dame, someone dragging him or herself home after two and a half jobs may be in no position to make them any meals. He or she may just leave them a few bucks to go get a burger coke and fries instead. He or she may also not have a kitchen, but just a room or two somewhere.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:32 PM on December 10, 2006


(By "them" I mean the kids.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:32 PM on December 10, 2006


He or she may also not have a kitchen, but just a room or two somewhere.

That's another excellent point from you, G_S. I have a good friend who's just now pulling himself out from pretty bad economic straits. His last two apartments have had nothing that could, even charitably, be termed "kitchen".
posted by gurple at 5:35 PM on December 10, 2006


Wait, you're saying that not all poor people are lazy and stupid? AND not all fat people are lazy and stupid? Wow. WOW. I have a lot of thinking to do.
posted by tehloki at 5:36 PM on December 10, 2006


If you ride buses all day to clean other people's houses in parts of town very far from where you live (or, as is often the case, carpool in a van owned by the company that contracts you) and because of that overhead of transportation that you don't control your day starts with getting picked up on a corner at 5:00 in the morning, you're not going to be doing a lot of cooking for your family.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:38 PM on December 10, 2006


Eh, not in this particularly low-paid gov office. No nannies or the like. (I've since worked in another with higher pay so we see some of this) No free gym memberships, either -- that would have been an easy explanation out of the gate.

I remember considering the parenthood angle but I don't recall the exact breakdown. It wasn't overwhelming, though. And no, no two-hour lunches. They're back for court after lunch. These are crown prosecutors. Way overloaded with work. Yes, they did work late, but then we (support staff) didn't work through lunch, either, except on rare occasions. If anything, I was a little ostracized by my get out and run/bike attitude, so I have to think that, at least in our particular case, it's more to do with the social attitudes dame suggested.

Now I later worked at a big private firm, and most of the things you suggest are clear explanations there -- gym memberships, time, money/housing location, and so on. I never wondered about it much in that environment because the incentives and opportunities were so clear. Anyway, sorry to derail. Thanks for the insights.
posted by dreamsign at 5:38 PM on December 10, 2006


Okay, then by can't you meant by circumstance, not ability. My bad. (Though I will say my mom was poor, single and working her ass off and didn't feed me shit. So it is possible, if difficult.)
posted by dame at 5:39 PM on December 10, 2006


Oh, and I have this theory, relating to time available for exercise, nutritious food available, and living conditions:

Poor in a poor society: Emaciated
Rich in a poor society: Overweight
Poor in a rich society: Overweight
Rich in a rich society: Emaciated (Or whatever the most attractive weight of the time is)
posted by tehloki at 5:39 PM on December 10, 2006


Poor in a poor society: Emaciated
Poor in a rich society: Overweight


Why this difference?
Are people in situation A starving, while in B fed, but poorly?
posted by dreamsign at 5:45 PM on December 10, 2006


Dame: no problem. I've done it too -- snapped at someone for saying something that superficially reminded me of a completely assholish position I'd seen other people take. (Not that there aren't plenty of assholish positions being taken in this thread.)

One thing that would help is extended families. If mom has to work (or spend half the day just getting to where she can work), it helps if grandma can feed and dress the kids. But about the only people in America who really do the extended family thing are wealthy easterners who trace their ancestry back to the Mayflower at one end of the spectrum, and Asian and Hispanic immigrant families at the other. Poor urban white and black Americans quite often got nobody.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:48 PM on December 10, 2006


People in situation A struggle to make ends meet, and probably have no car, have jobs that demand something of them physically, etc.

"Poor" people in rich western societies are usually able to drive everywhere, and cheap, processed, unhealthy (but extremely tasty) foods are readily available, and the free time afforded to the priveleged (shorter hours, nanny for the kids, vacations, yadda yadda) isn't nearly as easy to come by.
posted by tehloki at 5:49 PM on December 10, 2006


Wow. WOW. I have a lot of thinking to do.

Just trying to pre-empt silly objections.

I realise that my comment would have come across as massively patronising, but the point is that if you are overweight / obese (and unhappy with that state, and it's not caused by some unfortunate genetic or medical reason that you cannot counter) then, well, everybody on the planet knows that you need to expend more energy than you take in. If you can't make a connection between that simple equation & at cutting out on coke & chips & big macs & pizzas, etc etc, then you would have to be so phenomenally thick that nothing could help you.

The laziness comes in because it takes fuck all effort to make your own healthy sandwiches or dinners, and costs far less to boot. Therefore, anybody who claims that they just have to eat fatty shit because of the convenience can only be too lazy to bother pursuing the alternative, and / or too stupid to work out how to factor a weekly trip to the supermarket into their busy schedule.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:51 PM on December 10, 2006


I'm not talking about the current climate of a few people vehemently contesting what is and isn't obesity; I'm talking about big n' tall stores becoming the norm

Ever try to buy clothes in a size 6 (or less) at Wal-Mart or Kmart?
posted by dilettante at 5:51 PM on December 10, 2006


Then it's already happening, and we're in denial. Look down, can you see your feet? OH GOD I JUST REALIZED I WEIGH 500 POUNDS!
posted by tehloki at 5:55 PM on December 10, 2006


UbuRoivas, I'm not going to try to convince you that you're a giant jackass for holding the position that you do, although I think that's the case.

But consider: in our (I'm an American, so let's say America's) current society, by your definition there are millions upon millions of people that are so damn stupid and/or lazy that, given their current situation, are not doing what it takes to stop being obese.

So, what's the appropriate approach to this large-scale problem? Write all those millions of people off as irredeemable? Or try to make changes to society that make it easier for them to change their ways? For instance, curb fast food advertising, especially to children. Instate decent PE programs in schools, and upgrade the food quality. Get the damn soda companies out of our schools. Get trans fats out of our restaurants....
posted by gurple at 5:59 PM on December 10, 2006


The laziness comes in because it takes fuck all effort to make your own healthy sandwiches or dinners, and costs far less to boot

I have this suspicion that you only cook for yourself...

The mistake your making is often called Total Cost of Ownership in other industries. A month's worth of McDonalds may literally cost more than the comparative costs of bulk ground beef, bread, ketchup, lettuce, onions, etc.

But McDonalds takes five minutes. And it's on-demand, effectively 24 hours a day. Burgers for four at home takes significantly longer in total preparation and cleaning time.

Fuck all effort? Umm, no. There's a reason housewives are considered under-appreciated, and it's because we think they're putting out fuck all effort when they're not. So let's see you spring up and make pancakes for the entire crew.
posted by frogan at 6:01 PM on December 10, 2006


I wonder why those studies only ever seem to consider how many people are obese but not how obese they actually are, you'd think that a BMI only slightly over 25 would be less reason for concern than one of 40. Or is the distribution underlying the degrees of obesity always constant?
I'm wondering because I found that the degree of obesity is quite a good predictor when it comes to guessing the nationalities of tourists in my city.
posted by snownoid at 6:26 PM on December 10, 2006


it's the change from sugar to high-fructose corn syrup in almost every single product. People used to speak of how you could still get a Coke made with real sugar in Europe--now it's not so. My cohorts are not as fat as those 10-20 years younger and we got no more exercise than them at all (we did have worse tv tho, so if we did get more exercise that probably is part of it) and were not at all more active than them--what we did have was real sugar instead of the syrup, and less trans fats in everything.

