Saturday, August 30, 2008

iAmerican Too

Today's Bizarro is brought to you by Cartoons That Are Sure To Attract Complaints, Inc.

Earlier this week I railed against obese people who take up handicap parking spots. It started a pretty rambunctious exchange in the comments section, which I think is a good thing.

Many criticized me for being everything from bigoted against fat folks to insensitive to those with disabilities. It was pointed out that many people have injuries or conditions that are not visible, which cause them great pain or immobility which leads to overweight because of their inability to exercise. All these points were well stated and I both appreciated them and took them to heart.

Here's another cartoon about the expanding growth of Americans and a chance to address some of the same topics. While it is true that there are people who, through no fault of their own, have health issues that lead to inactivity the overwhelming majority of overweight Americans become so because they eat too much of the wrong foods. We can argue that this is the fault of McDonalds commercials, but I don't buy that any more than blaming cigarette companies for lung cancer. These days, if you don't know what part of your lifestyle is killing you, cigarettes and Big Macs may not be your biggest problem. (Speaking of smoking vs. meat-eating, food-related heart disease kills far more people each year than smoking-related illness. And that doesn't count the myriad cancers suspected to arise from meat and dairy consumption. No single Internet link that I know of shows this comparison, but I'm sure there are some.) In short, the media has led us to believe that tobacco is the most lethal legal substance in our culture. The truth is that animal products are.

So eating too much of the wrong foods will kill you. This adds to our national health costs and also contributes to the amount of energy we consume. It takes more gas to haul around a carload of chunky Americans than thin ones. The more you eat, the more packaging you throw away, and on and on.

There is also no denying that this is an almost uniquely American problem. People from other countries come here and are shocked by the ubiquitous landscape of huge people. Families with no history of obesity move to the U.S. and their children grow up huge. Other nations import more American food products and their average weight and health costs rises like Old Glory on July 4th. (Nice metaphor, yes?)

According to a recent U.N. report, animal agriculture is one of the top two contributors to global warming, alongside energy production. Cars, trucks, airplanes, trains, all transport combined is a distant competitor. So when if you eat food that causes you to be overweight, you are contributing to many more problems than just your own health. And none of that mentions the suffering and unnecessary death of billions of innocent beings who, in our shortsightedness, aren't enough like us to warrant legal rights.

I'm not bigoted against fat folks, I have many friends and family members who are everything from chunky to obese, and I love them for who they are. But it is impossible for me to turn a blind eye toward an epidemic of self indulgence that causes so much damage on so many levels. Obesity is reaching epidemic proportions in the U.S. and I, for one, would like to see that addressed publicly on a daily basis and curtailed, the way cigarette smoking was when I was a kid.

I promise that tomorrow's blog will be more about humor and less preachy. Here's a ridiculous picture to get you by until then.


Mike Duffau said...

i saw this one before and it'll be really sad if it ever comes down to that picture. folks shouldn't have to live like that. I poked fun at it my way, but it's basically tough love.

La Framéricaine said...


I happen to agree with you about the fact of an epidemic of obesity in the USA. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or even 20/20 vision to see it--just a trip to the fair.

However, I don't believe that the focus of the argument should be fat people in and of themselves.

You have chosen to be a vegan. I don't believe, based upon the variety of geographic areas on the planet--deserts, mountains, icebound lands--that one way of eating (no meat) is realistic for everyone.

I do believe that traditional diets with an emphasis on traditional fats à la Weston A. Price (look online), a strike on processed foods, sugar, and high fructose syrup, and a re-evaluation of the QUANTITY of food that constitutes a "serving" are in order. What constitutes FOOD, period, is something that people the world over have lost sight of.

You are kidding yourself if you think that it is not a HUGE problem in England. I saw enough fat Brits in Charles De Gaulle's Ibis Hotel to give the USA a run for its money--Les Triplettes de Belleville notwithstanding. France is also experiencing the stress of having to accommodate the morbidly obese in their hospitals--bigger beds, bigger MRI machines, bigger scales, bigger wheelchairs.

