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Posts Tagged ‘Law & Order’

Food Fight! Why We Love To Hate Fat People

In behavior, food, Health on April 9, 2010 at 8:47 pm
American cultural icons, apple pie, baseball, ...

Starch! Sugar! Fat! Carbs! Image via Wikipedia

Why do fat people make us insane?

I was struck by this recent, powerful post by fellow True/Slanter Ethan Epstein:

Imagine a television show on a major American network in which AIDS victims were paraded in front of the cameras and hectored by ultra-conservative evangelical ministers. The ministers inform the victims that they are being punished for their “decadence” and “hedonism.” Or perhaps a different program – one centered on people dying an agonizing death from lung cancer. They’d have cameras shoved in their faces as anti-smoking campaigners told them that if they wanted sympathy, well, tough. After all, they should never have smoked in the first place! Or, best of all, how about a show concerned with fat people. A chef from a foreign country would come stateside and lecture the citizens of America’s “most obese city” about how their unhealthy eating habits are going to consign them and their children to an early grave. This infantalizing message would be accompanied by lots and lots of camera shots lingering on the fatties’ rolls of flesh.

This week, kicking and screaming like a three-year-old who really needed a nap, I went to see a dietitian who put me on a severely restricted diet, on doctor’s orders. I don’t look obsese to most people. Curvy, yes. Definitely a candidate to shed some weight. I’ve gone into surgery more eagerly.

As Jamie Oliver is learning with his ABC television show, getting anyone to change what they eat — size, portions, taste, fat, salt, sugar — is a task far more complex than it appears. Set aside his show and the drama of battling school bureaucrats. Our emotional relationship to food and drink is like some tenacious desert plant, its wiry, tough roots buried deep in our psyches.

We eat what we eat, whether sipping, swallowing or gulping, for many many reasons, some unconscious.

Here’s what happened today at lunch. I ordered a small Caesar salad with grilled no-sauce chicken and a Diet Coke. I’m allowed, for that meal, two cups of salad and 2 tablespoons of oil and vinegar and 6 ounces of lean protein. No starches. I brought (hidden beside me, I ate alone) a measuring cup and set of measuring spoons. Waiters stared. I didn’t care.

The small salad, in our local Greek restaurant, was four cups of lettuce. It also had croutons that looked fried. A huge plate of fresh pita bread — I love warm pita! — dropped onto the table. A thick dish of creamy sauce. I had both taken away.

Were I my usual weary, distracted self, reading a newspaper or magazine or deep in conversation with a friend, I could easily have eaten both, inhaling a delicious 500 extra calories, all while eating “healthy” food. In only one meal.

My diet, for now, is about 1700 calories a day. Sounds like a lot to me. Hah! Hunger is now a constant companion. It’s like a little dog gnawing on my ankles, day and night. I’d like to drop-kick it across the room, (not a dog, the discomfort), and have two more weeks to go.

Millions of people today would be desperately thrilled to have access to half these calories.

We need to acknowledge to ourselves — our kids, our doctors, our mirrors, our fridges and grocery carts — that food is not simply fuel. We cling to it, and savor it and gobble it and gorge on it, for many reasons:

Culture: For many people, certain foods mean “home”, whether the fat-marbled smoked meat sandwiches Montreal is famous for; the creamy hummus of the Middle East; the flaky delight of a burek or baklava or croissant. It brings us, with every bite, closer to our country or culture of origin, in a nation of immigrants, no small thing.

Family: Feeding your family is the most primal act we commit, from the moment the baby latches onto the breast to deathbed purees.

Love: There are few easier, quicker, more affordable ways to show your love for someone than to cook them a meal, whether chicken soup or a birthday cake. “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” women are told. And it is.

Memory: For my friend Dalina, it’s her Nana’s spaghetti sauce. For others, their mother’s pie or uncle’s barbecue. For my partner, who grew up in the Southwest, his late Mom’s posole. My Dad always adds fresh apple to his salads so when I do it I think of him. (I also do it when I sip a great glass of Scotch.)

Pleasure: In a time of terrible financial difficulty for millions of Americans, food and drink remain, for the fortunate, a ready and cheap source of refuge and comfort. If the fridge or cupboards are full, so, too will be our belly, if not our gas tank or bank account. The salty crunch of a fresh potato chip or the creamy smoothness of a rice pudding — bad for you!!! -- carry tremendous allure when everything else is simply too damn expensive right now.

For low-income families, “right now” can be a lifetime.

Yes, I know and I agree — everyone needs to make wise(r) choices, eat small(er) portions, stop choosing to consume fried crap crammed with chemicals and color and sugar and salt. Have you tried to buy a loaf of commercially made bread with no added sugar or high fructose corn syrup? Good luck!

The United States — unlike France, Germany, Canada, Japan — was founded by Puritans. People not, perhaps, wild about the sensual pleasures of the flesh. Consider this in the finger-wagging culture that mistakenly and punitively conflates the size of your ass with the value of your soul.

I am now doing physical therapy for my arthritic hip at an upscale health club. The parking lot, at 9:00 a.m, is so packed I can hardly find a space, jammed with Range Rovers and Mercedes and BMWs as dozens of lean, ropy women head inside for yoga or a class or a workout. They are not, clearly, distracted from their goals by a long commute or a job. It’s a lot easier to be skinny and nauseated by fatties when you’ve got hours to burn off every calorie that goes into your mouth.

The cheap easy rush — sort of an addictive sugar high, really — of loathing fat people needs to be moderated by compassion.