...Almost all nutritionists finger high fructose corn syrup consumption as a major culprit in the nation's obesity crisis. The inexpensive sweetener flooded the American food supply in the early 1980s, just about the time the nation's obesity rate started its unprecedented climb. ...
posted by amberglow at 6:48 PM on December 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


curb fast food advertising, especially to children. Instate decent PE programs in schools, and upgrade the food quality. Get the damn soda companies out of our schools. Get trans fats out of our restaurants....

Actually, the transfats appear on the way out, if pending local regulations come to pass. And yes, we should probably hire Jamie Oliver for this part of the world. But on principle, I do get a little nervous at nanny state ukases as a substitute for self discipline.

Which gets to my next point- seems a lot of commentors are getting it backwards. High renters don't exercise because they're high renters - they're high renters because they exercise. And eat right. And don't smoke. And read work related material instead of watching television. It's all part of the how-to-succeed package.

We have a fitness center where I work. Chiefly high renters, some token riffraff - and given the time a lot of my fellow riffraff waste not working, it can hardly be said that they're avoiding the treadmill to save themselves or the company their valuable contributions. Excuses like the complications of life may wash with some, but for all? Don't buy it for a minute.

You makes your choices, you takes your chances, and we all die in the end, either with a jelly doughnut and a ciggy in hand, or a health-o-bar and a cup of green tea. (For the record, I write as one with worryingly obese in-laws. Mrs Jones is by contrast a fitness freak, partially for that reason.)

On preview- snownoid makes a good point. How much of this is fast and loose statistical scare mongering?
posted by IndigoJones at 6:50 PM on December 10, 2006


I'm not going to try to convince you that you're a giant jackass for holding the position that you do, although I think that's the case.

So you decide instead to resort to an ad hominem & then pose some other unrelated question.

I was thinking about my rather strong & patronising language whilst out at lunch, and it's probably because I am a diet Nazi, and a bit of a fitness Nazi to boot. That is, I maintain my body fat %ge just inside the lower end of the healthy range, which is pretty much what you need to do to have a visible sixpack :) - this means that I am always watching what I eat (not so much how much, but the ingredients), and I find it impossible to believe that others can't do this if they want.

MeFi is always full of this meme of "the poor don't have time to shop & cook", and if I disagree with people here, it is simply because I *don't believe it*. I don't think that specifically amounts to jackassery. Then again, I have never been to America, and maybe your grocery stores & supermarkets are less accessible than I thought.

I have this suspicion that you only cook for yourself...

Depends where I am living & who I am living with. Overall, the economies of scale in cooking for multiple people makes it cheaper, in my experience.

Fuck all effort? Umm, no. There's a reason housewives are considered under-appreciated, and it's because we think they're putting out fuck all effort when they're not.

Disingenuously putting words into my mouth. I am talking about the minimum effort to avoid fast food & eat something nutritious - ie the basics. You must know that you can make all manner of stirfries, pasta sauces, soups, salads & so on in a matter of about 10 minutes effort, 20 minutes total cooking time. Pancakes kinda more intensive, because they cannot be done in a single large batch that you can take your eye off, so you cannot multitask - eg throwing together a salad while the pasta boils. But kitchen techniques are getting off the point a bit.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:53 PM on December 10, 2006


I'm fairly sure that there will always be "extremely obese" people as well as "extremely fit" people to even out the statistics, so that tracking standard "obese" vs "not obese" statistics will still be telling about the obesity of a population. Of course, that's not taking the havoc BMI undergoes when dealing with muscular/short/tall/amputee? people.
posted by tehloki at 6:55 PM on December 10, 2006


guh. Trans-fat bans and other such nanny-state-isms do nothing to solve the problem. Hasn't anybody ever read one of those standard sci-fi stories where real butter, eggs, milk, etc. are illegal and there's a huge thriving black market for french fries and hamburgers? We need exercise and more healthy, cheap, and (this is imperative) decent-tasting food. We need Dance Dance revolution and Falafel in schools!
posted by tehloki at 7:00 PM on December 10, 2006


Studies conducted by people with high levels of education seem almost always to conclude that high levels of education are one of the primary factors in best outcomes. While education is certainly good for you, and higher education often even better, it sometimes appears that education levels are so emphasized in study reports because they affirm the rightness of the life choices of the kind of people who conduct studies.

Likewise, most people commenting in this thread probably belong to social groups that emphasize working out and exercise. Younger, urban, educated, affluent or expecting to be affluent, just like the people who conducted the study. And while exercise is probably a good choice, a report like this and a thread like this serve to reinforce the beliefs of society's winners that they deserve their status due to the strength of the choices of everyone who is like them, provides the necessary evidence to regard everyone else as lazy and stupid.

If lawyers exercise more than support staff, perhaps it's because lawyers are achievement oriented people who have for most of their lives been able to experience reward in return for effort. People working in secondary and support staff occupations have less control and less success in their lives, and are perhaps less optimistic due to a combination of personality and life experience. Those at the lower rungs of society are accustomed to mixed results at best, and while most may try exercising at times, they're more likely to become discouraged and give up long before they ever reach the point where they've acquired the discipline to make exercise a natural part of their lives.

But then I'm not convinced that we now have this epidemic of obese children we're supposed to have, because I looked around and I just don't see this army of kids who are any fatter than they've ever been. Maybe we have an epidemic of health advocates and lifestyle reporters.

Plenty of people live long and contented, if slightly portly, lives without stomach crunches.
posted by TimTypeZed at 7:05 PM on December 10, 2006 [3 favorites]


TimTypeZed, what makes the obesity "epidemic" so scary is that it's a steady trend towards obesity. It's so easy to go through life in this society without ever having to physically expend anything but a modicum of effort to stay alive and be relatively happy. The fact that it shows no signs of getting anything but worse is the notable thing.
posted by tehloki at 7:09 PM on December 10, 2006


And while exercise is probably a good choice, a report like this and a thread like this serve to reinforce the beliefs of society's winners that they deserve their status due to the strength of the choices of everyone who is like them, provides the necessary evidence to regard everyone else as lazy and stupid.

Oh, was there a class component in the study? Well, fuck me dead. Maybe I should have read it. Here in Australia, I would guess that it is actually more of a working / lower middle class thing to be heavily involved in sport, although pretty much everybody tries to keep fit to a degree.