I speak English and French and I've seen both the documentaries and the newscasts on this increasingly common problem in Europe. Take my word for it. They are always 20 years behind us but they are making up for it in fat people rapidly. We won't even talk about the Italians. Or the Russians. Or the Samoans. Or the Marshall Islanders.

Anyway, I understand your concern. I admire your obsessing, but blaming the fat lady won't make her lose one pound. You're gonna have to come up with a different approach to make a difference and believe me, it won't be veganism.

Nevertheless, keep up the good fight! And have a great show!

Blasphemous Homemaker said...

Dan, one of the reasons why my husband and I love reading your blog is that you speak your truth, even if it might alienate some readers. We need more people willing to say what they believe and not what they think they have to say in order to fit into society. Thank you, and yes, that last photo was pretty ridiculous.

Penny Mitchell said...

Preach it, Brother Dan! I'm shouting amens from Colorado.

And seriously, I'm waiting for them to announce who the REAL running mate is. They're so funny. Those guys. ha ha ha

L. Erskine said...

I agree with most of what you said but don't think that eating meat is the root cause of obesity.

Garrett Williams said...

Even if it's not the root cause, it's definitely a contributing factor and a good example.

birdfeed said...

Amen my friend, Amen.
You are consistently on point.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Dan for speaking the truth that no one else seems to want to talk about or deal with.

That truth being..there really arent any obese vegans!

Piraro said...

Thanks for the comments, one and all. La framericaine, you make good points and I, too, have seen Europe catching up to us in size. In Italy last year, I saw so many traditionally-sized adults with big, chunky kids scarfing down fast food. We are spreading our diseases very effectively.

I agree with you about food, too. There are plenty of deadly foods that are not made of animals. Education is the best is one of my favorite sources for science-based sense about nutrition.

I know that most people will never be vegan (or even vegetarian) and I don't personally hold the same standards to people in certain other parts of the world. But in America it is relatively easy to adopt any diet you wish, and our consumption habits (of many sorts) are killing the whole planet. I'm certain it won't change until we're extinct or very nearly so, but I like to bitch about it. :)

isee3dtoo said...

You ever go into a restaurant where you order before you sit down, for example any fast-food joint, and you watch other people order food?

Young mothers are the worst. They have little kids with them and the young mother stands there and reads the menu, like most people do, while the young kid screams or squirms around. The young mother then turns to the child and says, "what do you want?" - I love it, first off lady the kid can't read! Second, you should be telling the kid what it is going to eat not the other way around. Third, you know that the kid wants, the kid wants the toy. Fourth, the kid does not want or does not need a 48 oz drink of high fructose corn syrup, that why the kid is buzzed to begin with. Fifth, all the kid is going to eat is the fries anyway and just a few of them because it is you who are really hungry.

Then there is last night (yes this happened last night) at the taco bar. Order comes up. It is a two taco platter. Young lady comes up to pick up order and then sits down to eat. Person in line orders a three taco platter. Young lady comes back to the counter with the two taco order and says, "I ordered the two tacos but in my mind I ordered the three tacos platter" -- Guy behind counter says that is okay and young lady stands there and waits for the third taco then demands that she doesn't have to pay for it because that is what she was thinking she wanted to begin with. -- The bizarro alarm was going off in my head and I was about to bust out laughing. Help Wanted Must Have Psychic Powers

Unknown said...

What I find amazing is how quickly this has happened. I mean, the fast food hamburger has been common since the 50's in this country, but it's only in the last 20 years that waistlines have really taken off. I don't deny that fast food is a huge part of the problem, but I just wonder what the trigger was for this lurking disaster. By trigger, I don't necessarily mean a single thing, but what combination of factors came together right now to cause such dramatic change.

I wish I also thought Palin was only 'ridiculous'.

Peaches said...

