Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Getting skinnier as we get fatter

The mighty meatwichI was just minding my own damn business last night when reader, Kevin, was kind enough to forward a bunch of pictures of some artery-blasting food "creations" that apparently have cropped up in the American food space. Since I'm mostly vegetarian, I really can't comprehend eating any of these items. Even when I do eat meat, it's generally grilled fish and light cuts of meat. I can't stand anything remotely resembling gristle or fat - I get the gags. Well, not really, but I've been greasy meat averse my whole life.

So, wonderful items such as these don't do it for me:

  • The Double Bacon Hamburger Fatty Melt: Three bacon-stuffed grilled cheese sandwiches for buns, cheese, bacon and two four-ounce beefs patties
  • The Hamdog: A hot dog wrapped in a beef patty that’s deep fried, covered with chili, cheese, onions, served on a hoagie bun topped with two fistfuls of fries and a fried egg
  • The Bacon Explosion: Two pounds of bacon woven through and around two pounds of sausage and slathered in barbecue sauce

I'm sure there's a market for this stuff out there but why, in god's name, would anyone go out of their way to invent such a thing, let alone eat it? Is there some sort of pride in bragging about ingesting a full 5,000 calories and 100 grams of fat? "Dude! I just shaved 2 years off my life and probably moved up that quadruple bypass by at least 6 months!"

And, while the average American gets more corpulent, the people we look up to (no, not intellectuals or politicians, but celebrities, silly!) get skinnier and skinnier. When someone's head starts getting so disproportionately large in comparison to their body, you know something's wrong. Or, as someone joked (I can't remember who) you know a celebrity has reached success when they are five pounds away from organ failure.

Is it because the average American is bordering on obese that we are so enamored of the skinny? And, as we get morbidly fatter, our "dream girls" get morbidly thinner? Now, I know most guys are not pushing the skinny chick trend and some blame the clothing designers for this trend, but I think there's a hefty amount of blame to be placed on the female consumer. It's the women that buy the women's magazines and products that feature these cachectic bodies.

Too fat or too skinny?In the meantime, model Heidi Klum (at right), has recently been declared as being too "fat" to model on the runway. If she's fat (and, mind you, this woman has had three children), what does that say about the average American woman? Thirty years ago, the average model weighed 10 pounds heavier for the same height as they do today. Speaking in terms of numbers, the average model today weighs 115 pounds and the average American woman weighs 147 pounds. And, that's not even considering the height differences.

American women are 24 pounds heavier compared to a generation ago. Ironically, I don't think many women are the target market for those delightfully meaty products I mentioned above. I don't know what that says for the average male waistline. So, as we get heavier will this trend continue? Something has to give because we're starting to head towards celebrity starvation camp territory already and there's not much wiggle room. What do you think of current trends in fashion/celebrity weight? Do you like the bobble headed look or do you prefer a more curvy figure? Or, do you just ignore it altogether?


Robj98168 said...

While I think real people or women should have curves, I think calling Heidi Klum to fat- well that is just wrong- what messages are we sending to the youth- or rather girls. Being a fat kid, I went through all the teasing and cruelty you can imagine. All it did was make me a meaner adult. But back to the subject of your post- I have to also admit to being interested in the hamdog and the bacon explosion, not interested enough to make either one. Of course, I did try deep fried twinkies. What gets me are deep fried candy bars. Give me health food like elephant ears or funnel cakes. On second thought-Maybe america is fattening up.

knutty knitter said...

I've always thought that skinny just isn't beautiful. I'm not into morbidly obese either.Its all a matter of balance.

Unless I was trying to say something about concentration camps I prefer my models to have curves - its nicer to draw and I get better results. One of the best models we have had was at least a size 16 and tallish but not 6 foot. I've use those sketches over and over whereas the ones with the skinny model have resided at the back of the drawer forever.

viv in nz

Brittany said...

Some of those menu items are completely incomprehensible to me. I haven't touched meat in so long now and the only thing I ever get a hankering for is a tiny bit of salmon nowadays. Someone else I was talking to mentioned that 'chicken fried bacon' is a delicacy in the States too? My arteries are clogging just thinking about it.

Scariest thing though? Australia has passed the US in terms of obesity rates. It's not just North America anymore...

knittinandnoodlin said...

Well, runway modeling is its own beast...I get the logic behind not wanting the model's body to interfere with the lines of the clothing and whatnot. *shrug* There is nothing reality-based about the fashion industry. Heidi Klum is so not too fat for anything, though.

