At various times in Mankind’s history, being overweight was seen not only as attractive, but highly desirable. It was obvious proof that the bearer of all that heft could afford to eat sumptuously and often, reflecting his or her elevated position in Society—something today we would call “conspicuous consumption.” William Howard Taft was our only President to exceed 300 pounds. He was considered “portly,” but certainly within acceptability for his time. More recently, Hermann Goering, head of Hitler’s NAZI Luftwaffe in World War II, another porker, was swooned over by women repeatedly, though it might have had something to do with his dashing sky-blue Field Marshal’s uniform.
But back then, the health hazards of obesity were not widely known. They are now. Yet we continue to grow in girth, especially our kids, many of whom spend afternoons sitting in front of a monitor playing computer games instead of going outside and being physically active. Many school cafeterias, with no apparent remorse, offer high-fat junk food. Many school hallways are lined with high-calorie soft drink and nab dispensing machines.
As a nation, especially our kids, we are eating and not-exercising ourselves into “no-neck monsters,” as Maggie called her nephews in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” You can’t make a kid get out and play roughhouse games if they really don’t want to, but diet can come under parental control, at home and in the schools. Kids might not like carrots and leafy green vegetables all that much, but, if they’re hungry they’ll eat them. Ordering pizza is a lot easier than preparing something nutritious, but we’ve got to wake up and realize the truth of the old saying: “You (and your kids) are what you eat.”