Graphing the Round

There’s a meme floating around on FB that offers a bunch of charts that purport to explain why we’re getting so fat. It’s front-window picture features a not un-fat woman chowing down on a burger and fries. I thought about putting the link in this blog and then deleted it. First, it depressed me that that woman sat for that photo. Then I had the depressing thought that, somewhere out there, there’s probably a site that offers a catalog of stock photos of fat humans, most of them either revealing “too much” of their fat bodies, or of them eating “bad foods” in large quantities. Sigh. Yet again. The charts, which I did look through, seemed to be scientifically more or less approximately valid, but the whole bloody avalanche of them just made me nauseous and I came to the conclusion that one of the things making more people fat is so bloody much conversation about people being fat. There’s research out there that proves this, in fact. But you didn’t see that mentioned among the dump-truck load of charts about changes in diet (yeah, I believe the stuff about junk food companies intentionally causing what amounts to addiction as surely as the tobacco companies have, so okay) and changes in levels of movement and changes in amounts of sleep (I believe that one, too). It’s not that these charts were, per se, invalid. The log changes that have, demonstrably, happened. But they also did what the social sciences are prone to do and reduced individual human lives to charts. It’s often useful and even critical data, but it’s also subject to biases and misuse. You know, that thing Disraeli said about statistics.

I never go on Facebook (which I do entirely too much of) without seeing at least one ad offering to tell me what 5 foods to eat to reduce belly fat, or which 5 NOT to eat to reduce belly fat. And heaven knows the magazine racks and infomercials and public television pseudo-informational programming, and, and, and all yammer on endlessly. I wonder some times whether, absent the Kardashians and the Tea Party wallowing in yet another idiot theory, there would even be media without fat to obsess about?

So I decided not to link to the list of charts here. I didn’t learn a bloody thing from it, except to be reminded, yet again, that I am a member of a morally, economically, and ethically challenged minority. Wouldn’t it be nice if the same attention were paid to the etiology of investment bankers and lobbyists and real estate developers–all minorities I am prepared to argue do much more damage to the universe than fat people do?  We just elected as our state treasurer here in DE someone who went off to Princeton planning (I’m pretty sure I remember this right, but you never know these days. On the other hand, this is DE, and our families knew each other fairly well, so I may have it right) to become a neuro-surgeon and came out of Princeton as an investment banker. Now, lots of elite college frosh go in planning to become doctors of one sort or another, and then end up doing something else. But in this case, the transition was from something actually useful, to something amoral and worse than useless. Happens a lot in elite schools. I have no idea whether he’ll be a decent state treasurer. I live in a state that’s remarkably stable economically, but that can’t get its act together to run a decent school system, and I’m not inclined to believe that a former investment banker and Republican is going to throw his weight behind raising any taxes to improve that situation.

It’s altogether too easy to find stuff to be depressed by these days. It’d help if FB would stop selling ad space to people offering to fix my whole being by telling me what 5 foods to eat or not eat. It’s particularly confusing that the ads always seem to feature a picture of a banana, regardless of which side of the eat/not-eat argument they purport to be on. But then fat people are too desperate and dumb to catch on, right? Or we could shift to a Camille-Paglia-style feminist analysis of the fact that those ads so often feature a phallic symbol. Interesting subliminal messaging? I’ll leave you to contemplate that, and hopefully chuckle.

round chicken

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