Thursday, February 01, 2007

Your weight is unacceptable. Wear this yellow star

A "Times" correspondent on the anti-fat fascists

Herman Goering was the exception. Injured in the Beer Hall Putsch, you see. Left dependent on narcotics and painkillers and not as active as he once was, except for the odd boar hunt, so he put on a bit of timber. Goering apart, though, one does not come across too many fat Nazis. Himmler could have dropped a few pounds, maybe, and if we had ever found him, it is a fair bet that Bormann piled it on in later years — he was a bit jowly even in 1941 — but the rest of them? Lean, mean, anti-Semite machines. Goebbels was positively emaciated. Rudolf Hess had a jaw like Sam the Eagle from The Muppet Show. As for Hitler, well we won’t get into that whole vegetarian cliché, but he didn’t look much like a guy who nagged the cook for seconds. Got a bit chunky in the bunker, mind, but you can hardly blame him for that. He wasn’t getting out much any more.

Sometimes, in our complacent, it-couldn’t-happen-here way, we muse on who would man our gas chambers if it ever did. And, while I may be going out on a limb, my current guess would be: thin people. Oh, I know that might be a generalisation. I am sure there are some thin folk out there who believe in tolerance and humanity in all its variety, just as it is quite possible there is the odd fat person who is of some worth to the human race. It is merely that the enlightened thin do not seem to be getting much radio time at the moment. Those sucking up the oxygen of publicity, as well as most of the air in the room, would appear to be from an SS Infanterie Truppen wing of slightness, whose response to what they have (somewhat lazily) styled the obesity crisis is a lurch nearer to the wearing of yellow stars for anyone with a BMI that does not meet the approval of whatever celebrity charlatan the BBC is paying to bully telly-tubbies this week. Fat Men Can’t Hunt. You Are What You Eat. Fat Camp. Tax the Fat. Coming soon: Gas the Fat. Go on, you know you want to.

There is a real epidemic in Britain right now, but it affects the mind, which is why none of these deep thinkers have worked out that it would appear mutually exclusive to have an obesity crisis (people getting fat, getting ill, costing the NHS a fortune, dying young) hand in hand with a pensions crisis (people staying healthy, retiring early, costing the state fortunes, living for ever). Should we then pay an additional tax for not eating fast food? So great is our confusion, the nationwide shock that Jade Goody was an appalling individual appeared directly related to her having shed a few pounds and having a makeover in recent months. What, you mean getting slimmer does not make you a better person? So a nasty fat girl is still be a nasty thin girl, but in smaller clothes? Come to think of it, that Osama bin Laden is, like, the slimmest guy I’ve seen. Slow down, you’re giving me too much to think about here.

There was a letter in The Times yesterday that summed up the new fat politics in all its sanctimonious smugness. “The time has surely come for luggage and owner to be weighed together — and the owner charged accordingly,” said A. Halfwit from Hertfordshire. “This might help to lessen the country’s obesity problem and reduce global warming as a large percentage of the population would have to lose weight or not fly, owing to higher costs.” No, it would mean the fat poor would no longer be able to take up cheap flights, rich fatties being unaffected by this triumph of intelligence and continuing to sit in first-class stuffing their faces across the Atlantic. That is what happens when you reduce everything to a pound note. And, yes, I’ve read the yearly cost of blubber to the NHS and I’ll play the game: provided we apply the same rules to everybody.

Take Richard Hammond. The Hamster. The nation’s favourite Top Gear daredevil. God, we love him. But, I mean, 288mph? Should we really have to pay for that? Look, if we’re taxing people for bad lifestyle choices, why stop at banoffee pie? Bullying is actually a lucrative little cottage industry. Take Gillian McKeith, who has carved out a fine career humiliating the hefty. A little touchy herself, someone at this newspaper once put the doctor part of her title in quotation marks and she was very angry, which she would be, having invested so much time and money with one of America’s finest non-accredited correspondence schools to earn it. In fact, Dr McKeith is so important she was recently cited by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority. Admittedly it was for selling medicinal products without a licence but, hey, recognition is recognition.

One of the gurus of the new intolerance, Dr McKeith believes that that “each sprouting seed is packed with the nutritional energy needed to create a full-grown healthy plant”, which just goes to show what can happen if you don’t pay attention in science classes; or maybe the last few pages of your coursework got lost in the post, doctor.

We listen to these clowns and they infest our consciousness. I can make you thin, boasts Paul McKenna on the cover of his latest book. Yes, and so can cancer. So can a prison sentence. I know a guy did time for serious assault, came out never looked better. My father-in-law, just a teensy bit on the stout side since he stopped playing football, got a terminal brain tumour, sorted that right out. Weight fell off him.

Ultimately, we trade vices, all of us, without exception. Smokers, drinkers, philanderers, fast drivers, hooligans, incompetent DIY enthusiasts, people too dumb to keep the strimmer away from their Wellington boots. Everybody is to some extent reckless or self-indulgent, which is why the world will always need lifeguards and mountain rescue teams.

So what is the answer? Acceptance. Tolerance. “We must love one another, or die,” wrote W. H. Auden, a sentiment that, while impossibly optimistic, still makes more sense than anything yet uttered by Dr McKeith and her army of faeces-sifting fascists.


Some people will believe anything

Television coverage of the purported healing properties of olive tree leaves have sparked a frenzy in Greece and caused one violent death. Extensive media reports over the past week about the leaves' alleged ability to cure illnesses including cancer have triggered an angry response from doctors and pharmacists. "In this country where charlatans thrive, you are whatever you claim to be," heart surgeon and former health minister Dimitris Kremastinos told Greek media overnight.

Last week several chat shows, including on state television, said a thick, green drink made of raw olive leaves and water, mixed in a blender, was doing wonders for cancer patients. Several elderly guests said they were cured by the drink and self-described therapists mixed the juice on live television. The news spread like wildfire and the television shows fielded a flood of inquiries about the drink's recipe.

Supermarkets on the oil-producing island of Crete and in Athens started stocking the leaves that, in some cases, cost more than the oil itself, which is renowned for its health benefits and known as liquid gold in Greece.

An argument at the weekend between two brothers over whether they should give the leaf juice to their third brother, who was suffering from cancer, ended with one stabbing the other to death. "When such an issue leads to the murder of one brother over the leaf juice then the frenzy has become uncontrollable," Mr Kremastinos told the Eleftherotypia newspaper.

Scientists said only doctors could prove or disprove the benefits of such a drink. Mr Kremastinos said there was no scientific evidence to support the claims and said years of analysis would be needed to come to a conclusion. "I would suggest this nonsense stops so that scientists can go on with their work," Thessaloniki University chemistry professor Eugene Kokalou said. "The work is to find out if this drink has any health benefits."



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


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