Obesity comes from diet, genes and exercise. If all three are against you, you have to make more sacrifices then someone who is thin. That's life and we all have to make sacrifices. Some people have it harder than others and some people just have stronger will, determination, motivation and temperance than others. What should really be a current issue is the lack of work ethic in young people.

Colinski said...

It's not as simple as blaming animal products. If it were, Scandivians would be much worse off than Americans, since they thrive on a diet laden in meat and cheese. Also, the Masai in Africa traditionally eat basically nothing but meat, milk and blood. The lands they occupy offer little more. Mankind can survive healthfully on a hugely varied diet. Don't get me wrong - I'm opposed to eating animals on moral grounds. However, American obesity has perhaps more to do with refined carbohydrates and the industrialization of agriculture which strips fruits, vegetables and meat products alike of nutrients we need to live. That said, cutting animal products out of the diet, provided one then eats appropriate foods in place of them, probably will alleviate obesity and related diseases.

Tracy H. said...

I agree with Dan in that Americans and the planet would be healthier if more people went veg. And, of course, the animals who suffer and are murdered for their flesh would be a lot better off.

Jym said...

=v= Weston A. Price was a dentist who did a really bad job at playing anthropologist. He got some of the obvious things right (it's better to eat things fresh, unprocessed, local, etc.), and half-truths have the power to convince people, but the research supporting his meatheaded conclusions has long been discredited.

Anonymous said...

Dan Piraro, I LOVE YOU!!! You are on top of my list. Now people, no no, let me rephrase.. Now, Fat Americans, shut the fuck and go back to eating at McDonalds! I'm busy smoking a cigarette and drinking a glass of red wine. I am now dreaming of taking over USA and build more McDonalds, Booger Kings, Taco Hell, and Kentucky Fattening Chicken for you guys BECAUSE YOU DESERVE IT, yippeee!


If you are really interested in this topic, I recommend "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan. When the food industry started "processing" food is when we really began to see changes. We have Sunny D instead of orange juice, Hot Pockets instead of a sandwich, Red Bull instead of Iced Tea... Eat real food. Feel better. Lose weight. Garbage in - garbage out.

Elena said...

I understand that many of your opinions and points of view come from you being a vegan. I'm not going to discuss that because it's your choise and you deal with the consecuences, the pros and the cons.

what I don't agree with is that animal products are the cause of obesity. meat, which is the example you brought up, is basically proteins, it doesn't make you fat. a friend of my mother's who had been quite fat most of her adult life went on a meat-eating-diet and lost a ton of weight.

I'm from argentina, and we eat a LOT of meat. we also have problems with obesity, but we've mainly seen them in the last years, when the caotic-big-city-life style made popular fast food restaurants.

the actual problem, is not meat itself, but the fat that comes with it. for example, pork, which is commonly considered as a very fattening product, it's actually not so much (I would say healthy, but you would disagree, so I put it that way XD), once you remove the fat. the problem with processed meals, like burguers, is that they mix the meat and the fat. and you have it with some greassy fries and with a sugary cola drink. all that adds up to a quite deadly combo.

you also mentioned the envirometal cost of the production, transport in particular. I think that that's a whole different subject, and that alternative energy sources should be developed. period. trucks carrying food aren't more responsible for global warming than people comuting. you wouldn't ask them to quit their jobs. of course, they can car-pool, but honestly, who does?

the answer is that anoying thing we've heard forever. to be fit you need to eat food with good nutritional value and low in fat, and exercise (use the stairs at the very least)

aaaaaaanyhow...I should end this before you fall asleep. I think that you are right in many of the most important poinst and that is really valuable that you speak your mind.

ps: Your cartoons are great by the way lol

B.A.D. said...

Thanks again Dan for speaking the truth and speaking out for those who need it most.

Anonymous said...

It is iAmerican because he is fat. Ha. Ha. Thanks for mailing it in, Danny.

Anonymous said...

Was this obesity issue a mystery to all of you? Its pretty much been a staple on the nightly news the past ten years, everyone.

Unknown said...

