Swans Commentary » swans.com October 5, 2009  



We Are A Fat Country!
Obesity-related Medicare Expenses are Emaciating us Financially


by Raju Peddada





"Thou seest I have more flesh than another man, and therefore more frailty."
—William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
"There is no need to worry about mere size. We do not necessarily respect a fat man more than a thin man. Sir Isaac Newton was much smaller than a Hippopotamus, but we do not on that account value him less."
—Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)


(Swans - October 5, 2009)   I want to begin this essay by tendering my earnest apologies at the outset to all you obese folks who suffer this malady congenitally or due to a pre-existing medical condition, and that is invariably beyond your control. This writing is the on those corpulent folks with little or no self regulation or discipline, who have voluntarily burdened the rest of us with their medical problems that will run into around $150 billion per year, from here on out. Sixty-five point two percent of the US population is fat according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is an unpleasant subject, and looking at fat, undisciplined, gluttonous people is even more unpleasant, so I am going to be brutally candid and politically incorrect in addressing this national epidemic.

What can I get you today?

Well, I'll have a big-stack double-cheese burger with extra large fries and coke.

Will that be all?

Hmm...remove the tomato, lettuce and onions...add extra cheese.

That'll be $8.98...please pull up to the next window, and thank you for the order.

This sedentary American, like thousands, never even stepped out of his car for the order. This is exactly why over 60% of us are the way we are, obese -- actually I take that back, why couch this with polite lexicon? These are sick fat fucks! If we are what we eat, then we sure have become pigs. It reminds me of a scene where parents of a young girl turn into insatiable pigs in mysterious place that "refurbishes" spirits -- from the animated masterpiece by Hayao Miyazaki Spirited Away. I wish I could think like Oliver Stone and concoct a conspiracy theory on the fatty collusion of the USDA, fast food industry, and the medical establishment to doom us into this physical impotency. But, I don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to be planted with this idea; this could be a fantastic reality already.

Folks, I hate to be graphic, but please give me a chance here to speak my mind. I was sitting in the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg last week, waiting for my wife and kids to be done with their shopping. As I glanced around, I saw seven out of ten people in my seventy millimeter view to be fat. Then as I panned around taking in the scene, I saw the fattest ones sitting and enjoying these things: Hot Cinnamon Rolls (I could smell those from a distance of 20 feet), many had cheese pretzels with sodas, and some with butter scones and Frappucinos topped with whipped cream, and most with some sort of candy.

As I was contemplating this view, I was inadvertently pulled into the nasty reality of being fat. Abruptly my view was eclipsed by a very fat billowing body passing three feet from me. Parts of the body moved independently of this person's control. As this abomination walked by, I was enveloped in a strange foul smell that I could not decode. My forward-leaning body jerked back reflexively from this invasion. I kept trying to analyze what it was that produced this strange smell. It was familiar, but was interpolated with other odors. Then it dawned on me. I smelled stale sweat, feces, and perfume; a whiff of this surreal alchemy was beyond repugnant. I started to have a visual-graphic attack, and they usually come when my personal space is violated by odors and visual incongruity.

The tale of "the lost turd" would be an interesting listen. We are not apes with long arms anymore that can reach every part of our body. My four-year-old son had a difficult time reaching down to wipe himself in toilet training. I am sitting there with vivid thoughts about how these people with all that is packed and hanging on their rear ends are able to reach down and clean themselves. And they are not just cleaning a small area. With all the jiggling folds in the buttocks rubbing and flanking each other around the anus for inches on down, the struggling feces never reach their destination. It is all spread like paste on the inside cheeks, which becomes a large area to wipe. If not wiped thoroughly, it dries up eventually and flakes off while they walk in the malls. I was awakened from my graphic reverie when my boys jumped on me. Then suddenly, aha! I have an idea -- here is a need that could be filled with a product invention! An extendable-retractable wipe brush with high wicking wipes for fat bodies that can do the job for $19.99 + tax with free shipping! Make millions off the replaceable wicking wipes!

You are drunk Sir Winston, you are disgustingly drunk.

Yes, Mrs. Braddock, I am drunk. But you, Mrs. Braddock are ugly, and disgustingly fat. But, tomorrow morning, I, Winston Churchill will be sober.
—Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

Is Fat a fad? It reminded me of a maxim from not long ago: "If you've got it, flaunt it." It was meant for showing off buffed-up bodies or whatever toys you possessed, but today, perversely and reversely, it the fat folks who flaunt it all over the place, cruising through box stores on their free electric scooters from Medicare, expecting special treatment. It was the cigarettes we dreaded before. I think the cigarette damage is cumulative over the years and less destructive than say fat consumption. You can go from 180 lbs to 400 lbs in no time with "good eatin'." This is a larger national problem than drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, or firearms put together.