People are just ridiculous. Period. No extreme is good, but average and moderation don't seem to cut it any longer. We've just run out of ways to outdo ourselves. I'm on the smaller side of average, and even I catch myself thinking all of the working out in the gym I do is pointless unless I can get to size 0...until I remember the actual point is being healthy.

So I have this know how we put all of that effort into fattening up the factory livestock for "better quality" meat products? I think aliens have taken control of our food supply and are attempting to do that to us via our food production methods. ;)

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty small, I come from a short and skinny family. Even so, I catch myself lamenting my poochy, two baby stomach. I went to school for pattern making, grading etc. It is definitely easier to have models be all around the same size and slender. However, if you look at the models of the 50's or so and the models today, you see a real difference. Back then, slender counted because of the clothes, now it counts as some sort of merit badge. Celebrities have always tried to one up each other. As for being attractive? Eh, I'm pretty sure most men would like a handful of Betty Grable rather than an anorexic. I do think that it will get worse and I think that is because if celebrities and models continue to be viewed as the beauty ideal, then real people will continue to eat like crap because there is no way in hell they can EVER even approach that standard of beauty, so why even try?

Michelle said...

I am not sure who they are selling that super skinny crap to - my husband always looks at those models and says, "She needs to eat a sandwich."

I think a lot of men feel the same way.

Although, you have to love men! I read once that 84% of men would describe themselves as "above average" and only 8% of women would.

Unhealthy model type standards are not helping our girls.

Greenpa said...

I think the answer is exactly the same as for the question "Why do people smoke?"

And the answer is "Despair."

Smoking is a cry for help. Even the children who start, know it can kill them- and what they're saying is: "I don't care. Nobody gives a damn about me anyway. Why don't you stop me?"

And when no one stops them- they feel justifed in their defiance. Nobody cares about me enough. What the hell.

Insane food is in the same category- it's literally; insane.

If you've got a loved one who does this; give it a try. Get a 2x4, and threaten to hit them "upside the head" with it. "I will NOT stand here and watch you kill yourself, you selfish bastard. Do you hear me? You MATTER." And be angry.

That said; addictions are hell to break. There's every chance it won't work. But particularly with the young- hey, it might.

Greenpa said...

Michelle: " I read once that 84% of men would describe themselves as "above average" and only 8% of women would."

Yike! That was a startler for me- do you have a reference?

Scary crazy numbers, if real.

FernWise said...

If the fashion industry made clothes for real women, they'd want models that had the bodies of real women.

I'm thinking that part of the attraction of high-fat meals is that fat helps carry flavor, and most of our modern factory food is flavor-deficient. We grow animals for meat bigger, emphasizing quantity over flavor quality. Same with fruit, veggies. It's one of the reasons I like Australian lamb - they are from animals that produce wool, they've not been bred to give lots of flavorless meat. A small amount of wool-lamb flavors a huge pot of scotch broth, where a whole lot of American 'meat' lamb brings no flavor.

Our fiber-free textureless food also slides down without chewing, so we don't even get that feedback.

American food is not satisfying. Thus, Americans eat until we burst, in search of satisfication.

Anna in Atlanta said...

>> American food is not satisfying. Thus, Americans eat until we burst, in search of satisfication.

Wow, Fernwise, that's an idea I'm going to chew on :-) It has a lot of applications (eating whole bags of chips, drinking, shopping, doing whatever it is for emotional solace, that backfires in the long run) but I've never thought of it in terms of actual food quality. Great point.

Rosa said...

You know, linking our own aesthetic preferences to judgements about people's health is really shady.

It's intensely misogynistic to frame what was maybe trying to be an analysis of American food systems & the food industry into just a "i don't want to look at skinny people or fat people" discussion, and center that discussion thoroughly on women.

I bet the people who design, market & profit off the food you're so disdainful of are male, and average a lot thinner than the people who work in their businesses - having leisure time & good health care means they get to have more ideal bodies. How 'bout aiming some of this at them, instead of the fatness of America?

Farmer's Daughter said...

I've always been curvy, perhaps that's why I like the curvy look better???

Seriously, I know I'm heavier than I should be for health reasons, and that's something I'll have to deal with my whole life. But the whole skeleton look really grosses me out and makes me worry about people. I just want to give them a slice of my butternut squash pie and tell them it'll be okay.

Jen BK said...

I ignore it all together....but maybe that is because I am thin and weight has never been an issue...of course my moniker "Ragamuffin" could say it all...I simply don't care what it fashionable or trendy.

Sarah said...

