All over the world, the population is getting fatter and bigger

It is great being a superhero, larger than life and indestructible, but it is not so good being super big, larger than necessary and prone to destructive illnesses A recent study by the Institute of Medicine in the U.S. revealed that two out of three adults and one of three children there are overweight or obese.

Years ago, each time I returned to the States from abroad, I was struck by the number of fat people who suddenly seemed to appear and realized that this was not so in other countries. When I first came to Costa Rica in the 1980s, I was struck by the opposite phenomenon: there were almost no fat people anywhere, and certainly no one who was obese. Today, it is different. Giants are once again appearing all over the earth, but they are not healthy giants. We are growing in the wrong direction. Since the 1960s the average man in the United States has gained one inch in height and 25 pounds in weight.

There are some people who are heavy and healthy, but for the most part, obesity is the cause of many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, which has a variety of life threatening side effects. Writer and critic Cyril Connolly said “Obesity is a mental state, a disease brought on by boredom and disappointment.” Maybe so, but obesity along with diabetes is prevalent at younger and younger ages, not just in the States but everywhere sugar and fats are easily available, and a sedentary life has become the norm.

Adaptations are taking place to accommodate super-sized people. They use the health facilities more often than their slimmer counterparts, and larger ambulance stretchers and hospital beds are being built. Even bigger coffins are necessary. We won’t go into seats in public and private transportation.

Statisticians are beginning to report that maybe obesity is going to lower life expectancy. I have been predicting this since 1990. Actually, before that I said that those of us born after 1930 will not live, on average, as long as our parents (“the great generation”). I based this on the changes in farming and the growth of chemicals in everything we consume and use that have had a greater effect on us than our parents who grew up in a tougher, but healthier environment. True, my mother’s father died of a heart attack at 65. But my mother was a month short of her 100th birthday when she died, and her mother would have lived longer than her 86 years had she not been hit by a truck. I don’t think Baby
Boomers are going to live as long as my generation, nor their children as long as they do.

This column was going to be about old saws that are biting the dust. And one even applies to the topic I got caught up in….”You can’t be too rich or too thin.” (I think the Duchess of Windsor may have said that.) Well, we are really in trouble because even the rich are getting, if not fat, at least portly.

Another saying: “It is not what you say, but what you do that people remember.” This may still be true in the long run, but poor President Obama, it seems that the fact that he has done more to promote gay rights than any other president in history matters not, he must say something. As for Mitt Romney, the contender, what he says as what he has done is so confusing and changes enough to baffle most of us into silence.

And finally, we have the third dying saw: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Not so anymore. The world of words has become a minefield. Anyone who opens his or her mouth, or writes something is in danger of offending (mortally, it would seem) some member of a race, nationality, sex, or type of person. It is getting so that apologies will have to be posted automatically after every opinion, commercial, joke or comment on TV, the Internet, etc. etc.

I am a little worried that I am going to be accused of some sort of hurtful and prejudicial attack on a vulnerable segment of the population. Before you come after me, just think, I have survived being an offspring of an immigrant population that was called names, caricatured, considered members of the mob, and today, Mario Batali can say, “There are two kinds of people, Italians and those who wish they were Italian.” And no one objects! In fact, pizza is probably the most popular food in the world . . . unfortunately.

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