With all the good things I've heard about WALL-E I was surprised by the headline, (which was of course the point) and as obesity and the environment are two things which really interest me, I dove right into the article even though I haven't seen the movie.
The logic of the article really baffles me. The author, Daniel Engber, who is usually pretty lucid, gets into his argument like this.
"Wall-E is an innovative and visually stunning film, but the "satire" it draws is simple-minded. It plays off the easy analogy between obesity and ecological catastrophe, pushing the notion that Western culture has sickened both our bodies and our planet with the same disease of affluence. According to this lazy logic, a fat body stands in for a distended culture: We gain weight and the Earth suffers. If only society could get off its big, fat ass and go on a diet!"
How is it lazy logic to see that overzealous consumerism is the cause of both the obesity rate and our current ecological situation? And his facetious sentence, "If only society could get off its big, fat ass and go on a diet!" makes perfect sense to me. A diet from fatty useless food, from fossil fuels, from overworking just to make more money to buy more crap, I'd say a diet is just what the West needs. Engber goes on:
"But the metaphor only works if you believe familiar myths about the overweight: They're weak-willed, indolent, and stupid. Sure enough, that's how Pixar depicts the future of humanity. The people in Wall-E drink "cupcakes-in-a-cup," they never exercise, and if they happen to fall off their hovering chairs, they thrash around like babies until a robot helps them up. They watch TV all day long and can barely read.
It ought to go without saying that this stereotype of the "obese lifestyle" is simply false. How fat you are has a lot more to do with your genes than with your behavior. As much as 80 percent of the variation in human body weight can be explained by differences in our DNA. (Your height is similarly heritable.) That is to say, it may not matter that much whether you eat salads or drink "cupcakes-in-a-cup," whether you bike everywhere or fly around in a Barcalounger. If you have a propensity to become obese, there's only so much that can be done about it."
This really confused me. DNA is part of the picture, but it's not the main part. There is a difference between eating salad (why is it always salad? The fittest people I know never eat salads, they eat vegetables) and eating a cupcake. There is a difference between biking everywhere and sitting in a chair all day. The difference is staring you in the face every time you go to an international airport concourse in the US. The Americans are fat, and the foreigners are not. Sorry to put it so baldly, but I've seen this with my own eyes for years now, and I've been on both sides of it.
I object to the idea that being obese is a disease that we can't prevent. Now this is where someone is thinking "easy for you to say, you're not one of those people with the fat gene." But I AM! I've always been a little heavy, and if I don't exercise and don't eat well I get fat within just a few days. I blimp out. It's in my family, it's in my genes. The author is seeming to say that if you are unlucky enough to naturally tend towards fat, you might as well have "cupcake in a cup" because you're screwed either way.
This is completely backasswards. If you have the DNA for obesity, you have more responsibility than anyone else to not eat the cupcake, to stick to a low fat diet, and to freakin' exercise. If someone has diabetes we tell them they have to be more careful than most people about the GI of their foods. If someone has heart problems we teach them how to eat vigilantly to keep their arteries clean. Why shouldn't the same be applied to people like me, who get fat faster than any of the people around us?
But the article did get me thinking. Since the PCP I have probably become less tolerant of obese people than before I started. This is because I now know exactly what it takes to lose fat and gain muscle. You just need to follow a few rules consistently, and the body takes care of itself. And I don't want to hear about your thyroid problem or obesity gene. There's no way to accrue that much mass without introducing that mass into your system through large servings of fatty food. There's just no way. (Well, technically, you could convert the energy around you into mass, but that would blow up the entire planet.) These people have eaten their way into their condition, and they can eat and exercise their way right out of it. And the truth is that it's not that hard.
It's not that hard. It's not that hard to take an hour a day to exercise your most precious possession, your body. It's not that hard to stop eating junk that only makes you feel sick and depressed when you finish it. So, yes, I do think an overweight person is weak-willed, indolent, and stupid, in a fashion. Weak-willed to not be fed up enough to finally change, indolent for, well, being indolent (indolent does mean habitually lazy, after all) and stupid to not realize that they're running their one and only body into the ground.
I can say this because I used to be one of those people, and I was all those things, and it drives me nuts when people like Engber hint that you have no choice but to be fat.
You do have a choice. And the choice is not that hard to follow through with. And you can do it.