Paul Andersen: Survival of the fattest in U.S.
June 11, 2002
I am not fat. I have never been fat. If anything, people consider me thin … skinny even. That’s why I am upset about a recent news story that shows how out of step I am with the current trend in human evolution.
According to a recent analysis, “technology has helped make Americans fatter by making their work less active and by providing cheaper food.” Since technology is popularly equated with human evolution, the more evolved people are on the planet, the fatter they are.
Survival of the fattest was never part of Darwin’s theory, but it rules today in a swelling population of broadening Americans. A year or so ago, the U.S. Board of Standards increased the average width of a seat on public transportation in the United States as an acknowledgment to the spreading of the average American rear end.
As the fat study points out, people have been fattening up for 300 years due to technological advances that save them physical labor and the need for active lives. The study reveals that if you lived 150 years ago, you would weigh 25-30 pounds less than you do today.
In 1852 I would have weighed about 125 pounds, which is barely a table scrap in today’s junk-food, high-cholesterol, saturated-fat, all-you-can-eat buffet culture. If the same proportion of weight gain holds true for the next 150 years, think of the enormity of the average American.
The fat study points out that today 60 percent of Americans are overweight and 25 percent are obese. Even though this advancing population of double-wide Americans is at greater risk from diabetes, heart disease and cancer, the corpulent among us live enviable lives.
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In many cultures, fat is a sign of prosperity, and since America is one of the most prosperous countries in the world, we ought to weigh in with some of the beefiest humans on the planet. We ought to be proud of a nation fast evolving into a culture of earthshaking, mall-strolling Sumo wrestlers.
Aside from fewer physical demands in many jobs, the fat study reveals that “the real cost of food has been falling for decades as farms boosted productivity and output through mechanization, hybrid seeds and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.”
Rather than feeding the world with our vast surplus, we shovel it into our own gaping maws, oblivious to the disproportionate calorie intake worldwide. We clean our plates and liposuction cellulite while others starve.
Thanks to advertising and the promotion of the fast-food epidemic, Americans are enticed to buy more food than they can consume healthily. The result is a national policy of force feeding that’s made for soaring futures in Spandex. And we wonder why health-care costs are skyrocketing for us all.
An article in Time magazine a few months ago illustrated the plight of overweight children who succumb to their parents’ dubious role models and celebrate the providence of plentiful food with insatiable appetites.
This, coupled with a celebration of technologically induced sloth, renders more and more Americans incapable of shedding egregious pounds. Their lives are colored by shame, embarrassment, guilt and an assortment of serious health problems. Meanwhile, they demand more technological, energy-consuming assistance to heft around their conspicuous tonnage.
We like to think that technology is a wonderful thing, which it is when viewing the marvels of modern medicine, transportation, communications, etc. It is also a curse when people the size of corn-fed steers can’t walk up a flight of stairs or get off the couch by themselves.
It is a sad state of affairs when the greatest physical effort a human being makes is to reach for the TV remote and punch a button. This is only second to the effort it takes to pop the top off a beer can or to open a bag of potato chips. For the truly indolent, getting dressed can become an aerobic activity.
If the fat trend continues, technology will have a whole new mission. Modern medicine will take on fat-prone diseases, transportation engineers will widen seats into yard-long slings, and workplace innovators will make it possible to function without any movement at all.
Oh happy day!