I think people should eat a healthy, balanced diet and live an active lifestyle and not worry about their size or shape. The human body comes in all sorts of healthy shapes and sizes. If your lifestyle is healthy you will feel good and your body will find its healthy weight naturally. And healthy weight is not the same as fashionable weight...

Anonymous said...

For thousands of years, famine was normal. The idea of having so much food that one could get 100 pounds or more overweight was so out of the realm of possibility, due to the cycles of famine, that it became a standard (especially for women, who need a certain amount of fat to be fertile) to achieve to. If you look at goddess art from ancient times, and even recently in Africa, the obese is the standard of beauty -- it's hard to be obese when you can't get enough to eat on a regular basis.

As food became more 'normal' to have, and food became more and more divorced from its source, being thin became the standard. It's hard to be skinny in a world of plenty and you overeat on a regular basis.

Human nature being what it is, we idolize and mythologize what we cannot achieve. Or what is extremely difficult to achieve and maintain.

Kristijoy said...

just curious if you got those crazy foods from this site:
i swear people make some of this sh*t up to post it there, gross.
in my own experience I have never run across one of these wonder meals of calorificness. Maybe it's just not a west coast thing, or maybe i don't go to enough county fairs who knows.

Funny, I lost a lot of weight switching to a natural foods from scratch diet and ditching my car for a bike. amazing!
The American diet is the only one that'll kill ya.

Models on the other hand, that a whole 'nother bag. I think, imho, it has to do with wealth status and elitism. Similiar to what thetinfoilhatsociety brought up.
Culturaly, that which is hard to obtain and uses a lot of resources is prized.
Once, being fat meant you were wealthy. Being tan meant you were a peasant and had to work out doors for a a days in our culture, being fat is easy, in fact the poor are disproportinalty overweight due to lack of access to good food and it's affordability. Being thin(for (thin thin thin..for those who aren't naturally a size 2 or smaller) takes resources, money, a special diet, a personal trainer etc.

And don't let those designers fool you, you have the money, couture is yours no matter the size since they make it for you, it's not ready to wear. though there is a fat bias in the industry. part of it is just that, a bias, and part is in how they design and make the clothes, the women are coathangers.

And then the other topic nestled in this on how this all disproportionally affects women? well. sadly it seems to go without saying that's almost always the case. Damn the patriarchy.

Debbie said...

I eat mostly vegan and even the smell of fast food grease makes me cringe. And what mixed messages we send - eat a day's worth of artery-clogging calories in one meal but look like a stick.

Um, isn't Heidi Klum four months pregnant?

Anonymous said...

I will admit I like bacon. Although I don't buy it and eat it only rarely.

As for the models, I just try to avoid it. We don't have a TV, and I dislike the whole commercial and marketing machine. Not so much because of the models themselves, but because of the consumerist message that promotes buying lots and lots of stuff. Not healthy, no matter who the spokesperson is.

Amy in Tacoma said...

I was one of those women who, in my teens and 20's, could eat anything she wanted and never gain an ounce. Then I hit my 30's, my metabolism slowed, and I had a kid. I now weigh about 30 pounds more than I did in my 20's. But you know what? I like my body so much better now than I did then. I like having curves. I want to eat right and exercise so my body can be healthy and strong, not so I can be skinny again.

I agree with you about those food items you described. Ugh! They sound totally disgusting.

Hanley Tucks said...

Who's Kevin? I'm Kyle, and I'm to blame for forwarding the inspiring meals! :)

As to weight, there are two things: health, and appearance.

For health, there's a very wide range in which you can be healthy. I remember an episode of a really crappy cop show, Martial Law, in which an American martial arts instructor poked at Sammo Hung's belly and said, "man, you're unfit."
"Not unfit, just fat."

It's possible to be fit and healthy while being quite chunky, and possible to be unfit and sick all the time while skinny. It's important to be physically active and eat a wide range of foods, not just meat and sugar. The size of your bum or belly doesn't directly affect your health.

Obviously you're going to have a hard time doing any physical activity if you're over 300lbs or under 100lbs, but that still leaves a pretty wide range in which you can go out for a walk, do a few pushups and situps, chuck a ball around with your kids or a stick with your dog, and all through it not get diaorrhea every day from your high-fat diet, and not get colds and flu several times a year.

For appearance, we have to distinguish between men and women. In most cases, women have a wider range of attractive sizes, because if a woman gets fat, she at least stays a womanly shape, the classic hourglass, like an 8. But when a man gets fat, he goes from being a V fronton, to a b side-on. He doesn't look like a man, but a potato with legs.

So for looks, it's more important for men to stay lean than women.

Just put it this way: there is Big Beautiful Women pornography for men, there is no Big Beautiful Man pornography for women.