The fact that we don't seem to have any particular class-obesity correlation makes it harder, I guess, to have much time for the whole "too poor to eat well" line that the obesity-apologists here love to take.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:24 PM on December 10, 2006


Fatness is all around.

Snarf! How very like fatness.
posted by Sparx at 7:43 PM on December 10, 2006


Oh, was there a class component in the study?

I don't know. The Sports England link linked to a press release that really only explained methodology, and I wasn't about to read an entire survey. There was a class component to the responses in this thread. In North America, there is probably an involvement in team sports by men from all classes up until middle-age, but "healthy lifestyles", jogging, gym membership and biking with a helmet may be class signifiers.
posted by TimTypeZed at 7:51 PM on December 10, 2006


So you decide instead to resort to an ad hominem & then pose some other unrelated question.

I shouldn't have insulted you, as opposed to your position, I suppose. But the question I posed is entirely related. You're saying that obese people are stupid and lazy. My response is, aside from my personal disagreement with that viewpoint, so what?

There are millions of 'em. "Stupid and lazy" is a useless epithet to throw at them, unless you have a master plan to make the average person less stupid and lazy (and, even if you do). People are people, and apparently a LOT of people will behave in a way that makes them obese, the way our culture and economy are currently structured. Insulting the poor isn't going to change anything. And the current situation isn't tenable, as the impending American health care nightmare can attest.

I've already indicated some of the things that I think would help the problem, as have other people in this thread. When you're done calling the obese names (other than "obese", which is a bad enough thing to be, as far as I'm concerned), do you have any practical ideas about how to change them?
posted by gurple at 7:55 PM on December 10, 2006


Not so much stupid and lazy, moreso "in denial". It's the inescapable mindset: I'm not fat because of the way I eat, or the way I exercise, I'm just packing on pounds because it's winter OR I'm only a few more pounds overweight every year OR [insert rationalization here]. It's not like most people who are obese accept (with their whole mind) that fact that they are getting fat, and still do nothing to change it.
posted by tehloki at 8:05 PM on December 10, 2006


When you're done calling the obese names (other than "obese", which is a bad enough thing to be, as far as I'm concerned), do you have any practical ideas about how to change them?

Ah, too much inflammatory rhetoric on my part. Perhaps a tad unwise. What to do about obesity? Beats me, as it's far from rocket science - eating less than / the same as you expend. You would think that people would have worked it out ages ago, assuming they cared about their weight. Could be that they can't read food labels, or fail to realise exactly how much they are actually putting into their mouths.

To give few examples, just to maintain a *steady* weight, there are things that you should only touch once in a blue moon, in small quantities, eg soft drinks, cakes, cookies, chocolate, icecream, anything deep-fried, pizza, any kind of candy, potato chips, hamburgers, cheeses. It seems like some people just do not twig that you *cannot* drink a coke a day, let alone a few litres of it, and expect to get away with it, without exercising it off. These are not foods that can ever fit in as a regular part of a normal diet, and no way in a thousand years should they be considered as staples. That might be the attitude that needs to be fought.

So, maybe, what is required is the wisdom to seek to understand nutrition, and the resolve to not eat crap.

(leaving exercise out of this, coz there seems to be a working assumption that nobody has time, for some reason)
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:46 PM on December 10, 2006


I agree with everything you say, UbuRoivas, about what the individual should do. Especially about Coke -- that stuff is poison.

Hell, when you get right down to it, I'm as likely to think "wow, that's a fat fuck" about an individual obese person as anybody else, and think of all the things that Mr. Fatty isn't doing to get in shape, that he could be. I certainly know plenty of individuals who oughta be doing more, for their own health.

I just think that we have to find concrete ways to instill "the wisdom to seek to understand nutrition, and the resolve to not eat crap" into more of the population.

It's easy for me. My metabolism is such that, if I stop working out, I get _skinnier_. I keep thinking I'll hit an age where that changes, but that hasn't happened yet.

But I've got friends for whom it's a constant battle. Who's to say what I would look like if my metabolism forced me to exercise twice as much as I do now, just to avoid losing ground? At what point would it stop being worth the effort?

We've got to make it easier and cheaper, and somehow more culturally important, to eat well and exercise.
posted by gurple at 9:03 PM on December 10, 2006


UbuRoivas: I have never been to America, and maybe your grocery stores & supermarkets are less accessible than I thought.

Correct: Not only are fast food restaurants more common in poorer neighborhoods, regular grocery stores are also less common. It isn’t always profitable for chains to open stores in areas with low spending power. These areas are termed “food deserts,” because commercial grocery stores with low prices are few and far between, forcing residents to rely on local corner stores for their food needs. The issue of availability adds yet another wrinkle to the complexity of choosing healthy foods—it isn’t just that people can’t afford fresh apples and spinach for their families; in many cases, fresh apples and spinach cannot be bought in their neighborhoods.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:15 PM on December 10, 2006


It isn’t always profitable for chains to open stores in areas with low spending power.

Yet, as we've discussed before on MeFi, big box retail has it's highest revenue producing stores in inner cities.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:23 PM on December 10, 2006


I keep thinking I'll hit an age where that changes, but that hasn't happened yet.

That would be around 30, when your body stops producing human growth hormone.

But I've got friends for whom it's a constant battle. Who's to say what I would look like if my metabolism forced me to exercise twice as much as I do now, just to avoid losing ground? At what point would it stop being worth the effort?

The day after you get married ;)
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:30 PM on December 10, 2006


cybercoitus: sweet Jebus, that's fucked. Spend a gajillion dollars just so George W Bush can drink the blood of every man, woman & child in Iraq, and you guys can't even manage to supply your own population with *apples*, for fuck's sake?!? I mean, we're not talking organic jerusalem artichokes, or unidentifiable varieties of mushroom here, but the most basic of all fruit, the very one that has been with us since the mythological dawn of man. The mind boggles.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:50 PM on December 10, 2006


So, what's the appropriate approach to this large-scale problem? Write all those millions of people off as irredeemable? Or try to make changes to society that make it easier for them to change their ways? For instance, curb fast food advertising, especially to children. Instate decent PE programs in schools, and upgrade the food quality. Get the damn soda companies out of our schools. Get trans fats out of our restaurants....

You can have the schools, but the rest of your solutions are authoritarian, busybody garbage. Restricting choices of free persons because certain individuals have poor impulse control or a tendency to make poor decisions is tantamount to tyranny.
posted by Kwantsar at 9:55 PM on December 10, 2006


Spend a gajillion dollars just so George W Bush can drink the blood of every man, woman & child in Iraq, and you guys can't even manage to supply your own population with *apples*, for fuck's sake?!? I mean, we're not talking organic jerusalem artichokes, or unidentifiable varieties of mushroom here, but the most basic of all fruit, the very one that has been with us since the mythological dawn of man. The mind boggles.

Really? The mind boggles?
posted by Kwantsar at 9:57 PM on December 10, 2006


Goddamned apple-hating mom&pop stores, trying to stop WalMart from doing the Good Lord's apple-distribution work!

