Sunday, 29 March 2015

Food for thought

EAT FAT – Richard Klein.  Picador, MacMillan Publishers Limited 1996,  pp 247 (illus)

This review was written on March 19th 2015

This book by the author is in praise of fat, both the noun and the adjective.  The noun refers to fat in our food and the adjective to overweight or obesity. Klein deplores the negative attitudes in Western Society to obesity and attributes the alleged sense of guilt and poor self esteem of fat people to the public’s distain of and discrimination against them. He exaggerates the degree of public disapproval of the obese in stating that fat phobia is widespread.  He also exaggerates the devotion of western society to thinness since Twiggy and the anorexic look has become chic and he ignores the fact that the great majority of people do not wish to be cadaverously thin but rather wish to achieve a normal or near normal weight as defined by western nutritionists.

He pleads with us to love fat people and to perceive beauty in the obese.  He believes this change in public attitudes can be achieved by a mantra or the simple process of verbal rhythm, although it is not clear what he means by this process. He admits that such a change will be brought about with great difficulty because of public attitudes. The text is full of contradictions and selected references to other authors, some of whom are quite as iconoclastic and just as capable of bizarre views as himself.

Politicians who are fat are more forceful and more likely to succeed, and he mentions Kohl, Churchill, Taft and the French Louis the fourteenth. He forgets de Gaulle, Adenaure and even our own Dev who have made their mark despite lacking evidence of overweight.

Fat women have a stronger libido and enjoy sex more than their slimmer sisters, although sadly I cannot confirm this contention because of lack of personal experience. Elsewhere he states that they are slower to get started than the more excited thin but once they get going they are more difficult to stop. On the other hand he contends that being fat makes it easier for women to opt out of sexual activity with men while providing a stronger source of erotic activity among their own sex.

He writes, in referring to the food expert MFK Fisher, about the beastlike satisfaction of the belly as profoundly human, because deeply animal; the impulse must at times let us, whether male or female, to be attracted by a bloated beast.

Fat women are more masculine and men more feminine, so that the stereotype of the fat woman will often be more capable of repairing the washing machine or replacing your spark plug. He acknowledges that a high fat intake may predispose to coronary disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol disturbances, and yet he manages to confuse the reader by quoting research which allegedly shows that beef and high fat chocolate improve ones blood cholesterol.  And anyhow he believes that quality of life is more important than longevity, implying that gorging yourself is a positive factor in achieving happiness.

He muses about the increasing prevalence of obesity in America and the West.  He considers it a mystery and postulates some ill defined cultural or biological change in Western Society.  I, on the other hand, attribute the American trend to bad eating habits which are a feature of affluence, increasing leisure with its associated boredom and addiction to popcorn and TV, and reduced physical exercise and physical work.  He does not postulate the possibility of increasing sex among females despite their alleged sexual propensity to prefer their own sex. Despite his perception of increasing obesity in America, he states that Americans were “exceedingly fat” at the end of the nineteenth century, and gives as an example Diamond Jim Barry who weighed in at forty stone.

I wonder if Mr Klein has his tongue in his cheek.  Or does his urge to write have a more mundane basis such as the hard cash he and his publishers derive from their contributions to the welfare of humanity? Anyhow, even if my criticism of his views are not always valid, his book is certain to attract some readers even if they find much of his ideas contradictory and his views lacking in scientific basis. Does his book sell like hot cakes to the 40% of American women and the 25% of American men who are categorised as fat and who apparently are badly in need of a push to their self esteem. It would be interesting to know if his book becomes a best seller.

His book Cigarettes are Sublime followed more recently and is available on Kindle but I could not find his ‘’classical’’ work on obesity in the same source. It would be interesting to know how rather bizarre publications such as EAT FAT appeal to and attract the casual reader and the ordinary public. Cigarettes are Sublime was apparently published in 2012. It comes at 658,771 in Kindle sales rank but I could not find EAT FAT on Kindle.

1 comment:

  1. I suppose it's easier to come up with excuses for being fat rather than march on the culprits.

    It saddens me that the standard advice to people who are obese is to eat less and exercise more. They didn't become fat by eating too much and exercising too little. They became fat by living in a society that turns dietary diseases into a profitable industry. How is a person supposed to maintain a healthy weight and eat a nutritious diet when they are surrounded by junk foods that are advertised continuously to them? When it costs five times as much to buy 100 calories of broccoli as it does to buy 100 calories of Oreos?

    The only up-side of the obesity epidemic is seats on aircraft - have you noticed how roomy and comfortable they are for us normal-sized people, now that so many people are blobs?