That said, beauty is about the whole package.

The face is the most important because that's what you look at the most, and that's what'll change the least over the years.

But it's no single thing like the bum or boobs or arms or whatever that makes beauty, it's how they all fit together, combined with how the person dresses, their smile, and so on.

That's why for example Queen Latifah is a beautiful woman, but Roseanne Barr is a pog. Their sizes might be about the same, but one dresses nicely and puts out warmth, dignity and strength, and the other doesn't. That's why even when they're not buffed up for a movie role Hugh Jackman or Eric Bana are still hunks, they're quite plainly strong, decent and loyal men; but Mike Tyson's buffness is not quite so interesting. It's the whole package.

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen) said...

I have been thinking about this issue for some time and will have post up next week called "I'd rather be chubby". When i was sick with Crohn's Disease, I got skinny. Really skinny and people kept telling me how great I looked. Was so creepy. I thought I looked like a bobble head. I would so much rather be chubby and healthy!

Renee said...

Sometimes I forget just how disgusting food can be...

What's up with all the personal comments on how others look/should look? BIG double standard there folks. Everyone is different, ok?
I am one of those freakish people who was born long and lean. I was also fed healthy, whole foods from day one, so I never had an extra ounce of fat on me until after I had kids.
All my life, strangers have been telling me to eat something, or that I'm lucky to be so skinny... I eat well and am very active, not lucky. I was never starved looking, and what if I had been? My beeswax.

Shamba said...

Listen, I'm a meat eater but I don't eat it every day (2-3 times a week) and I eat the 3-4 oz serving not the 10 or 12 or 25 oz (!) servings these huge sandwiches/burgers seem to have on them.

I saw on TV a couple of weeks ago for some fast food place, (Arbys, Carl's Junionr, McD's or Jack's place) about some new burger with like 4 patties of meat and at least that many cheese slices on it. It was bigger than any burger I'd seen in real life or advertised anywhere.

Peak Fat Food!

cheers, Shamba

what is this about

healinggreen said...

I try to ignore it. I have the following belief: the happier you are while you are eating, the less the calories get stored on your body. This stems from decades of eating seven course of high fat foods and drinking vats of wine whenever I visit my family in France and somehow returning thinner every time.

My mother also likes to tell me often how she was at least 10 pounds lighter than me at my age. At 35 she biked 10 miles to work every day, did yoga and calestenics in the morning and ate a macrobiotic diet. And, of course, there were those little yellow and red diet capsules that I likes to open and look at. I don't diet at all, and my "only" exercise is excessive yard work and toddler care... I was always blessed with a very high metabolism, so I do get away with eating whatever I want (cheese, lots and lots of cheese), but I could definitely lose 10 or 15 pounds for bathing suit season.. I wish I could get rid of my little love handles, but even at my thinnest at 18 they were ever present (and that was back when I actually did exercise, and went dancing several times a week). I weighed 125, 5'8", and had no boobs or hips, but there they were. Ah well. Now you can tag on another 25 pounds, and some hips and boobs! LOL. The boobs do balance things out a bit :)

Allie said...

Outside of those w/ blatant eating disorders (obesity or thinness, in addition to body builders, who actually gross me out more than anyone else), I don't really notice.

Am I correct in assuming you were looking at

Rev. Peter Doodes said...

What a strange contradiction. One moment a food promotion that will guarantee obesity and the next a slim female model that is considered as too fat...

Fickle lot, the general public.

The Cooking Lady said...

You ever take a look at the size of the poeple who attempt to put those sadnwiches down. Usually they ain't on the runway.

Martin at Plasticless said...

Wow, some long comments here. I was just planning to quote a couple of lines from Baby Got BackThe fashion industry can take a flying leap for all I care.

Green Fundraising Ideas said...

The average model doesn't eat either. There is no doubt that the perception of what is "ideal" as printed in fashion ads or shown in the mainstream media is damaging to all women's self-images, but especially scary for young girls.

I say, love yourself. Create your own image whether it includes meat or not. I have some convictions against eating some types of farm raised meat, but nothing cut and dry. I eat organic, cage-free, etc. I grew up in the midwest where meat was served with every meal. I really don't enjoy meat, but eat it for the protein as much as I can choke down or remember to eat!

I do like turkey bacon though- great on a blt.

Rosa said...

The Cooking Lady - so what? Who cares?

Seriously, what is it to you? Would the food be more or less healthy if only thin people ate it? Would the fat people get your approval if they only ate berries and greens?

I really don't get where this vitriol for fat people comes from.