(um, or:)

Goddamned Satanic WalMart! Squeezin' all the apple-lovin' mom&pop stores out of business!

(um, or:)

Goddamned dirty, unemployed protestors! Buyin' up all the nation's apples to throw at WalMart managers, or moms & pops! (depending on your position on the great American apple drought, and its causes)
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:18 PM on December 10, 2006


Curious about these claims that buying ingredients to cook your own food is cheaper than buying processed food products.

It's not true for much of the UK, and it's becoming less true as time passes and the only stores which sell fresh produce are a drive (and therefore a car) away.

Meanwhile the only stores which are open after work are sole traders buying pre-shrink stuff from the local cash-and-carry, where apples come in twos, on a polystyrene tray wrapped in cellophane -- and cost nearly two pounds. (At today's exchange rate that's nearly two bucks per apple.)

If you're poor and in the UK, all but one (maybe two) of your meals in a given week are made from ingredients either canned or frozen. Try getting low-salt or low-fat versions of that.

And if you don't have a freezer, and especially if you're cooking for one? Your cost of operations just went up so far that the cheapest McDonalds offering is often less expensive than buying your own ingredients and the electricity required to cook them.

People on low incomes pay more money for food of lower quality (because the decent food is too far away and/or the stores and markets which sell it are shut after work), pay more for energy (coin and key meters), more for heat (from living in unsatisfactory and uninsulated accommodation without central heating) and more for laundry (not many middle class folks have to pay five dollars for each wash - people over here who don't have washers and dryers pay that and more every week).

Being poor is fucking hard work.

[Not that I wouldn't love to watch some of the commenters above try to explain otherwise to some people on an east London estate. You'll want to bring a helmet.]
posted by genghis at 10:59 PM on December 10, 2006 [2 favorites]


But then I'm not convinced that we now have this epidemic of obese children we're supposed to have...

I don’t know about the UK but if your in America... YOUR BLIND if you're not convinced. Your certainly not a Pediatrician.

Go to the average grade school and look at kids ages 9 through 11 years old. About half of them are seriously now. Then go to middle schools and it's over half. There IS an epidemic of childhood diabetes due to obesity. It's amazing.

This was never the case when I was a kid in the sixties and seventies. My dad was in the military and we moved every two or three years. I can remember only two fat kids in all those schools. There were so few that I remember names. Kent Cruzon and Laurie Hamilton.

Look around America. Kids are inside playing video games and parents are paranoid a pedophile hides behind every bush. Most neighborhoods are nearly devoid of kids outside getting exercise. It is not taught as a virtue anymore. Playgrounds are disappearing. Most schools are cutting PE. It's fucked up.

We were stationed in the UK in the early seventies and there were very few fat people I recall seeing. I go back to the UK once or twice a year and I can see a steady increase in the number of young fat people I see. So. Something has changed.

So now we witness the Fat Acceptance movement. Fat as Civil Rights issue (odd since fat people in America are NOT a minority).

Anyway. That's how bad it is. Fat is merely another evolution in "lifestyles" and we're supposed to celebrate. Fat is inevitable and unconnected to character as over consuming is your RIGHT. Consume cars. Consume water. Consume food. Consuming is all we have left - it's all that keeps the machine going.

It's so bad our life expectancy is expecting to be trending DOWN in America. Down as health care costs go up and up. How is that possible? Wasn't the problem people were living too long?

Yay fat!

I have seen life in the future and it is chubby and short.
posted by tkchrist at 11:04 PM on December 10, 2006


You can have the schools, but the rest of your solutions are authoritarian, busybody garbage. Restricting choices of free persons because certain individuals have poor impulse control or a tendency to make poor decisions is tantamount to tyranny.

You act as though there are about twelve of these "certain individuals" with poor impulse control, rather than in the neighborhood of 100 million in the US. When something is that damaging to so many people and provides no benefit, it should be controlled.

The best analogy that comes to mind is asbestos. Do you think builders should be allowed to insulate with asbestos, now that we know about its harmful effects? Doubtful. What is it about this situation that makes my analogy false?

I also believe that public smoking bans are generally a good idea, and I would imagine that we disagree on that point, as well. There is both a civil liberties argument and a public health argument to be made, and they're both important.
posted by gurple at 11:04 PM on December 10, 2006


The best analogy that comes to mind is asbestos. Do you think builders should be allowed to insulate with asbestos, now that we know about its harmful effects? Doubtful. What is it about this situation that makes my analogy false?

Your analogy fails for a number of reasons:
1. Fast food, used in moderation, isn't lethal. In fact, many McDonald's menu items can be worked into a balanced diet. You cannot work asbestos into a balanced breathing recommendation.
2. Cleaning up the fryer leads, at worst, to bad skin., while cleaning up asbestos can lead to death.
3. Advertisements don't kill people.
4. There is virtually no risk of a fast-food eater vomiting in someone else's mouth and giving him lung cancer or mesothelioma.

To put it differently, if I insulate my home or business with asbestos, I am putting guests at risk, and I could conceivably defraud a future property owner by neglecting to disclose its presence. None of these externalities ausually result from fast food advertising.

I long for the good old days when "public health" dealt with communicable disease, rather than a wasteful effort to protect people from making informed choices that authoritarians like you find unpalatable.
posted by Kwantsar at 11:36 PM on December 10, 2006


It's not true for much of the UK, and it's becoming less true as time passes and the only stores which sell fresh produce are a drive (and therefore a car) away.

Where I live, the big-box stores on the outskirts of town run free buses to and from the downtown residential areas. Cities in the UK and US should strike a similar deal with the Walmartians -- let them build a regular store on the outskirts of town (in car-only land) only if they run free buses through the downtown residential areas, out to their store, and back again throughout opening hours. (This is also good for getting lots of carless, low-paid employees to and from work.)

That, or require that the big-box stores build a market downtown that sells fresh produce (and no junk) for the same price it is sold in the big stores outside town. Bring the downtown shoppers to the affordable produce or bring the affordable produce to downtown shoppers -- whichever the stores prefer.
posted by pracowity at 12:24 AM on December 11, 2006


You cannot work asbestos into a balanced breathing recommendation.

Asbestos was used for decades as insulation, exterior tiling and myriad other uses (and still is found in/on some houses). We did not all die of asbestosis.

Now I totally agree with you on the whole willful disregard issues here, but when people are not provided the information to make an informed decision or are intentionally mislead, things get a little different.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:24 AM on December 11, 2006


Pollomancho, no matter how you rationalize your authoritarian garbage, it's still authoritarian garbage. Asbestos is a STRONG carcinogen. Living in a house with Asbestos increases your cancer risk by orders of magnitude. Compare this with the number of people in extremely good/moderately good health who eat McDonald's food on a regular basis. Your analogy is just totally out of whack with the scale of the two problems you're comparing.

