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Flying First Class Or Fat Class?
Story in The New York Times by Gina Kolata about fat people. Here's an excerpt:

Last week the list of ills attributable to obesity grew: fat people cause global warming.

This latest contribution to the obesity debate comes in an article by Sheldon H. Jacobson of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and his doctoral student, Laura McLay. Their paper, published in the current issue of The Engineering Economist, calculates how much extra gasoline is used to transport Americans now that they have grown fatter. The answer, they said, is a billion gallons a year.

Their conclusion is in the same vein as a letter published last year in The American Journal of Public Health. Its authors, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, did a sort of back-of-the-envelope calculation of how much extra fuel airlines spend hauling around fatter Americans. The answer, they wrote, based on the extra 10 pounds the average American gained in the 1990’s, is 350 million gallons, which means an extra 3.8 million tons of carbon dioxide.

“People are out scouring the landscape for things that make obese people look bad,” said Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale.

And is that a bad thing? Dr. Jacobson doesn’t think so. “We felt that beyond public health, being overweight has many other socioeconomic implications,” he said, which was why he was drawn to calculating the gasoline costs of added weight.

The idea of using economic incentives to help people shed pounds comes up in the periodic calls for taxes on junk food. Martin B. Schmidt, an economist at the College of William and Mary, suggests a tax on food bought at drive-through windows. Describing his theory in a recent Op-Ed article in The New York Times, Dr. Schmidt said people would expend more calories if they had to get out of their cars to pick up their food.

Hey, loser -- I rarely eat fast food, but whether I go to a drive-through window or not to get it won't make me fit into American sizes any better. No, not because I'm too fat, but because everybody else is getting so enormous, I sometimes wear a two or a four -- or a one or a zero! -- in American sizes, and I'm 5'9", and don't diet. Then again, I move. I got a deal on an apartment in France because I gladly rented a fifth-floor walk up. Free stairmaster with the rental is the way I see it. It's healthy.

My secret of staying reasonably sized is no big mystery: Small portions, mostly green veggies and protein, plenty of fat, not a lot of bread, and if I do eat bread, it's with some kind of fat in it or smeared on it, and generally in the morning. Oh yeah, and when I order, say, an almond croissant in America, I eat half of it. Because what woman who isn't seven feet tall is truly hungry for an entire American croissant? (Usually two or three times the size of a French one.)

In other words, my eating plan: No dieting, no denial, no low-fat or fat-free (taste-free) food -- leaves you hungry after you eat it, and isn't that antithetical to the point of having a meal?

Hmmm, what else? Resign from "The Clean Plate Club." Eat what you want, when you're hungry, even if you one day want ice cream at 7 am. Of course, in advising this, I'm assuming you're eating small portions -- not the entire vat of Haagen-Dazs. When you're no longer hungry, stop eating. Trust me, your steak is dead; the part you've left on your plate won't feel insulted.

By the way, I'd love if they'd price airline tickets by passenger weight, same as they make you pay extra if you bring over-limit luggage. Otherwise, I'm paying for the fuel to haul your wide load over the Atlantic, and some anorexic, poor dear, is funding me.

P.S. A helpful book I've recommended before on eating only to quell stomach hunger instead of the emotional kind: Diets Don't Work, by Bob Schwartz. And a piece of advice for those trying to adopt a healthier psychology of eating: Remember, you're human and fallible. If you hoover down a trough of ice cream today, remind yourself about the being human thing, and resolve to do better tomorrow.

Posted by aalkon at October 31, 2006 12:49 PM

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I'm starting to think this problem just doesn't go away. It's not necessarily that people are getting meaner and stupider, either (though that's gotta help). Bad food is just too cheap and easy, and good food (that's both vegetarian and fulfilling) is too expensive and troublesome.

I've never had a fruit roll up or a pizza pocket or any number of other horrors, but if I'd been a kid when the psychedelic commericals were on TV, it would been a slam dunk.

The great thing about being 5'7" is that airline seats in coach are about right. The seatmates are usually foul, but I've found that happens up in First, too.

