Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rollin' Down The River


Good news. There's been a marked drop in obesity in America's children. That's what the numbers say--obesity is down by nearly one percent. That may not seem like much, but it's statistically significant, and it means that the previous trajectory, that seemed to be pointing toward a world where we'd have to put chock blocks around our kids to keep them from rolling away, might be replaced.

I've been informed that it is a horrible thing to say our kids are fat, as though it were a criticism rather than an observation, but I still think it's even more horrible that they are fat. It took decades for most of us to pork ourselves up into a state of immobility, even without the nice early start.When I was a kid we ate cookies and we ate candy and we ate entrees made of tiny marshmallows and Miracle Whip and we ran around the neighborhood energetically annoying people, and in any given school class of thirty, there would be one fat kid. And he or she did not fare well. Perhaps now that over half the class is approaching spherical the stigma has gone away, and that, and that alone, would be a good thing. But it's still not right. I don't blame the kids. I only half-heartedly blame their parents. I blame Monsanto, and Richard Nixon. It's a long story.

But anyway the curve seems to be curling back the other direction now. There's still no shortage of kids slumped at the bus stop with their knees caved in and their legs splayed out against buckling, trying to hold themselves up. The boys are swamped in massive shorts and jerseys and the girls are billowing out of little pink outfits that look like spangly tourniquets. But the generation as a whole is less fat. So far there is no single explanation. But I think it is possible that our computer-savvy children have discovered that they can Flush Away Fat. I know it is possible to Flush Away Fat because if you Google it you get, like, a billion hits. And also because Fat Flushing is what they're blaming the giant fatberg of London on.

This would be a fifteen-ton blergh of fat that was recently discovered to be clogging up the London sewers. People had started to complain that their toilets were no longer flushing with the proper enthusiasm. Heroic sewer worker Gordon Hailwood said that if the fatberg had not been discovered and dealt with, "raw sewage would have started spewing out of manholes across the whole of Kingston." Which sounds like a typical weekend morning to me.

The fatberg was attacked with targeted flushings of statin drugs and a crew of way-underpaid sewer workers with water hammers. The threat of a major embolism to the heart of London was narrowly averted and the fatberg bobbed harmlessly down the Thames to the sea. They could always mount a sail on it and Mayflower it back in our direction, but we're trying to cut down.

58 comments:

  1. It's true that we ate all that stuff growing up and hardly any of us kids were fat. It does make you wonder what's different today in our diets. It must be Monsanto's fault somehow, Murr. I never heard about the fatburger caper. Tell me more! :-)

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    1. It nearly occluded the sewer line. If that thing had cut loose and hit the heart of London, London would have dropped like a stone.

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    2. Oh I should add that the main components of the fatberg were cooking grease and Wet Wipes. I guess Wet Wipes are a problem. Right when I'd been thinking they might be a good idea.

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  2. I've been present when the grease trap on a cesspool was cleaned.
    Those sewer workers are WAY underpaid and should now be given holidays on the fragrant isle of their choice with a continual supply of cocktails.

    Some parents are afraid to let their children go outside unattended. No wonder the poor pups balloon up. Running away from the coyotes kept me fit well into my teens.

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    1. I've heard somewhere in America they're starting up a running-of-the-bulls event. That might be helpful. Or were they going to use bison? Anyone else hear of this?

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    2. Not only one event, but 10!--and the first one is this coming weekend in your home state of Virginia. http://www.thegreatbullrun.com/?gclid=CKGMw5TRj7kCFZE7MgodxncA4A

      And yes, they are using real bulls. I'm anticipating a whole slew of Darwin Award nominees.

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    3. Holy Cow! As it were. Note that I left Virginia. We should have us a mighty banana slug stampeded here. That way we wouldn't even spill our beers.

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    4. The running of the slugs! I love it! Of course, it won't do much to combat obesity.

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  3. Monsanto and Nixon notwithstanding, perhaps some of the credit belongs to Jobs and Gates as well.

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    1. Yeah, those two are even getting to me.

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  4. I regularly blame Nixon for a whole host of ills, and vigorously support your decision to do the same.

    Pearl

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    1. That makes it official.

      Nixon wanted to be reelected and directed his Secretary of Agriculture to make sure food was really, really cheap. That's when the whole corn sugar thing started.