Back to the actual point, limiting the freedom of rational adults by controlling what they eat is dietary fascism. We should be trying to teach children what healthy eating is, sponsoring health-food initiatives, funding Physical Education, prevent fat people from having to be fat later in life by giving them the choice to be healthy. If you start saying "okay, that's it, no more cheese for you. eating cheese is now a crime for those over 300 pounds!", the black market for cheese will spring up and thrive. And your government will look ridiculous.
posted by tehloki at 12:38 AM on December 11, 2006


Your analogy is just totally out of whack with the scale of the two problems you're comparing.

Woah now cowboy, not my analogy! The only "authoritarian garbage" I'm advocating is to ensure that people are provided with accurate and appropriate information with which to make their own decisions about fast food or asbestos or whatever!
posted by Pollomacho at 12:53 AM on December 11, 2006


I am sorry, I seem to have snarked in the wrong direction. I need some sleep.
posted by tehloki at 12:56 AM on December 11, 2006


Where I live, the big-box stores on the outskirts of town run free buses to and from the downtown residential areas. Cities in the UK and US should strike a similar deal with the Walmartians -- let them build a regular store on the outskirts of town (in car-only land) only if they run free buses through the downtown residential areas, out to their store, and back again throughout opening hours. (This is also good for getting lots of carless, low-paid employees to and from work.)

Wal-mart runs busses all over Beijing to their MASSIVE supercenters (think multi-story madness). Then again, they also let their employees unionize in China. In general Wal-mart fears China, seems like the only people they do fear.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:20 AM on December 11, 2006


Metafilter is a funny place. I don't know if it's just the large population we're sampling from here, but nowhere else in my life have I ever seen so many arrogant, do-gooder "ZOMG LOOK AT THE FAT FUCKS" whiners.

Nowhere, that I can remember, has obesity, or bad eating, or lack of excercise, or trends in weight gain, ever entered any conversation I've had elsewhere. But somehow, whenever this topic comes up on Metafilter, people are guaranteed to go apeshit over it.

Why? Would someone please explain to me why you care so much about other people being overweight? Part of me suspects it's because the offenders are bitter about having to eat their tasteless rabbit-food and pay for expensive gym meberships to stay thin, when other people choose to get away with not caring about the pounds, or manage to stay healthy anyway.

Why does obesity exist? Because there's a lot of very tasty, easy to get hold of, cheap food that's bad for you. You may as well ask why people watch Survivor or read trashy tabloids. Because it's there, and it's easy. It's just human nature. Get the fuck over it.
posted by Jimbob at 1:45 AM on December 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


I also think TimTypeZed has an excellent point:

If lawyers exercise more than support staff, perhaps it's because lawyers are achievement oriented people who have for most of their lives been able to experience reward in return for effort.

And the lawyers are probably in positions where they know their career path is going to proceed based on very personal judgements and appearance. It's keeping up with the Joneses. He's not going to let himself get "unhealthy" while his competitor remains buff. In other jobs, this probably doesn't matter as much.
posted by Jimbob at 1:49 AM on December 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Jimbob, we're concerned because your human nature is getting all over our healthcare system. I'm not an authoritarian by any means, but proper education about/incentives for/widespread availabilty for means of staying healthy is certainly an issue that isn't being properly addressed. We're concerned and snarky because they're cutting P.E. at an alarming rate and serving barely-any-alternative school lunch menus loaded with oil and trans-fats in the middle of an obesity epidemic.
posted by tehloki at 1:52 AM on December 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Well tehloki, I agree with you.

Proper education is important. Kids should get healthy foods in schools. PE (and sport in general) should be encouraged, although with the competitive nature of school sports these days, complete with psycho parents on the sidelines, you can understand how anyone who is slightly unathletic wouldn't want to take part. And I'd even go so far as to say junk food shouldn't really be advertised on children's television.

But adults can take it as it comes.

And first of all, you can stop assuming that:

(a) All "overweight" people are "obese" and unhealthy and a drain on the health system. I'm overweight. My doctor told me so - it's on his chart. I weigh 240lb and am 6'3". My job involves, among other things, hiking through forests and swamps on a daily basis carrying field gear and jumping out of helicopters to take samples. I can't think of any time I've been a "drain on the health system". My dad is what you would describe as obese, and despite that his doctor tells him he's very healthy. Low cholesterol. Good heart.

(b) People are fat just because they're eating fast food. I "eat out" once a week - it's a special occasion. Every night I cook dinner from fresh ingredients. And I make damn tasty food; Curries, Casseroles, Pasta. And I don't substitute real butter for low-fat, low-salt polyunsaturated table spread. So sue me. I like food.

And while you ponder the effect of fat people on the health care system, why not pounder how many girls have been driven to anorexia, bulemia, or suicide, because of unrealistic images of thin women in the media.
posted by Jimbob at 2:09 AM on December 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


(heh, pounder, lol)
posted by Jimbob at 2:14 AM on December 11, 2006


I'm actually surprised that England hasn't already caught up to the US. What with the pervasive pub culture, all those pints and pub grub being consumed while watching the football on the telly, and what have you.
posted by antifuse at 2:59 AM on December 11, 2006


Jimbob, I'm glad we can find some common ground here. I fear with my very soul a world where it's impossible to get health insurance if you're overweight; where missing your physical lands you in jail; where every aspect of an adult's personal eating and exercise habits are governed by an authoritarian structure of calorie policy and federal "nanny" agencies - the beaureau of cholestorol and thusforth.

The lifestyle somebody chooses to live is fully up to them, and thus the consequences are theirs to bear. Personal dietary and lifestyle freedom and the responsibility associated with it is a luxury we should all be able enjoy.

The root of the problem is children being brought up eating like the four food groups were chocolate, coke, steak and Mcdonald's, getting a ride to school, sitting in a chair for 6 hours straight, getting a ride home, and sitting in a different chair for 8 hours. I'm talking about kids whose lives consist of alternately (concurrently?) sitting and eating. They don't need to be forced to be active and eat right by the government, but I'll be damned if their parents aren't allowed (nay, obligated) to make them eat some vague approximation of a balanced diet and "go get some freaking exercise" once in awhile.
posted by tehloki at 3:11 AM on December 11, 2006


True that. I hate laziness and bad food as much as you. I just don't think the connection between those factors, and people not fitting on the curve on a weight/height, and some society-wide health epidemic, is as simple as some folks would presume.
posted by Jimbob at 4:31 AM on December 11, 2006


Well, this is pretty much played out, now, while I slept, but I do want to take issue with the "authoritarian" charge that was leveled at me. I assume this had to do with my position on trans fats (go Bloomberg!), since Ive never advocated any of the stuff that tehloki talks about (ridiculous penalties for being overweight).

The slippery-slope caricature of the anti-fat argument (which I've heard leveled here) is that I want to tax or punish people for eating cheese. There is a big damn difference between trans fats and cheese. Trans fats are chemicals that were never present in the ancestral environment, or in thousands of years of human history until a few decades ago. A chemical process intended to increase shelf life and improve consistency turns out to have horrifying health side effects.

