The Fattening of America

The American population is becoming fatter and fatter, but you won’t get that impression from the ubiquitous fast food commercials. Ads for McDonalds, Burger King, and Carl’s Jr. show only young slender people at the trough (eat our food and you will look like this?), but if they continue to chow down as they do in the commercials, they will soon be unfit to hawk the very products Madison Avenue is paying them to inhale. Pay attention next time to any of those ads: attractive and physically fit men and women crank open their mouths so wide that “I'll-be-back” Arnold and spouse Maria could drive their twin HumVees side-by-side into those gaping maws. The catch-phrase for Carl’s Jr.’s enormous hamburger is “If doesn’t get all over the place, it doesn’t belong in your face.” We watch as the actors devour in three bites enough cow to satiate most of Ethiopia’s starving populace, while dribbling and drooling catsup and sauce down their shirts and on the floor. With eating habits such as those, it’s no wonder the rest of the world thinks Americans are gluttonous pigs.

Well, we are! Eating used to be something one did at home or in restaurants—or perhaps even on a park bench during a lunch break or at a family picnic in the woods. Now, everywhere and anytime is considered acceptable for noshing: while shopping for underwear at a department store, while gassing up (no pun intended) at a filling station, and even in a public toilet (that is one spectacle I wish I hadn’t witnessed!). I’ve noticed that people tend to eat in their cars quite often, especially over-weight people. Are they packing down a burger and fries on the way to dinner? Can they not eat on an empty stomach? I was especially horrified and enraged to see a person not signal his oncoming left turn in front of me because he was talking on his cell phone while hefting a Big Mac.

It’s only a matter of time until standard equipment in all vehicles will be a small refrigerator for soft drinks—or better yet, a 25-gallon cola tank with a flip-down nozzle feed that is attached to the visor. A constant input of high fructose is needed for those frequent lane-changing, me-first acts of aggression that have become such a staple of modern driving habits.

It is interesting to consider the kind of diet that has evolved in the age of the car. Most items one can buy at the drive-through involve the use of only one hand. Think about it: with the left hand on the steering wheel, it is entirely possible for the right hand to culinarily maneuver through a fast-food meal of any size. All of the following items require the help of only one extremity to deliver said food substance from lap to face: hamburgers, fries, chips, cookies, and soft drink. Salads are difficult at best, a banana needs peeling, apples need washing, and forget about corn on the cob. Those unfortunate foods will never make the menu at Blitzo Burgers. They also will not give you arteriosclerosis, distended colons, or a heart attack.

My wife has a theory about the current trend in vehicular dining. Take a look at the person driving the next Navigator, Suburban, or any flavor of American Chrome Mountain that passes you by. As cars get bigger, people are enlarging to fill that space—almost as if the new philosophy of the auto makers is “build it and they will grow.” And as cars increase in size even more to accommodate the ever-growing human bodies, so will the width and number of lanes on the highway. At that point the obese population will no longer need sidewalks because 1.) people will be unable to walk any distance at all, and 2.) they will always be in their automobiles. America’s sidewalks and front yards will soon be replaced by new lanes of highway, and someday we will all sell our vacated houses and move into our fully equipped LUVs (Lifestyle Utility Vehicles), with all the comforts of home (each seat having a built-in Porta-Potty and full access to a centralized refrigerator and pantry). Every abandoned neighborhood, from the inner city projects to suburbia’s gated communities, can be razed to make room for yet more lanes (as will all wildlife habitats, forests, and National Parks), and the planet will be one big smoking asphalt ball, covered with a sea of LUVs jockeying for position to fill up at Government-operated gas pumps and red-meat drive-throughs. Take a tip from my trusty insider at Wet Finger in the Wind Investments: buy up all the beef, auto, and petroleum stock you can afford. And it probably wouldn’t hurt to pick up a few shares of Big Boy Clothing either.

© 2003 Stuart Vail

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