Posted by: Crid at October 31, 2006 4:36 AM

It's the ease of modern society, too. Life is harder, physically, in a city; especially one like Paris where there's tons of walking to be done. Modern professions, more and more, tend to be sedentary, which is why we have gyms. Used to be picking the crops was all the exercise you needed.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 31, 2006 5:40 AM

You are so fortunate to live in SoCal. I chose to move from San Diego to the rust belt for family reasons and regret my decision daily as I try to find food that tastes like anything but sawdust. Or worse. Organic food in the winter is shriveled and tastes like it looks. Farmers' Markets in the summer are a joke: overpriced and chemically laden. I gave up asking for restaurant recommendations, because the recommendations tend to be something on the order of "you get so much for the price." I wouldn't eat it even if it were free! I manage to keep the weight down in the summer by bicycling in the only good thing they have here - the MetroParks. I don't really care what I look like at my age, but I do want to be healthy. Fat is not healthy.

The people my age (or even 30 years younger)here are under "my doctor's care" for diabetes, heart problems, high cholesterol, joint pain, etc. If I mention that losing that last 10 (or 50 or 70) pounds would really do a lot to help with those problems, I'm told how hard it is to do that with their health problems. I tell them it only takes 15 minutes a day and walk away. I'm not popular. I know this is a long rant, but you can delete it, if you'd like. I feel sooooo much better. Off for a walk in the rain now.

Posted by: Mimi at October 31, 2006 7:16 AM

I saw that article (I'll read anything by Gina Kolata), and it struck me that we so often think of obesity, as we do many other problems, in simplistic black and white terms. We medicalize, or we criminalize. We feel pity, or we condemn. (If you're me, you oscillate between these extremes.) After a while, I start wondering whether we're driven more by an appetite for soapboxing than for understanding. Isn't EVERYTHING contributing to global warming, in one way or another? I really doubt we'll ever be able to shame fatties into changing their habits by accusing them of destroying the environment. Feelings of shame usually make me to want to hide myself in a box of Ring Dings or a bag of Nacho-flavored Doritos.

Posted by: Lena at October 31, 2006 7:29 AM

That's why I suggested what I did at the very bottom of the post. The shame thing is very unproductive. Simply forgiving yourself when you fuck up allows you not to feel like crap - and maybe you can accomplish something.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 31, 2006 8:27 AM

By the way, I'd love if they'd price airline tickets by passenger weight, same as they make you pay extra if you bring over-limit luggage.

And they could do it very easily: just create "special wide seating sections." Rip out one row of six seats, put in five wider seats that take up the same space, and charge a premium to sit in them.

As an overweight person myself, I would gladly pay extra to avoid the horrible discomfort and embarassment of trying to sit in narrow airplane seats. I'm sure others would, too.

Posted by: Gary S. at October 31, 2006 12:00 PM

Retired from Civil Engineering two years ago. Went to work with Home Depot a year later. Work in Tile and Flooring department for $11 an hour. I'd pay them to work there. Meet great people and work my ass off lifting and walking. No gym can beat that and they pay me.

Posted by: bill at October 31, 2006 7:18 PM

I think they should do it, Gary -- it's necessary now. I once sat next to a guy (luckily on a short plane ride) who was so large there's no way he could've fit in the seat without me next to him (ie, if there was somebody bigger). I hate it when people take up my tiny space in economy with their arms and newspapers -- it's worse when your hip is pressed into the side of the plane because the person next to you is taking over a quarter of the chair of your seat.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 31, 2006 11:34 PM

Yes, and Gary is to be admired for copping to it

Posted by: Crid at October 31, 2006 11:47 PM

Absolutely, Crid. There's a Spanish proverb: Take what you need, but pay for it.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 1, 2006 1:10 AM

We’ve all sat in our cramped economy world hoping and praying that the blob coming down the aisle doesn’t have the ticket that almost matches yours. I also dread sitting next to screaming kids, tourist with name tags, and those with either too much perfume or not enough deodorant. It’s a jungle out there.

