Always on the fat ones

Sugar taxes, beautiful models as role models, moral denunciation of the overweight – none of it is of much use. We will probably never conquer obesity. Or is it?

Obesity is a bigger threat to humanity than epidemics, says historian Harari.

HToday we have to deal with the greatest problem of mankind today. No, not with climate change, Greta Thunberg and Robert Habeck can do that better.

Instead, the focus here is on overweight and obesity, the secular drama of which the Israeli historian Yuval Harari recently brought before our eyes: “At the beginning of the 21st century, the average person is more likely to die from stuffing himself up at McDonald’s than from a drought , Ebola or an Al-Qaeda attack. ”Anthony Warner, a British chef, speaks of a“ modern epidemic ”in his new book“ The Truth About Fat ”.

Mankind has managed to curb hunger, but it cannot get the fat under control. A look at the last “Obesity Update” of the “Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development” (OECD) is sufficient. According to this, every second adult and almost every sixth child in the OECD countries are classified as overweight or obese.

Note: Anyone who has a body mass index (body weight divided by the square of body height) of 30 and more is “obese” according to this definition; if he or she has a BMI between 25 and 30, he or she is called “overweight”. Statistically speaking, we are all gaining weight – and this despite the greatest political and social efforts to minimize the proportion of people who are overweight.

Sugar taxes, beautiful models as role models, moral denunciation of the overweight – none of it is of much use. Even the latest YouTube campaign by Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner and the food company Nestlé to reduce sugar and fat brought no relief, just a shit storm on the Internet.

It is unwise to get fat

It’s pretty unwise to get fat. Because the law applies: once fat, always fat. The fat people are teased at school, and then the slim ones also get the prettier partners. Lots of missed opportunities. If you are discriminated against, you don’t have to worry about the ridicule and, moreover, end up unhappy.

The economic damage caused by obesity should also not be taken lightly: the overweight people report sick more often, are less productive, but devour a larger share of health costs. Fat people are relatively poorer than thin people and also die earlier. Estimates of obesity costs sound dramatic: the German obesity society puts the direct (cash benefits) and indirect costs (lost work, productivity restrictions) at at least 25 billion euros annually.

Did the fat people do better in the past? Lucas Cranach’s famous Luther picture seems to show that fullness was once interpreted as a symbol of power. But now the historians teach us better: Most of the time, the power of the fat was a strength that should be abhorred.

The tyrant of a city in Asia Minor named Dionysius of Herakleia was said to be so hungry that he had trouble breathing and that he gave his audiences behind a chest so that no one could see how much he was out of the glue. The ancient authors did not see this as a strength, but as a warning that the ruler had allowed himself to be enslaved by his obsession. Eating is a vice of “strangers” and marks the difference between civilized and uncivilized peoples, writes historian Christopher E. Forth (“Fat. A cultural history of the stuff of life”, 2019).