Sunday, January 27, 2013

Collapse of this stout party

Here we go again. The nobly sympathetic Zoe Williams reports on a conference on obesity. She observed that inevitably:
The conventional narrative – that obesity is a combination of personal failure and societal booby-trapping, where we're nudged towards unhealthy eating and inactivity, and don't put up much of a fight – remains the starting point.
And so we plunge in to the pathological diagnoses of the inadequacies of the obese - "abuse, trauma, neglect" put in an appearance, as does depression and stigma. Other activities are suggested instead of eating: - "Five minutes of vigorous masturbation ... takes up 300 calories. It can replace a light meal." One expert ponders a deep paradox:
"The government spent millions on that obesity campaign, then wondered why it didn't work. But I don't think there is an information deficit," adds Buckroyd. Obese people know very well the mathematical discrepancies of their calorie usage. "But so many people are puzzled by their own behaviour."
And yet none of these dedicated puritans seem to have noticed something that is pretty obvious, especially judging by the profusion of cookery shows on TV. Eating and drinking are pleasurable. They are sensual, relaxing and sociable. The preparation of good food is creative and, at times, ruthlessly competitive. We have a love affair with food because it is incredibly loveable. Food is at the centre of our culture of hospitality, snacks and drinks are offered wherever we go. It makes us feel good, both to give and receive. We like it. Food is more than fuel for survival, it is the social glue that holds us together. Food is nice. Overdoing it carries the extra spice of sin, a very fine dish indeed.

Williams ends with a comforting statistic:
... obesity costs £5.1bn to the NHS. Malnutrition costs £7.3bn. 
And that is in a developed country. Feeding the world rather than encouraging people to knock a few pounds off or lose the odd sagging belly is what a genuine politics of food and health should be talking about.

Of course none of this actually deals with a question that recurs throughout history. Why when indulging in this cornucopia of pleasure do some put on weight whilst others don't? So perhaps us fatties need to be a bit cheeky and muscle in on a gay anthem, insisting that perhaps the reason for our rotundity is simply that we were born this way.

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