Dispatches from the War on Fat

Friday, March 26, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:16 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In case you haven’t noticed, we Americans are fat.

Really fat. In fact, earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that overeating is on pace to become the No. 1 cause of avoidable deaths in the United States next year, knocking tobacco use out of the top spot.

Sockdolager can’t help but wonder what the fat epidemic will mean for the legions of obese (and soon-to-be-obese) Americans. After all, if fat people are overtaking smokers — a group that has been persecuted mercilessly over the past few years through stigmatization and taxation — then they had best start planning how they’re going to defend themselves.

Bracing for the Fat Scare

With obesity on pace to become the “new” smoking, it’s only a matter of time before we face a Fat Scare. Of course, things are already getting scary at greasier locales long considered safe havens for the obese. McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and countless other fast-food joints have begun adding so-called healthy alternatives to their menus. Things have gotten so bad that marginally obese celebrities like Dr. Phil are peddling weight-loss programs in an attempt to show their allegiance to the fitness cause.

So what will a full-blown Fat Scare look like? Let Sockdolager explain:

  • Progressive states such as California and New York pass legislation to sequester obesity in restaurants. Soon obesity is being phased out of public dining entirely. The streets are flooded with food wrappers as the obese huddle in doorways and peer through windows at their thinner compatriots nibbling on sensible portions.
  • n Fine dining establishments, whose clients have been fattened by power and influence, fight the law by opening health bars that are fronts for underground food troughs. New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer vows to crack down on such establishments in New York City.
  • Anti-obesity commercials flood the airwaves. McDonald’s, mirroring Philip Morris’s attempts to get kids off smoking, begins running commercials. In one, a portly man holding up Little Debbie snack cakes asks his son, “Where did you get these?” The poor boy, also overweight, cries back, “I learned by watching you!” In another, a young girl crawls toward a backyard pool. Her babysitter, too busy finishing off a bag of Cheetos, is unable to prevent the child from drowning.
  • Health organizations link obesity to a range of other social problems. It is announced that overeating, and its ensuing daze, have led to a rise in teenage pregnancy. Obesity is also linked to the war on terrorism. The government sets up obesity concentration camps in the Arizona desert. A new terror-alert system warns thin citizens when they should be especially vigilant of suspicious behavior by fat people.
  • The government’s Food Abuse Resistance Education, or FARE, program bombards kids from an early age with horror stories about a looming world government run by the obese.
  • The government declares war on fat. Americans seem to have a penchant for vigorously attacking a problem while simultaneously ignoring the root cause of said problem (see: drugs, terrorism, manufacturing jobs, etc.). The president appoints Jared from Subway to lead the campaign as the country’s Fat Czar.

Will any of this work? Sockdolager doubts it. America’s only hope may, ironically, come from France. The French drug maker Sanofi-Synthelabo has developed a drug — rimonabant — that aims to block the circuits in the brain that control the urge to eat and smoke. The company hopes to begin marketing the drug next year and perhaps put France back in America’s good graces by 2006. After all, theirs is a truly American solution: Medicate yourself!

— Reed Fischer

More pork for the obese

The fact that Americans are literally eating themselves to death has forced us all to return to the grade-school playground and re-evaluate the fat kid no one wanted on their team. Is he to be pitied and helped in his constant struggle to lay off cheese fries? Or is he to be ridiculed for having no willpower? More to the point, is obesity a preventable disease or merely the physical manifestation of incurable laziness?

While fat people have historically been viewed unsympathetically in America, this may be changing. In April 2002, the IRS declared obesity a disease, meaning Jenny Craig is, gulp, a legitimate tax deduction. Medicaid and Medicare also are looking at including such weight-loss programs among their benefits.

As with everything else, politics and big business will drive this debate as much as will a sincere concern about millions of Americans’ health. Insurance companies don’t want to cover obese people because, well, insurance companies want to make money. Food corporations don’t want the government to force them to be honest about what their food does, nor do they want to be prohibited from advertising to impressionable, and potentially obese, youngsters.

There are already signs that our approach toward obesity won’t mimic our draconian approach to tobacco use. Earlier this month, the House passed the “cheeseburger bill,” which prohibits people from suing fast-food restaurants for their weight problems. Still, Sockdolager predicts that one thing will result from our attempts to get the obesity epidemic under control:

The creation of a fat lobby.

With so many fat people in the country, it seems only a matter of time before the obese band together to create their own political group. This group will raise lots of money, pour it into political campaigns and force politicians to push lots of political pork beneficial to fat people. Think about it. Being fat could become the equivalent of “the Vietnam question” for aspiring politicians. Skinny politicians will have to come up with a plausible explanation for why they’re not, or never have been, fat.

So before you rush to condemn the obese, just remember: Being skinny could soon have all the economic benefits of being single and childless.

— David Bracken

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