It's not just food that leads to American's obesity, but the lack of public infrastructure that gets people outside and moving around. Most cities and towns outside of large urban areas have a limited amount to no sidewalks, town centers, and bicycle lanes.
The Republican’s determination to bankrupt public services from public transportation to libraries in an effort to privatize them, has robbed us of a sense of community and any excuse to leave you home or car.
To say it's just food is ridiculous. It's also about exercise and the average person's quality of life.

La Framéricaine said...

At the risk of pissing everyone off, I just want to revisit this issue after a trip to Las Vegas, the land of the all-you-can-eat-buffet.

Ever since 9/11 I've had a mental mantra running re: the fact that we never needed Bin Laden's army of kamakazi pilots to kill or mortify us, we were/are doing a great job of killing ourselves off with secondary illnesses related to the whole over-eating habit.

Think about it:

--if you take drugs, it's a habit
--ditto, smoking
--ditto, alcohol
--ditto, road rage

The whole food thing that leads to obesity is the same, a habit. No more, no less. It is, however, a habit built of a complex fabric of habits.

For example:
--paid sedentarism, your job!
--ever larger dishes and glasses
--all you can eat buffets
--Big Gulp formats
--high fructose syrup
--over abundance of fast food outlets
--packaged vs fresh foods
--non-observance of relaxing,timed eating periods--breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack (all small and nutritious vs large and lacking in nutrition)
--bigger is better mentality for EVERYTHING, including 750 calorie muffins for fuck's sake!
--lack of public transportation
--lack of safe biking lanes (know anyone killed while biking, I do.)
--lack of a definition of FOOD that excludes soda
--lack of the habit of measuring what you eat
--a willingness to hand over your money for Starbuck's crap. A cup of coffee is one thing. Turning it into a commodity that takes 10 minutes to order and costs $4.50 is another

And on and on it goes... Very tiny details that turn into very fat men, women, and children.

The funny thing is that I am actually very interested in this subject in much the same way that Dan is, although I will never be a vegan. I am prepared to read everything I can get my hands on--Michael Pollan, Weston Price, et al--just to see what opps they might afford for dismantling the mass of habits that is deforming the natural beauty and health of our human family.

You have no idea how many obese men, women, and children we saw in Las Vegas. I don't feel judgmental about them. I feel sad, profoundly sad. The cops are fat, the Marines are fat, the Army is fat, the teachers are fat, the corporate executives are fat, the toddlers are fat, the teenagers are fat, the nurses are fat, the bank tellers are fat, the admin assts in the universities are fat. Slim people are the exception, not the rule.

I genuinely believe that no one wants to be fat, distorted, out of breath, and wearing plus sizes. But the only way to turn the tide is to raise consciousness about the myriad details associated with eating and lack of movement that contribute to the obesity epidemic.

In our tiny world we:
--use very small dishes to serve food in
--use small glasses for drinks
--never put serving dishes on the table
--do not buy junk food
--do not buy packaged food
--do not buy canned food
--do not buy frozen food
--do not drink anything but water, wine, and coffee at home
--use traditional fats--butter, olive oil, coconut oil
--Always share one entree or cut the entrees in half and box them before eating at a restaurant.

People have to empower themselves regarding their knowledge of food and drink. Candy is not food, for example. Pastries are not food for example. Someone wrote here that you should tell yourself that your food is poisonous so that you would not want to eat it. I don't agree. I believe that those who have grown distant from an agrarian life and potential death by starvation must reeducate themselves as to what constitutes FOOD before they raise their hand one more time to their mouths and swallow some corporate loss leader or profit maker.

Sorry to get on the bully pulpit but since Dan so kindly provided one I couldn't resist.


Anonymous said...

I don't think Julie is going to agree with you. Brace yourself.

Debbie said...

There is information regarding diet and cancer. Check out this blog:

Dr. Joel Fuhrman has written several well-researched books on the effect of diet and disease.

GAlcidesS said...

I like the critics within your drawings. Good work.