Some fat people have no money. Some work three jobs and have little time to find and cook fresh foods with the lowest calories. Their local stores or bodegas may not stock the right foods and drinks. They work weird hours and/or it may be dark, cold or too dangerous in their neighborhood before or after work to even go out for a healthy, vigorous walk. A gym or health club can cost a shocking amount; our small, crowded, worn suburban Y charges more than $80/month for a family membership. That’s not cheap.

And who will watch your kids?

Too many people are forced to gulp (!) meals at their desks, shoveling food into their faces as fast as possible to avoid looking slack or weak — someone who can be fired. Many are constrained by physical pain or injury — I haven’t been able to exercise since January. To the ignorant and judgmental observer, I’m PiggyGirl  — clearly someone with zero awareness of how she eats, obviously overweight from (not), snarfing Twinkies and double cheeseburgers.

When some of us can’t even cross a room without agony, and 46 million Americans suffer from some form of athritis, (only aggravated by obesity), it’s time for the skinnies to lay down their self-righteous whips.

The next time you feel like sneering at a fat person, whether their flesh is jammed up against yours on a bus or airplane, or on TV or at the gym, ask yourself why.

As We Lose 'Lost' and 'Ugly Betty', TV's 22 Best-Ever Female Characters

In entertainment, women on January 30, 2010 at 8:43 am
Playing through

Image by ewen and donabel via Flickr

As “Lost” is about to start its final season February 2, I’m going to miss Kate, its feisty and ferocious character who’s dominated many of the show’s story lines. I’ve loved her complexity and ferociousness and, as a fellow Canadian, loved the fact she’s not one more scrawny Hollywood blond, but a graduate in international relations from the University of British Columbia, happier in real life changing the oil on big rigs than modeling, both jobs she did to pay her college tuition.

Here are some of the women I’ve loved, laughed at and cried with over the years.

Here’s a site listing 30 more, and another with their top 10. Interestingly, a survey of 2,378 on-line readers found that 70.7 percent of respondents tartly replied they don’t look to TV for role models, just entertainment.

My picks:

C.J. Cregg, played by Allison Janney, on The West Wing the Aaron Sorkin drama that ran from 1999 to 2006. Tall, gangly, smart as hell, C.J. was a great mix of tough and tender, funny as hell in her role as director of White House communications.

Mary Richards, the Mary Tyler Moore Show, which ran on CBS from 1970 to 1977, a major first with a woman who wasn’t married or desperate to marry. At the time, Mary was a role model, all eager excitement about having a career and living on her own in the big city.

Lucy Ricardo, the star of “I Love Lucy”, played by Lucille Ball. She and her husband, Desi Arnaz, formed a production company, Desilu Productions, responsible for many of the hit television series of the 1960s and 1970s.

Christina Yang, played by Canadian actress Sandra Oh, on ABC’s hit Grey’s Anatomy. How many women characters anywhere get to be this stubborn, driven and so frequently emotionally tone-deaf? If you’ve ever met a successful surgeon, you’ll know there’s some truth in her portrayal. And Chandra Wilson, playing Dr. Bailey, whose marriage blows up thanks to her devotion to her career; many ambitious women can identify with her struggles to juggle family and work.

Cagney & Lacey, played by Tyne Daley and Sharon Gless, 1982-1988, in the cop drama series of the same name. Every cop show — every iteration of Law & Order — owes a debt of thanks to this show, the first TV drama to star two women.

Betty Suarez, played by America Ferrara, on Ugly Betty. A TV star who isn’t rail-thin? That’s news in itself. Betty’s work ethic could light a continent. So could her heart. Are you as persuaded as someone I know she’s going to end up marrying Daniel?

Dana Scully of The X-Files, played by Gillian Anderson, 1993-2002. Who didn’t want to be Scully, all cool rationality in the face of her partner Fox Mulder’s obsessiveness?

The women of ABC’s hit drama “Lost”: Kate, played by Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly, Junyin Kim as Sun,  and Juliet, the cool, blond doctor, played by Elizabeth Mitchell.

Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh, aka The Closer, played by Kyra Sedgwick.

Patty Hewes, Damages, played by Glenn Close, on the FX cable channel.

Murphy Brown, played by Candice Bergen. TV’s first single mom by choice. How many television characters have ever provoked a Vice-Presidential response?

Stacey London, playing herself, in TLC’s reality show for the fashion-challenged What Not To Wear. Sue me, I love this show. As someone who finds shopping overwhelming and often just annoying, I enjoy watching her help women look their best.

The women of NBC’s hospital-based drama ER, which ran from September 1994 to April 2009: Linda Cardellini as Samantha Taggart, Alex Kingston as the widowed Dr. Corday, Nurse Abby Lockhart — prickly and determined to become, as she did, a physician.

Detective Jane Tennison in the British series Prime Suspect, played by Helen Mirren for 15 years. Chain-smoking, driven, compelling.

Lindsay Weir, Freaks and Geeks, 1999-2000, a short-lived but well-loved drama/comedy about life in high school. The role was played by Linda Cardellini, who later showed up as Samantha Taggart in ER, yet another prickly, complicated woman, a rare species on television at any time.

Lt. Uhura, played by Michelle Nichols, in the original 1960s Star Trek. Nyotu Uhura was the ship’s communications officer, a smart, professional black woman as a central character on a network television show, NBC, at a time when racial segregation still existed. The original show first aired in 1966 and only ran for three seasons and is the television show with the most spin-offs ever. Live long and prosper!

Who gets your vote?

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