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  5. Well, processed foods have a lot more added sugar now, which might contribute to the increase in obesity and diabetes. People are also more sedentary than in prior generations, so we don't burn off the calories we consume.

    I do wonder what will happen to the fatberg now. Will sea life eat it, and if so, are there cardiologists who treat sea life?

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    1. Indeed, if you look at the levels of added sugar in most cereals now, they should really be calling it sugar with added cereal.

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    2. Or maybe sea life will cling to it. Maybe it will grow larger with adhered obese barnacles.

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  6. This would be a fifteen-ton blergh of fat that was recently discovered

    That was actually a time traveler from 100 years in the future who came back to warn us about how all this would end up. He was the only person on 22nd-century Earth slim enough to fit in the time machine, but unfortunately he was too exhausted to deliver his message before the sewer workers disposed of him.

    As for the observed declining obesity rates among kids, that's because the fattest ones are now hidden away with their families in the Cheeto-survivalist RV caves, where the people who conduct surveys can't find them any more.

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    1. There you have it. I have nothing to add.

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  7. We made regular visits to the candy store and soda shop, but we walked or rode our bikes to get there and we played outside until mom rang the bell.

    We need to worry more about how to get the kids to play and exercise than what they eat. Move children, move!

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    1. Don't you mean "no child left outside?"

      Thank goodness my children grew up in Europe where they had to walk or bike to school, public transport was the norm. Oh, and I shouldn't forget the parental limits on both computers and TVs.

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    2. "No child left inside" is the motto for a group advocating kids run and jump and play and get a little bit acquainted with Nature, as though they were actually a part of it.

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  8. Some people seem to think I'm too thin, even though I'm exactly the average weight for my height, because plumpness has become the norm. Like you, when I was a kid most kids and most adults were thin and THAT was the norm. It's absurd that it's become almost impossible to discuss fatness for fear of causing offence to anybody who happens to be er, of ample proportions.

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    1. I've been anticipating being called out for bemoaning our fattitude.

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  9. By average weight I actually meant healthy weight....

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    1. I'll see your healthy weight and raise you ten pounds.

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  10. In agreement with joeh. Also, portion sizes have really increased, and our main courses have become full of sauces, pastry crusts, or frozen fries. When I was a child every supper was meat and 2 vegs; I'm pretty sure that was healthier.

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    1. Our portion sizes were MUCH smaller in my house. But we had almost unlimited access to homemade cookies. Now I hardly ever have cookies but you wouldn't believe how much food I put down the piehole.

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  11. Photos of men and women of my parents' generation, depression children, show normally slender people. This is family photos through the forties and fifties. We raised our children about the same--bicycles, don't come in until the street lights are on. But the generation who are my grandchildren, raised by my children...

    I don't know. I was in the midst of a socio-economic discussion of the source, but since the cure only is us, there is nothing to say except it will be done or the world sink.

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    1. A sinking landmass and a rising ocean--the double whammy!

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  12. Inactivity and fake food. How could kids grow to be anything but unhealthy?

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    1. I'm with you Hilary. Not only do kids (and adults) eat crap, kids no longer run "around the neighborhood energetically annoying people."

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    2. We were real good at that, too. My ball had a magnetic attraction to Old Mr. Balderson's back garden.

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  13. Murr, you're right that there were only a few fat kids in each classroom way back when. But the change is even worse than that, because what we consider "fat" has changed, too. I grew up in the 1960s and clearly remember Kathy and Ernie as the fat kids in my class. I recently saw a class photo from 7th grade, and neither of them looks fat by today's standards. Although they were chunkier than the other kids and we all thought they were fat, they'd barely be considered pudgy today.

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    1. I did the same thing. Tommy Gahagan was just a little on the thick side. The rest of us had to watch we didn't slip down the bathtub drain.

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    2. And on the flip side of that, you look at pictures of women up until about 1980 and they all look fat compared to what the media portrays now. And they were normal sized!

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    3. I'm just going to go right ahead and claim that "normal sized" is whatever size I happen to be at the moment.

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  14. We used to eat real food that performed healthy functions in our bodies. Today's children get very little real food, only as Michael Pollan calls it, Food Like Substances...These chemistry foods still perform, but in negative ways..Real food is still out there as we all know, but its considered inconvenient..And yes, Damn Nixon.

