February 24, 2012
Excerpt from the 2009 documentary Ingredients:
"There's no culture in the world that spends less on food per capita or more on medicine than the United States."
Excerpt from The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan, published in 2007 by Penguin Books:
"The Alcoholic Republic has long since given way to the Republic of Fat, we're eating today much the way we drank then, and for some of the same reasons. According to the surgeon general, obesity today is officially an epidemic; it is arguably the most pressing public health problem we face, costing the health care system an estimated $90 billion a year. Three of every five Americans are overweight; one of every five is obese. The disease formerly known as adult-onset diabetes has had to be renamed Type II diabetes since it now occurs so frequently in children. A recent study in the Journal of American Medical Association predicts that a child born in 2000 has a one-in-three chance of developing diabetes. (An African American child's chances are two in five.) Because of diabetes and all the other health problems that accompany obesity, today's children may turn out to be the first generation of Americans whose life expectancy will actually be shorter than that of their parents. The problem is not limited to America: The United Nations reported that in 2000 the number of people suffering from overnutrition - a billion - had officially surpassed the number suffering from malnutrition - 800 million.
You hear plenty of explanations for humanity's expanding waistline, all of them plausible. Changes in lifestyle (we're more sedentary; we eat out more). Affluence (more people can afford a high-fat Western diet). Poverty (healthier whole foods cost more). Technology (fewer of us use our bodies in our work; at home, the remote control keeps us pinned to the couch). Clever marketing (supersized portions; advertising to children). Changes in diet (more fats; more carbohydrates; more processed foods).
All these explanations are true, as far as they go. But it pays to go a little further, to search for the cause behind the causes. Which, very simply, is this: When food is abundant and cheap, people will eat more of it and get fat. Since 1977 an American's average daily intake of calories has jumped by more than 10 percent. Those two hundred calories have to go somewhere, and absent an increase in physical activity (which hasn't happened), they end up being stored away in fat cells in our bodies." ...
February 20, 2012
Excerpts from The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe, first published by W.H. Allen & Co., London, 1959:
... Cunning is what counts in this life, and even that you've got to use in the slyest way you can; I'm telling you straight: they're cunning, and I'm cunning. If only 'them' and 'us' had the same ideas we'd get on like a house on fire, but they don't see eye to eye with us and we don't see eye to eye with them, so that's how it stands and how it will always stand. The one fact is that all of us are cunning, and because of this there's no love lost between us. ...
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And I swear under my breath: "Like boggery, I will." No, I won't get them that cup, even though the stupid tash-twitching bastard has all his hopes in me. Because what does his barmy hope mean? I ask myself. Trot-trot-trot, slap-slap-slap, over the stream and into the wood where it's almost dark and frosty-dew twigs sting my legs. It don't mean a bloody thing to me, only to him, and it means as much to him as it would mean to me if I picked up the racing paper and put my bet on a hoss I didn't know, had never seen, and didn't care a sod if I ever did see. That's what it means to him. And I'll lose that race, because I'm not a race horse at all, and I'll let him know it when I'm about to get out - if I don't sling my hook even before the race. By Christ I will. I'm a human being and I've got thoughts and secrets and bloody life inside me that he doesn't know is there, and he'll never know what's there because he's stupid. I suppose you'll laugh at this, me saying the governor's a stupid bastard when I know hardly how to write and he can read and write and add-up like a professor. But what I say is true right enough. He's stupid, and I'm not, because I can see further into the likes of him than he can see into the likes of me. ...
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... So I thought: they aren't going to get me on this racing lark, this running and trying to win, this jog-trotting for a bit of blue ribbon, because it's not the way to go on at all, though they swear blind that it is. You should think about nobody and go your own way, not on a course marked out for you by people holding mugs of water and bottles of iodine in case you fall and cut yourself so that they can pick you up - even if you want to stay where you are - and get you moving again.