Until a couple years ago, no one knew what a "trans fat" was. Entire major industries rely on it for long shelf life and the particular uniform flavors that they sell, and millions of people have had their palates trained to love 'em, without knowing the side effects. I don't expect folks who thought this stuff was just somewhat unhealthy, as opposed to staggeringly bad, to be able to turn their eating habits around on a dime.

The market will not get rid of these things on its own, without pressure. Getting rid of this stuff isn't being a nanny and protecting people "from themselves". It's protecting people from some of the explosive fallout of an industrialized, unregulated food chain.
posted by gurple at 7:18 AM on December 11, 2006


but if your in America... YOUR BLIND if you're not convinced. Your certainly not a Pediatrician.

No, I'm not a Pediatrician. And, maybe I am blind, but I just don't see it. I have no doubt that when the numbers are crunched a visible trend of weight gain over the last decades is detectable, but I see nothing on the streets that justifies headlines about obesity epidemics.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s in Canada. There were always a couple really fat kids around, and they usually came from genetically predisposed fat families. There were always kids who rounded out in the middle school years, but who became thin and stayed that way once adolescence happened for them. They do the same now. Yeah, kids don't seem to wander the way we once did, and they have other distractions that keep them planted, but if I go to a park I see healthy looking kids running and climbing all around, if I go to a soccer game I see mostly small thin kids (and one or two heavier kids on each team, who run over all the rest and score all the goals). There just aren't scores of kids waddling down school hallways with their thighs rubbing together.

If fifty percent of the population doesn't exercise, while ten or twenty percent personally identify with their commitment to physical activity and healthy eating, discussions like this become us (the educated) versus them (the ignorant). They have a tone of scorn towards the next guys' spread around the midsection that is not unlike the cleanliness is next to godliness type of the past spotting dust under a neighbour's doilie. I find it easy to abhor other people's laziness, even as I pamper my own. An exercise lifestyle certainly promotes better quality of life, is not only beneficial physically but socially, emotionally and mentally, and, while I've never been overweight, I know that I should try to incorporate more exercise myself (but it's boring). Yes, the majority of the population aren't ripped, don't hang from mountainsides for pleasure and may have a wider ass than you or I find attractive, but in my judgment - of either kids or adults - I wouldn't describe anywhere near the majority as fat. Describing any but small minority at the extreme as obese is exaggeration.
posted by TimTypeZed at 7:37 AM on December 11, 2006


Sorry if it sounded like I was putting words in your mouth, Gurple. I must have read one too many dystopian sci-fi short stories in which the populace is forced into hyper-healthy productive misery by bland, tasteless, 100-vitamin protein yeast.
posted by tehloki at 7:42 AM on December 11, 2006


but if I go to a park I see healthy looking kids running and climbing all around, if I go to a soccer game I see mostly small thin kids

I think you're literally looking in the wrong places, TTZ.

It's true, though, that the problem has huge regional variation. You could look around Seattle and think that not much has changed in 30 years, fat-wise. You can't do the same thing in Orlando.
posted by gurple at 7:44 AM on December 11, 2006


UbuRoivas: To give few examples, just to maintain a *steady* weight, there are things that you should only touch once in a blue moon, in small quantities, eg soft drinks, cakes, cookies, chocolate, icecream, anything deep-fried, pizza, any kind of candy, potato chips, hamburgers, cheeses.

And that's another reason why fat people don't listen to diet and fitness Nazis. Because if the choice is be fat and eat yummy food or be thin and never get anything you like again (and trust me, that's how the choice appears), then a whole boatload of people will choose fat and yummy. And I would too. Oh, that's right, I did--until I found exercise that I loved.
posted by dame at 9:14 AM on December 11, 2006


I must have read one too many dystopian sci-fi short stories in which the populace is forced into hyper-healthy productive misery by bland, tasteless, 100-vitamin protein yeast.

You should try reading the other kind, where technology permits the experience of someone else's senses. Cause I guarantee, five minutes inside a healthy body and you'll never want to go back.

I wouldn't describe anywhere near the majority as fat. Describing any but small minority at the extreme as obese is exaggeration.

Aaaaand, we're back to debating what is, in reality, a medical standard. I wouldn't describe half the population as below-average in intelligence, either, because it's not polite to do so. Doesn't mean it's not true. What you do or don't personally consider to be fat is beside the point when there are negative health effects attached. And the need to contrast healthy/normal with "ripped, hanging off a mountainside" just takes us back to denial. tehloki had it way up in the thread:

With all this fatness going around, won't the eventual trend be towards acceptance rather than opposition? I am sure that people worldwide are more likely to accept short, fat lives as the norm than actually get up off their asses and live healthily.

Except they won't call it "fat", either. They'll call it "healthy", "not-anorexic", or anything else un-ironically intended to describe someone with a few, or many, extra pounds.

the problem has huge regional variation. You could look around Seattle and think that not much has changed in 30 years, fat-wise. You can't do the same thing in Orlando.

Some friends of mine from BC recently visited Manitoba. Their first impression: "A lot of overweight people." Not exactly what I like to be noticed first about my home province, but to a west coaster, I'm sure it stood out.
posted by dreamsign at 11:01 AM on December 11, 2006


Wow, 108 comments in this thread, and still I'm the first person to use the word "meat." I think it's an obvious culprit here. Look at the diet of most Americans and they eat meat at nearly every meal. This is an unsustainable practice that is at the root of our health problems. Growing (for lack of a better word) meat is incredibly inefficient compared with growing other foods like fruit, vegetables, and wheat. The animals must be fed food which is grown on fields that could produce food for humans. The animals themselves require sizable plots of land as well. There is also the problem of pollution. Meat farms produce a lot of pollution from animal waste. Just look at the recent E. Coli incidents and you can see how our meat obsession hurts other farming interests. It should be the case that eating meatless meals would be cheaper than getting a Big Mac based solely on energy considerations. However, as pointed out numerous times in this thread, our country has made meat widely available for very cheap. You don't severely underpay for something without the cost getting passed on to someone else. The problem is that the costs are difficult to see. They are hidden in wasteful farm subsidies, and environmental problems.