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    1. It's HUGELY inconvenient. Plus it's growing right out there in the dirt and poop and in many cases it needs to be prepared. By us. The horror.

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  16. Marshmallows and Miracle Whip?!?!! *Gagging*
    Working at a college, I do see quite a few over weight children. Some parents will say, "he/she will grow out of it" while handing them a McDonald's meal. I am happy to see so many youth using the gym at the college as well as taking Zumba classes.

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  17. Making a note: being part of the sewer crew in Kingston, London. One more thing I DON'T want to do to earn my living. Check.

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    1. They need to pay those people what they pay those guys that put out oil well fires.

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  18. You know what's cruel? When flying, getting the middle seat between two plumpers. Airline people must practice keeping straight faces when they hand out seat belt extensions to overly large passengers.

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    1. Really? They have seat belt extensions? I would think with the size of airplane seats if you needed a belt extension, you'd already be wedged in tight enough for safety.

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  19. I read about that fat blockage and immediately thought of several people I know who persist in pouring used cooking oil down the kitchen sink, claiming it will be okay, I'll just follow it with hot soapy water. Idiots! anyway, I read in the same article that the fat is holding together in ways it never used to because of the flushing of millions of flushable personal wipes used by adults. Apparently they're tougher than baby wipes and don't disintegrate as fast or as thoroughly.
    I remember being in primary school in the late fifties, out of probably 300 kids there was only one real fatty and she had a glandular disorder. There were a couple of "plumpies", but no one really overweight.

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    1. What do those flushable personal wipes do that's extra? Because I might need some of those.

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    2. Erm ... if I could figure out how to comment anonymously, I would, but I can't so here goes ... what those things did to me was give me a UTI, twice. You DO NOT need those.

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    3. Sorry about the UTI, twice, and sorry about the anonymous commenting thingy. If I still allowed anonymous commenting, I'd be getting a raft of messages about fat and butt wipes that I really, really don't want.

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    4. Snort :)

      And this is one of the (many) reasons I don't blog: there's so much I don't know about the mechanics of it, it would take twenty-five hours every day to learn it all :)

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  20. I blame Monsanto for everything, especially the crisis with bees. I didn't know Nixon was at the root of adding corn syrup to everything. But I also blame how we're using technology today: there are herds of young 'uns sitting on their butts in front of tvs and video games because there are pedophiles and kidnappers behind every shrub, according to the media. They amble down the sidewalk with their faces glued to their phones, interacting like fury while ignoring the person walking beside them. The only parts of them that gets a workout are their thumbs. And this senior citizen isn't much better: sat on my duff for thirty years doing my job in front of a computer. Trying to make up for it now that I'm retired but I'm porkier than I should be for my frame. Och {Scottish noise of disgust}.

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    1. I wonder about that explosion of pedophiles too. Doesn't seem possible that there are more than there used to be. But I do remember bringing up that whole "we always walked to school" thing when my friends were driving their kids to school and they all said they'd love to let them walk, but it was just too dangerous. Hm.

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  21. I love it when you rant, Murr =)

    Another coffee, dear?

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    1. I'll be sure to alert you when I'm about to go on and on about leaf blowers. That might not be the most important thing in the world but for some reason it makes me lose it.

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  22. We all know about high fructose corn syrup these days but the one item most of us consume that's no longer what it used to be is wheat. Apparently, it's much less digestible than we knew. I'd be interested in knowing what you make of this.

    My husband worked for many years at a famous children's hospital that specializes in orthopedics. Many of the patients treated were extremely obese, but it was policy never to suggest weight loss prior to corrective joint surgery.

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    1. You might get your wish. I am off wheat for the month of August, trying it out. Also sugar while I'm at it, because that wouldn't be that hard for me.

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  23. I have it on good authority that baby wipes can be used by children of all ages. But wipes should not be flushed! And I've been seeing more info about how companies have engineered our food to be, in effect, addicting. To oversimplify: it tastes good (to some), but leaves you craving certain nutrients which you interpret as more of the food that lacks those very nutrients. So Monsanto and Richard Nixon seem to be reasonable targets for blame, though the real list is so much longer.

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    1. I think I'll skip the whole Wet Wipes thing. Once I've wiped, I'm interested in seeing the product go away. Fast.

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