Fat of the Matter

Health foods abound!!!

That’s the modern mass media F&B industry. We are taught more — we are filed neatly into groups that follow particular diets. We even have groups for those who cannot lose weight! The Big Loser — now in it’s 17th season showed fat profits on the balance sheet of NBC (so much so, that a spin-off has found its way on the networks of over 20 countries, from Argentina to Vietnam).

There is a stress in trying to be normal — and that is relatable! In today’s fast-paced let’s-fucking-do-it-faster urban life we love the idea of watching people admit the sad cadence of everything terrible on the very face that pleasantly welcomes food. We love hearing the saddened articulation of fat people — people who come to recognise, as Rimbaud said, that “we were owed other lives,” people exhausted by a sense of incompleteness, people who liberate themselves from the weight of a distant perfected image of human appearance by tossing a cupcake into their mouths.

The protein-bar represents this — it stands as the prophet of a new religion for the overweight. It is the packaged miracle — or at least, the implied miracle that “scoop up beauty that has streamed from” our faces. Health drinks, bars and low calorie foods are the dolls of our age; the toys of discovery that allows us to play-act the eternal stillness of the dream that can never be got to. Rilke said, in an essay titled Puppe, “in a world in which fate and even God himself have become famous above all because they answer us with silence…the doll was the first to inflict on us that tremendous silence (larger than life) which later kept breathing on us out of space, whenever we came to the limits of our existence. It was facing the doll, as it stared at us, that we experienced for the first time (or am i mistaken?) that emptiness of feeling, that heart-pause, in which we could have vanished…”

Are health foods more? Are the TV shows focused on “fat-people” birdsongs of a culture that can recognise itself only in longing?

“Where you see ideals, I see what is Human, alas, All too Human!”

Being fat has been, for the most part, something to be overcome. The (mere) appearance has become a barometer — and what does it measure?

A vacancy in plot?

Or is Fat and all things associated with it, the haunting propeller of human will? Have we allowed Fat to enhance the rhyme scheme of human history?

Fat — to a great extent — at least in developed and developing countries — calibrates human volatility and the struggle towards a single simultaneity. Fat in now a unifier — a cris de coeur — a myth all our own. In affording it to hold value, we have placed, the partakers in a mere effort to lose weight, in a theatre of human action; in a nourished voice, we’ve made the insecure into heroes.

Let’s get this sorted first — we most certainly don’t live in an age where the human body is glorified for its contributions. No longer do soldiers march with hoplite armour — no longer are there guardians on the far border of empires, all alone, with a an ounce of water to get them through the day. The body does not have to be a temple as it once was — leeches are not sent down our spine to suck blood; a tooth is not extracted without anaesthetics. We live in an age where, being spared the rod, we can be a brat about it, go ahead and value what was once an everyday issue. Health — feats of strength — why beauty, were signifiers of history, of human involvement. And we celebrated such things — we had the Olympics — we allowed ourselves to believe that a face would be the cause for a thousand ships to set sail — we never forgot Pheidippides. There was an excellence that good health brought man to — an excellence seen in Faust’s “exalted striving.”

An excellence to which we, the 21st century, are divorced to. Losing fat does not contribute towards the betterment of man — sure, the health benefits are numerous, and everyone should be encouraged to get to a position where they can benefit from feeling perky; be allowed to go a day without their bowels clanking, or without drumming the air with farts. But fat — and the lack of it, or, the desire to build muscle to exhibit, is not worth the glorification. It’s just an act — it’s something that must pass unspoken of. At the least — its not the avenue in which we must seek our heroes. Fat-shows cannot be created to allow people to celebrate vicariously. We cannot afford to find inspiration in the will power of a weight loser. We cannot continue to “stay tuned” to people losing weight — if we do, we might as well find the next philosopher on Facebook. If we continue to make holy mere flesh, we lose all that makes us Human. There has to be an artistic thirst, a desire to excel in a sport, to showcase something that might inspire — even, showcase something that might arose — in order to capture an audience. If the world is willing to sit still and watch someone lose weight, we might as well be cockroaches.

And what of health foods? Sure — its great, and anticipated. And to an extent it makes sense — that with science, and a growing awareness we move towards cleaner eating habits. We allow ourselves to be on earth just a bit longer. But does the promise not bother? Health foods today represent ourselves, our leaders better than any other metaphor — they can afford to promise, fail and still sell themselves. There is a craving in us for these products — because they offer to help, they assure us that we can be better than we were meant to; they join us, like a priest, in search of some high ideal. One cannot mistake the way information is passed on to the consumer when entering a gym-store. The high-style, the hope of a reward, the mentioning of goals, and the promised path towards the ideal, is all too familiar. And, unlike any other commercial enterprise — the salesman selling protein is always “the expert.” There is an omniscience in his tone — something you don’t find at Macy’s or Tesco or Aldo — that salesman, the surrounding, is what we have allowed the body to become.

Remember Tarrare? Tartare was Frenchman with an insatiable appetite, (like Kaiyasandigai) who joined a gang of thieves and prostitutes to feed himself enough. He could eat baskets of apple whole; eat corks and stones; even live animals. A man famous because he could eat!

Surely we are not aspiring towards that?

Surely we see, that the song we are singing, celebrates our end.

Surely we will come to realise that statements like “You’ve lost a lot of weight,” and “Wow! How much weight have you lost?” rob us of a privacy that makes the struggle kitsch.