Now, how to overcome this problem is a difficult question, since there are numerous factors working to maintain the status quo. In addition to the factors of people not having enough time/luxury/money to exercise and eat well, the obesity phenomenon is also due to deeply seated cultural values as well as active government policy. The cultural values may well be the hardest thing to overcome. There is this idea that real Americans eat red meat and if you don't eat it at every opportunity possible, you must be a faggot tree-hugging hippy. I think this applies to the urban poor and their obesity problem, but I know it definitely does play a big role in suburban/rural middle America (the obesity problem is not just a problem of the urban poor, and unlike people in the cities, for many Americans obesity is a result of poor lifestyle choices, laziness, and stupidity. Many of these people could exercise and eat better if they chose to, so let's make a distinction between people trapped by their circumstances into a lifestyle that will likely develop into obesity and people who have a choice). Anyway, fighting this idea will be difficult as long as the false dichotomy exists. As far as middle America is concerned, they hear a lot about vegetarianism from ultra-liberal folks about "the poor animals" and "meat is murder," which just increases their resolve to eat as many animals as possible. I think there need to be fewer people calling for vegetarianism and more people calling for simply cutting back on meat. I'm a carnivore myself, and I love a nice, juicy steak, but I try to make it an occasional indulgence. If people would just make a substitute for meat a few times a week, it would make a big difference, and it wouldn't mean they have to throw out their BBQs or join any drum circles or anything. We need to drop the judgementalism and encourage people to make more sustainable choices for practical reasons.

I'm no economics expert, but I think a free-market solution would work best here in the long term. This means ending the farm subsidies, which would drastically raise the price of meat (to reflect its actual value). Doing so would probably be disastrous in the short term, but in the long term might encourage a culture where meat is considered a special treat to be enjoyed, instead of the default food to shove in your mouth. Not only would we be using our land more productively, we would encourage the growing of healthier food and be healthier as a populace. This applies to all of us as consumers, since we all have the power to influence business. Every time you eat meat, you are supporting a big business that is keeping Americans fat (even if you yourself are able to exercise it off). I'm far from a perfect consumer, and I occasionally give in and buy some cheap fast food when I'm in a hurry. However, being aware of the impact of my choices has often lead me to choose healthier food instead of a fast-food burger.

The exercise side of the issue is another problem to address, but I've gone on long enough in this comment. I was just trying to say (albeit in a long-winded way) that there are steps we can take to fight the epidemic apart from insulting the fat poor people. Support the abolishment of wasteful farm subsidies and encourage a culture of smarter eating.
posted by SBMike at 12:24 PM on December 11, 2006


*phew* - didn't get severely beaten up on overnight, which is good, because I care far less about this topic than the number of my comments might suggest.

My biggest beef in this thread is with the idea that it is too difficult to avoid eating shit. It seems things are indeed tragic in some places overseas: 2 quid for two apples is sad enough; no apples is worse. Over here, she's apples, mate - unless you live way out in woop-woop, the major supermarket chains are open late into the night, and there are heaps of quite competitive smaller grocers. Most people would do a trip to the supermarket once a week, and supplement, where necessary, from the marginally more expensive local shops. Shame others don't have it so easy.

Jimbob ("rabbit food") & dame ("be fat and eat yummy food or be thin and never get anything you like again") - it's really not either/or.

Jimbob's diet sounds pretty much like mine, and there's nothing in it about never eating what you like. It's about eating luxuries as luxuries only, or else being prepared to burn them off. The thing is, in my experience, once you cut down on fatty, sugary foods, when you eat them again in any significant quantity, you feel physically sick. They simply cease to be "yummy food" and become "disgusting, oily, slimy crap that you occasionally have to endure".

Gimme a wholemeal sandwich packed with chicken breast & salad over some shitty crumbed & deep-fried chicken wing with a side of chips & a milkshake anyday! :D
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:16 PM on December 11, 2006


I wish we had good nutrition classes in public schools (along with good financial and budgeting info too)--with our luck it's "Nutrition and You and Tony the Tiger™! It's Great!™ from Kellogg's and Keebler" (and MickeyD's) if it's anything at all.
posted by amberglow at 2:32 PM on December 11, 2006


I love being fat. I love being able to piss people off through something that doesn't affect them at all.
posted by jimmy at 9:03 AM on December 12, 2006


jimmy, we're not pissed off that you're fat. We're pissed off that some kids are being raised with no choice than to become Obese. One should at least know the value of and have the choice of living a lifestyle which is less prone to health problems.
posted by tehloki at 9:50 AM on December 12, 2006


Oh, sure you are! I [am/will be in the future] a drain on our health care system, &c &c and we can't have that

With all this fatness going around, won't the eventual trend be towards acceptance rather than opposition? I am sure that people worldwide are more likely to accept short, fat lives as the norm than actually get up off their asses and live healthily.

I live healthily. I don't exercise -- ever! -- and yet I'm not at constant risk of diabetes or heart failure. Yeah, I probably won't live to 100, but why would I want to? I don't enjoy exercise. I loathe it, and there is no practical reason for me to waste my time with it.

Yeah, man, I'd gladly take a short fat life over one in which I have to constantly worry about my caloric intake or how many steps I've racked up on the pedometer. People tend to get fucking insane about those kind of things, to the point where they're carefully poring over the nutrition labels on every single thing they eat!

Lighten the fuck up, skinnies! I'm only going to be here for so long, so why should I worry myself with the unnecessary stress of keeping constant tabs on what I'm eating and on how much exercise I'm getting? There are a vast amount of issues of far greater import that I need to worry about before I die. Being fat isn't going to keep me from getting through college and finding a job, one that will probably -- and get this -- involve me sitting behind a computer monitor for hours at a time, something that I'm perfectly happy doing right now!

Pity the poor children who are being force-fed ding-dongs by their tyrannical fatty fat fat lardmass parents on a daily basis. Yeah, those kids could use some proper health education. No one would argue against that! But come on, do you seriously think that these kids aren't being made aware of how unhealthy their lifestyle is by their schoolmates on a daily basis? Sure, most of their peers are probably fatty fat-FAT-fat-fats as well, but there's always going to be someone bigger than them that they can make fun of. These kids aren't living in some sort of crazy vacuum where they're completely unaware that they're living in an unhealthy fashion, so if you genuinely care about these poor kids, how about we all just drop the fucking condescension? It's not helping matters at all.

It's so easy to go through life in this society without ever having to physically expend anything but a modicum of effort to stay alive and be relatively happy. The fact that it shows no signs of getting anything but worse is the notable thing.

God, it astounds me that you would think this is a bad thing! Get this: things change! We don't have to hunt for our own food any longer, and we don't get around by horse-drawn carriage! Modern conveniences can offer us a completely sedentary lifestyle should we choose, and what's the problem with that?

That people go to such great fucking lengths to stay youthful and healthy just to stave off death for a little while longer has always struck me as kind of funny, but I don't go out of my way to mention that at every opportunity (and believe me, in these health-obsessed times, there are a lot of opportunities). I guess that's the main reason why fat threads on MetaFilter have always been perplexing to me. This community is normally pretty accepting and open-minded, but when this one single issue comes up, people turn into frothing idiots. I'll spare you any more bold tags.
posted by jimmy at 11:56 AM on December 12, 2006


jimmy, as somebody who used to be overweight and no longer is, I can attest that the benefits of losing weight are worth it. Of course you hate exercise. Exercise is the worst thing in the world if you're not accustomed to doing it. However, if you give it a chance and stick with it, you can train yourself to enjoy it. I wouldn't have believed that that would ever be something I'd want to do, but trust me it is. The benefits of exercise aren't just a few extra years of life, it's a huge increase in quality of life. As dreamsign said a few comments up, if you spent 5 minutes inside a healthy body, you'd never want to go back. When I was fat, I never realized that constipation, sluggishness, being out of breath and sweaty, and not getting checked out by members of the opposite sex were making me unhappy, but they all were. Exercise gets easier the more you do it. Clearly, you sound like you're sick of hearing this from "health nuts" but there's a reason we're so enthusiastic about working out. It makes us happier (and if you've never felt a runner's high, you don't know what you're missing).