Posted by: Roger at November 1, 2006 9:48 AM

I NEVER wear perfume or scented crap before getting on airplane. And because I travel with my dog, and always intended to, that's why I have a Yorkie. They have hair, not fur, so they don't provoke allergic reactions. Bichons and Chihuahuas are other breeds that are similar, allergenically, at least.

What gets me is how I worry about everybody else's peace, quiet and sanity...but how come so few people are concerned about mine?

And yes, it is "a public place" -- if you're going to use it as a public address system, shall I squat in front of your table and use it as a public bathroom? I mean, just as there are no "no cell phones" signs, there are no "no urinating in the middle of the floor" signs either.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 1, 2006 9:56 AM

I had a very uncomfortable flight from Toronto to Phoenix a few years ago, where I was seated next to a very large woman. I am 5'10" and weigh 134, so I take up about 3/4 of my seat. She took up her whole seat and half of mine, and didn't seem to notice it. There were no empty seats otherwise I would have moved.

If it were to happen again, I would definitely say something to the stewardess, and follow up after the flight with the airlines, asking for a partial refund, as I did not get the full use of the seat that I paid for. The airlines are responsible for this, and they have to do something about it.

I don't buy the victim mentality either. There is such a thing as self-discipline. If you don't have it, take up some kind of martial arts, where mental self-discipline is included with the physical training. You'll feel better about yourself and confident enough to forgive yourself if you do slip up on the road to weight loss.

Posted by: Chris at November 1, 2006 10:48 AM

"Bad food is just too cheap and easy, and good food (that's both vegetarian and fulfilling) is too expensive and troublesome."

True and not true. Im a very poor college student (as most of us college students can be) and I find that cooking good food for myself saves gobs of money. Those fruit roll ups and hot pockets and other nasty non filling thigns cost a great deal of money, and they feed individually for one meal. I bought a big bag of rice of about 20 pounds, I fix up about a half cup every night, and I might be done with 1/4 of the bag. A 12 oz box of spaghetti lasts a week and goes for about a buck. Potatoes are cheap as well. Need snacks? apples, bannanas are real cheap. And all of this filling. If I can, I buy meat, usually chicken. But not often. This food barely costs me, to eat three course meals a day, about 100 bucks a moth. Obviously I didnt cover every food I eat but I will admit to having little vareity. can't bve picky though.

I think the problem lies in people not wanting to cook for themselves. I mean, I didn't used to because I was a kid, but being on the verge of adulthood and actually having to do things myself, I learned that not too many of my peers were all that willing to cook. My roommates are a product of that Fruit roll up commercial mentality. they spend tons of money buying packaged food that must be stuck in the microwave to heatup, or granola bars and fruit pebbeles and pop tarts- the whole fucking nine yards. Recently, I bought bacon because I had the money, and being a kind prrson shared with my roommates. However, when my roommate went to cook it, at the age of 19, he asked me HOW. I was astonished. He couldn't even follow my directions either. Fucking throw it in the pan and let it cook in its own juices until it looks done, its bacon. He wasn't sure how to open the package itself, either. He's a smart kid, too, he doesn't lack normal intelligence. He just eats everythign out of a box. I know of few people who cook for themselves around here on my campus; In fact, I don't remember too many mothers who cooked either, back home. There was just tons of sodas and frozen pizzas to loot. My generation will suffer later in life; we can get away with it, my guy friends and I,at 19. My metabolism is faster than the speed of light, and no matter what I eat and how much, I stay the same weight, unless I wanted to try somethign extreme, like fasting myself or whatever.

In closing my long post, I think we need to blame laziness here. I understand some people have genetic problems and happen to have a very hard time losing weight, and they have my exception, but if you don't have a desire to do anything physically, or would rather just eat a microwave dinner instead of cooking a pot of pasta, or maybe hit the taco bell near you, expect to be fat.

Posted by: Scott at November 1, 2006 4:21 PM

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