While most of Europe and the world are battling terrorist cells within their national boundaries, we are battling other kinds of cells that are destroying us from within -- the fat cells. Fat cells form in the developing fetus during the third trimester of pregnancy, and later at the onset of puberty, when the sex hormones explode. During puberty is when the fat distribution between men and women begins to take shape. The confounding truth is that the count of fat cells remains the same after puberty, but each cell simply become bigger. Also the body might produce additional fat cells as the adult gains significant weight. With added fat come associated problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, and a multitude of respiratory problems. What does this translate to? Forty percent more on prescription costs, 30 percent more on inpatient care, and 30 percent added on everything else like constant monitoring and doctor visits. All this on the account of not having the personal discipline over the kind of food and the portions consumed.

Dr. Eric Finkelstein coauthored a federally-funded study in which they established that while fat people are about 33% of the population, in terms of medical expenses they are far above than the 33%. Medicare spending is $1,429 more per overweight person than that for those with a healthy weight -- a 42% difference -- with the majority of this outlay spent on addressing complications like diabetes, hypertension, and cholesterol. Obesity negatively affects every part of the human anatomy.

When gross, sensational-looking fat people abound, network television and its creative minions are not far from this proverbial "behind" with programs. The TLC channel regularly features fat people and their laughable condition (I say laughable because it is self wrought) with programs like Half Ton Teen and Half Ton Woman and Man. Even NBC has taken the plunge. A Mr. Manuel Uribe is the heaviest man in the world with a dubious mention in the Guinness Book of World Records. They claim that he had reached 1,257 lbs and now sports an emaciated 570 lbs. If this is not funny, it is deadly serious with our expenses expanding.

I think a ship laden with heavy people will eventually flounder and capsize, and despite all denials, we are floundering on the shoals of a health care collapse. Prescient ideas have come forth and some have even been enacted to discipline and penalize such gluttony. The idea floating around is the "Fat Tax," an essay by Mr. David Leonhardt for The New York Times magazine, which may force these folks to ante up more for medical insurance. For the most part obesity is not congenital; it is a result of horrifying voracity induced by indolence, ignorance and illiteracy. Attributing low-self-esteem as the criterion for gourmandizing is a copout. If we accept this theory that over 62% of the US population has low self-esteem, the reality or probability of this is pure processed "baloney."

American homes feature the best kitchens in the world, but most of them are rarely used, and are for comparison with the Joneses next door. Other than some salads tossed, I have rarely seen real cooking. The kitchens looked cold and unused. Even the Food Network has recalibrated its program lineup around fast eats thrown together with professional equipment and cooking tournaments for the weary. In these competitions it all about speed of crafting the recipes artfully; in reality nobody cooks like that. For me, cooking had been a therapeutic process, and I remember seeing my grandmother struggling by the smoky wood stoves without proper kitchen ventilation or aeration engaged in real gourmet cooking for 7-12 people on a daily basis for almost all her life, from the age of fifteen. Today, that kind of activity is a fantasy with all that narcissism and selfishness.

Here is something real appetizing for you fat, fast-food gourmands, served up by Sarah Krupp and Devine Caroline in their article The Not So Happy Meal: What's really in Fast Food?

Cow manure is ground into meat for the labs to create "smoky" grilled taste.

At a Long John Silver, an employee stirred a bucket of cole slaw with his whole arm immersed so deep that his armpit hair mingled with the shredded cabbage.

TV News cameras filmed dozens of rats scurrying around a Taco Bell/KFC in NY City.

Former fast food workers say that it's common to blend cockroaches and other bugs into dairy deserts. Bon appetit!

Inspectors found dead rodents decomposing in a rat trap at a Wendy's in Texas.

A patron, taking a bite into a taco at a Chicago Taco Bell, bit into chewing gum.

Despite these abominations, Americans continue their voracity for fast food, the obvious reason being that salt, starches, fat, and sugars appeal to our twisted palates.