I also used to think that today's world made a sedentary lifestyle acceptable, but that one time you have to climb 6 flights of stairs or run to catch a bus, you will be miserable. One of the benefits of being in shape is that these tasks that once seemed physically daunting, I can now do without a second thought. I'm more willing to use my own energy to do random tasks, which actually comes up quite a bit more than I previously thought. We're not completely sedentary yet, and especially with the environmental impact of say, driving to the corner store instead of walking/biking, I say we should all be training our bodies to work a little harder.

Maybe you really are happy never exercising. However, I find this a bit hard to believe as almost everyone I know who exercises is happier than those that don't. And you probably are at risk for heart failure if you never exercise. You might have grandkids one day, and I bet you'll want to run around and play with them. Give it a chance for a year or two, and I guarantee you'll be a convert too.
posted by SBMike at 12:35 PM on December 12, 2006


What? I don't have any problems shitting. I think that's something else entirely, man.
posted by jimmy at 1:04 PM on December 12, 2006


People tend to get fucking insane about those kind of things, to the point where they're carefully poring over the nutrition labels on every single thing they eat!

What? Do you think people don't have memories? You only have to glance at one once. Case in point: muesli bars. Sound healthy, right? About the same as chocolate, in calorie terms. Once you've spent, oh, two seconds checking the cals-per-100g, you know for all time that if you feel like eating a muesli bar, you might as well be eating a chocolate bar (more or less). If you wanna eat cheese, gouda & edam are less fatty than "lite" tasty/cheddar cheese. Healthy-sounding carob & honey milk drinks are about the equivalent of a coke. Might as well drink those, coz at least you'll get some protein & calcium.

It's nowhere near as difficult or time-consuming as you or others point out. All that serious calorie-counting is for anal-retentives. It is enough to educate oneself on the broad principles. Personally, I treat all fruit, vegetables & pulses as free-go-zones. Meat is also pretty much all-I-can-eat, as long as it is lean (which most of it is, unless you eat the fat. Sausages & mince are the major exceptions). It's only when you get to the snacky stuff & dairy that one might wanna do some research (if one wants to be trim / lose weight), which is really about not being conned into thinking that various foods are less fattening than they appear.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:21 PM on December 12, 2006


Oh, yeh - and exercise completely & totally *rocks*, if you find something you enjoy. No way is it anything like being a strain or a chore. At the moment, capoeira is doing it for me, but I also enjoy the buzz of cycling to & from work. Twice as quick as driving or public transport, I actually feel part of the streetscape & general environment, and it gives my otherwise sluggishly-waking body a great kickstart. It's like injecting a bottle of coca-cola! :D
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:29 PM on December 12, 2006


No, it really is a strain and a chore, and a wholly unnecessary one, at that. Sorry, bud. You can have your exercise, just stop trying to sell me on it.
posted by jimmy at 4:03 PM on December 12, 2006


And the day I start worrying about what kind of cheese my diet permits is the day that I shoot myself in the brains and face.
posted by jimmy at 4:05 PM on December 12, 2006


each to their own.

dunno if i would kill myself over cheese, but i certainly have no desire to look anything like Borat's manager does naked. that would be my personal cue for suicide, or for far less drastic measures.

but that's my pigeon.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:42 PM on December 12, 2006


Yeah.. luckily, you tend to not worry about that kind of thing if you're not completely shallow. Like I said, more important things to worry about.
posted by jimmy at 5:40 PM on December 12, 2006


Jimmy, you speak with the confident air of a man who has been lucky with his health so far. I'd like to hear you extolling the virtues of obesity if, sometime in the future, you have a heart attack or develop diabetes.
posted by tehloki at 6:33 PM on December 12, 2006


jimmy, whether you realise this or not, I actually respect your position, and the balls it takes to give health-nuts the finger. Good on you for that.

But your resort to cheap personal insults detracts from that respect. It kinda suggests that whatever "more important things you are worrying about", logic & civility are not amongst them.

If health & appearance are a low priority for you, then fine. But don't pretend that you are somehow mortifying your flesh in order to magically sublimate that into more worthy concerns that are out of reach for people who choose to take care of their bodies - those people that you somehow deduce to be "completely shallow".
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:46 PM on December 12, 2006


You're right, and I apologize. Like I said before, I genuinely don't care how other people choose to live their lives; it's their choice to make. And by that same token, I've always just wished for that in return. My original rant was born out of anger upon reading this thread; a lot of the concern expressed here seems mostly condescending, just as it always does in threads of this nature. I hope you can understand the frustration that can arise from people constantly telling you that the way you live your life isn't healthy, especially when you're *well aware* of that fact. I'm not going to seriously argue that getting exercise is somehow more detrimental than sitting around doing nothing all day, but it's honestly just not for me. By that same token, you're just as welcome to get out there and live a healthier lifestyle, and I don't have any right to resort to personal attacks because of it. Again, I'm sorry about that.

And tehloki, if my mostly sedentary lifestyle means that I eventually end up in a diabetic coma with my legs amputated, then whatever, that'll be my cross to bear. It's not your job to care about it, nor should you be expected to! In return, I promise to try not be a drain on society if such a situation should ever come to pass. Deal?
posted by jimmy at 7:07 PM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


coolo :)

i've really really gotta drop this thread. one crack at the english cricket team should've done it, but somebody had to go and post a nauseatingly smug comment about american / british "luxury" & i bit & it went downhill from there.

i don't think i ever told people how to live their lives, even if others did. i specifically framed comment after comment as *if* one is overweight *and* one wants to do something about it, then "blahdeblahblah & stop making excuses that it's too difficult". should keep that attitude to AskMe in future.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:24 PM on December 12, 2006


jimmy, i think part of it is that fat people are more visible than us smokers, or others. We all do unhealthful things, but some are invisible and some aren't.

And if it's kids we're talking about, then that really is a societal issue--they're looking forward to a shorter and not-as-full-and-rich life, and we as societies should do more to help teach nutrition and about choices when it comes to food.
posted by amberglow at 3:47 PM on December 14, 2006


(personally, you can be as fat or thin as you want--if you can't walk a block without having to stop to rest or catch your breath, something's wrong)
posted by amberglow at 3:48 PM on December 14, 2006


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