Hanley Tucks said...

Rosa, fat people, whose size comes from an excess of consumption, remind us uncomfortably of our own excessive consumption in other areas.

Burger-muncher on foot, carrot-muncher in an SUV, much the same thing in environmental terms.

We don't want to be reminded of our own greed and wastefulness. Thus the vitriol.

It's the same reason everyone goes on about Al Gore's over-sized house and ridiculous amount of plane travel. If we focus on that rather than on what he's actually saying, then we have an excuse to keep on living the wasteful and greedy lives we live.

Change is hard. Bitching and moaning is much easier :)

Lilith said...

My ideal is athletic people. Those you see in health, with muscles and a thin layer of grease for the bad days ;o) People who move enough and eat healthy enough. Rosy cheeked and everything. That's sexy.
About fat or skinny people, I always imagine them with some more/less flesh : "if only he/she..., he/she would be beautiful". And I think that of me too. That's sometimes a hard thought about people and myself, but...

Anonymous said...

Please see the film: WALL-E. It deals with diet, and excessive weight and exercise. Brilliant movie.

This message of the film, has been largely ignored, and has been one of the reasons it has not had more of a following. It is a story essentially about being modernly lazy, and by changing our diet from synthetics soft drinks to real plant food is our survival.

The CDC has labeled our weight issues as an immense problem. Sure I love some beef, but I also bring in a lot of vege burgers.

One more thing, I worked as a male model, and I despised the industry for the image head trips... but most models will not say a word, when being paid $250 per hour... and that was twenty years ago...

Sweetproserpina said...

As many have already commented, some people are meant to be skinnier and others are meant to be curvier, but as long as you are healthy according to your body type everything's a-okay. Purposeful extremes either way are decidedly unhealthy and shouldn't be encouraged.

I think it's important to point out though, that telling a skinny person to 'eat a sandwich, or put some meat on those bones' can be just as hurtful as telling a larger person to 'stop eating that hamburger, or lose that fat tummy'. Why do we feel the need to comment on another person's body weight?

Some people are just skinny, they aren't anorexic or on a diet. I'm just genetically smaller and can't eat any more than I do. I'm healthy and a real person, but with a bit less insulation than most :)

the_young_dude said...

I would not say that guys have nothing to do with it.. I heard a friend of mine recently saying that Kate Winslet was "fat", and even called her a cow, if I remember correctly... The skinny trend concerns them too..

Going Green Mama said...

I'm someone who's always battled my weight. That being said, I've done 4 half-marathons, kayaked in both oceans, enjoy hiking and try to appreciate the outside world.
Would I like to not wear the size I am? Absolutely. Do I want to be active enough to enjoy my children? Absolutely.

My husband and I went to dinner at a bbq restaraunt for our anniversary (not overly romantic, true, but as a one-income family we appreciated the gift card) and noted that there was not one customer of an adult age who didn't have a weight problem.

I think the best advice I was ever told by dieticians was: Everything in moderation. So yes, we enjoyed our dinner, probably a little too much that night, but it also made for a nice comfort lunch in the office as well.

Oh and I'm sure if Heidi did model, they'd Photoshop some imagined fat off her anyway! :-)

Lee said...

Heidi Klum is definitely NOT fat. But the average western woman sure is podgy.

The reality check for me was looking through my parent's old wedding photos, and some old movies of a choir organisation I belong to.

The increase in average body size of ordinary people - not "celebrities" - between the 1960s and now is very obvious.

Average people in old photos and movies look positively skinny by today's terms. We've got so used to fat being normal that we've lost track of what a real healthy weight actually is.

I'm not meaning to be critical of women OR men - we're all much the same. In fact, I think men are slightly fatter on average, if you look at overweight statistics.

But the trend towards increased wobblies is dangerous. We already have a situation the majority of people in the grandparent generation are dying prematurely from diet-related disease.

The biggest killers by far in our societies are heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. All of which are related to overweight, high intake of animal fats, lack of exercise, and poor nutrition generally.

If this is the case currently, and these are the people who were so lean for most of their lives in those photos from the 60s and 70s, what are the stats going to look like when our current generation of adults reach grandparenthood? Will we even make it to that age?

And what of our kids? So many kids are obese today that it scares me.

What we think aesthetically is one thing. But I don't want to be a statistic, and I don't want my friends or family to be statistics either.

We need a big dose of reality, a good slap on the face, and to wake up and start eating healthy foods. All of us.

As for normal, when normal is dying prematurely from cancer or heart disease, you can count me OUT! I don't want to be in the normal range for any of that!

Food for thought, absolutely.