Ms. Krupp and Ms. Caroline also offered these frightening facts: Engineered flavors use hundreds of chemicals to make up one flavor such as the popular strawberry. Sadly, the Food and Drug Administration doesn't require these fast food giants to list the ingredients in additives, as long as they are generally regarded as "safe" and pose no short term threat. You folks remember the documentary Super Size Me by Morgan Spurlock where he puts McDonald's burgers and fries in separate glass containers along with burgers and fries from a mom-and-pop store? While after two weeks the burgers and fries from the mom-and-pop store are covered in mold as expected, the Big Mac and fries looked fresh. That is a visual oxymoron for you fat, medium, and skinny consumers out there. Microbe threats are not taken seriously at all. The FDA, in a 1996 study, found that almost 80% of ground meat has microbes and pathogens that proliferate through fecal matter, which means that you are literally "eating shit." The fat folks are eating more of this "tasty" shit. The FDA also permits horse, poultry, and pig remains along with cow blood in cattle feed. Fresh food decomposes rapidly, while fast food stays "fresh" indefinitely. Which is safer for your stomach? Have you ever been to a slaughterhouse? I suggest you read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, a 1906 blockbuster on the Chicago stock yards and the meat processing industry.

When are we going to get wise? Where is the money to battle the "cells" on one front, let alone two fronts? Like everyone else, do they have a powerful lobby to protect their voracious interests? We must stop coddling the fat and get tough; it is more than health, it is about our national attitude. Pictures of fat Americans proliferate all over the web media making us not only the laughing stock of the world, but also giving ideas to the malignant forces out there against us. I think there should be a national mandate to discipline or motivate in a punitive manner that forces these fat folks to take note and alter their eating habits. The fast food industry, like any business, is not forcing anybody to consume its products. They sell what can be reconstituted as food in the most cost-effective manner to make a profit. Ms. Sarah Irani's 15 Horrifying Reasons to Never Let Anyone You Love Near a McDonald's is revelatory reading, and can be accessed at alternet.org. In a free society it is up to the individual to discern what is good and bad for the body, and this discernment is practically non-existing with certain segments of the population, forcing us to taking charge. Another filling read is Brad Reed's The fast food industry's 7 most heinous concoctions, also at alternet.org.

I guess I don't so much mind being old, as I mind being fat and old.
—Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

In this ugly equation, we are beyond the need for positive motivation, and have to rely invariably on punitive motivation to effect changes. Unfortunately, we have to become discriminatory to force these indiscriminate eaters to literally shape up. (1) Levy a "health tax" of at least 50% on all fast food sold. Medicare has to recover $150 billion to care for these fat bodies; the best way to recover these expenses is to force the "hooked" to pay for their own care if they continue eating bucket loads of feces, sold as fast food; (2) Medicare should charge for the electric scooters prescribed to its recipients; (3) At the checkout counters at big stores, institute a separate line for fat people; (4) All transportation organizations should charge double for the tickets, which I think is only fair; (5) Seat all fat people separately in theatres; (6) Uninformed parents must be made to attend seminars on foods for children and restrict the portions they consume. If they do not attend, penalize them; (7) It is the portions that have rendered these people porcine, and the fast food industry is not interested in putting you on a diet, they are solely interested in increasing your size so you need those fat fixes more frequently. (8) Punitive motivation must invariably include 4-5 days a week of exercise if these people are to get free health care, a mandatory condition to access Medicare or even tax rebates. I would be interested to know how many of these porkers are on unemployment lines or collect disability.

We are getting to a point where "legislating portions" on the fast food industry is becoming rational from ridiculous. When we are legislating fuel economy for cars, why not "portions economy" on the fast food industry? Cigarette and alcohol consumption is also being legislated to some extent with the DUIs and restricted sale to underage personage. While this is fine and sane, I think we spend more for emergency care and Medicare on fat folks who have been consuming reconstituted fast foods since they started eating solid food, thanks to their parents, peers, and the convenience of it. This obesity conundrum will consume more of our atrophied resources, in fact, more than all the other vices and maladies put together. I can manifestly prognosticate that this issue will become infinitely more draining, not only on our national psyche but our pocketbooks. To make matters worse, we all will hear condescending cackling and sarcastic snickering around the world on the apparent "explosion" of the American pride, our "consumers."


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About the Author

Raju Peddada is an industrial designer running an eponymous brand, purveyor of ultra luxury furnishings of his own design (see peddada.com). He is also a freelance correspondent/writer for several publications, specializing in commentary, essay, and opinions on architecture, design, photography, books, fashion, society, and culture. Peddada was born in Tallapudi, a small southern town in south India. He's lived in New Delhi and Bombay before migrating to the West Indies and eventually settling in Chicago, Illinois, where he worked in corporate America until he chose to set up his own designing firm. He lives with his family in Des Plaines.



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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art15/rajup21.html
Published October 5, 2009