Corporate Waistline

The Fat Fight Against Fat Cats

" Change of behavior by the group begins with the sincere self-reflection of the group."

In a report publicly released by leading health researchers and pundits, forty-two percent of Americans were projected to be obese by 2030, a rise from thirty-two percent today based on the current growth rate.


The definition of obesity is 30, or greater. The number signifies the division between one’s body mass in pounds by height in inches squared, and is technically called body mass index, or referred to simply as BMI. Although it does not calculate body fat percentage directly, scientists accept it as one of the best heuristic formulas for determining one’s level of girth based on measurements of height and weight.

Immediate and Remote Causes

The BMI scale demarcates if one is underweight, normal weight, overweight, obese, or morbidly obese. Since we know the scale is based on the BMI formula, can one simply fudge the formula and hope to solve the problem of obesity by creating wider scales whereby those deemed fat will instead be labeled normal? The issue can be solved by changing the statistics, right? After all, are not these disparaging statistics the cause of the report that was released, which has sparked national concern? Furthermore, perhaps we have unfairly associated the moniker of ‘obese’ to be notoriously concomitant with disease and shortened life. Change the definition, change the paradigm. If we can give the dog a bad name and hang him, why not take him down, give him a new identity, and pretend like it never happened. By changing the definition of obese (which when quantified is completely subjective anyway) the problem is solved by dint of negation through modification. No one has to worry about obesity anymore or the $550 billion in projected medical costs. Such a solution is so attractively fallacious and ineffective; it is practically political. Yet, the same methodology is used among decision-making intelligentsia with little or no effect.

Unfortunately, failure to look intelligently at the root cause can be overshadowed by immediate causes, some of which are not true causes in themselves, and only create further illusion and confusion; however, in a socio-political landscape of competing factions for limited land, labor, and capital, truth for truth’s sake is more often than not deemed a superfluous luxury. Furthermore, when one is in the darkness of ignorance, ‘reality’ or ‘truth’ could in fact be something completely different and our relationships with those things could also be perverted or concocted. For example, in a state of confusion one may mistake a rope for a snake or falsely judge a genuine friend to be a foe, thinking both cases to be completely real and true but having no objective validity. That same fallacy can hold true for one person or for multitudes of people; there is no restriction on ignorance.

Blame Game

News media point to so many different sources as causes to this obesity epidemic, but fail to look at the root cause. To say that one’s being overweight is due to lack of exercise, poor diet, or psycho-physical maladies are a superficial understanding. Those are ancillary causes. Context is the crux in determining the motive of any action. Take a criminal trial, for instance, where no direct evidence is available; the defendant’s level of culpability to the crime in the eyes of the judge and jury is contingent on so many contextual clues related to time, place, circumstance, relationship to the prosecutor, et cetera. The more one can uncover and piece together these pieces of information, the more lucid the understanding of what actually happened that led to the crime as well as the psychological mindset of the defendant in relation to these contextual clues.

Half of the root cause stems from the culture itself with its unabashed, perverted messages on happiness and reality, which when taken unbolted by an ignorant, undiscerning public, promote an unhealthy lifestyle. Unless one is directly involved in what the media reports on either personally or through personal ties, our source of information on current news must come from media sources under the assumption that what is being reported on is objectively accurate and valid. Needless to say, those who control the channels of communication are in a position of great influence to shape the viewers’ conception of reality. Of course, Big Brother wants you to believe the contrary because their power derives from the public, but it is clear as we see case after case of excessive greed, their motives are selfishly driven. ‘Just believe the hype and give me your money’ is the subtle message – the ideal picaresque society.

McDonald’s Culture

With the mantra of ‘bigger is better,’ fast-food franchises have steadily increased the sizes of their meals. Beginning in the 1970’s, there has been a trend in growing BMI due to an increase in caloric intake. Between 1970 and 1980, calorie intake was relatively stable, rising only 1.2 percent. The following decade consumption ballooned 9.6 percent. Finally, from 1990 to 2008, the number of calories ballooned another 11.4 percent. These are staggering increases – with a grand a total of 2,673 calories consumed per person on average, 23.3 percent more than 1970. Rises in caloric intake among the population were directly correlated with an increase in portion sizes offered by the major food chains.

When the McDonalds chain opened in 1955, the size of their main menu items: hamburgers, French fries, and fountain soda, were 1.6 oz., 2.4 oz, and 6 oz., respectively. Fast forward to today and they have increased to 8 oz., 7.1 oz., and 32 oz., an increase of 500%, 457%, and 250%. Similar increases in food portion sizes are found in other major fast food chains like Wendy’s, and Burger King, which sell the same main menu items in similar portion sizes. Take Wendy’s large French fries for example, which are 6.7 ounces for a large, as compared to Burger King’s 6.9 ounces. Although smaller sizes are available for purchase, these ‘king size’ and ‘supersize’ options have the greatest value based on cost, and for that reason, they are the most attractive to purchase.

Fast food is a popular mainstay of American culture. Of all Americans, 25% eat at fast food establishments every day. There is no shortage of locations either. An estimated 50,000 chains are scattered throughout the US. It is undeniable that the values and ideals such corporations imbibe also resonate in the cultural framework of its consumers. The message is clear that quantity reigns supreme, more is better, and the consequences of such narrow thinking (health risks, environmental hazards, brutish way of life, et cetera) are negligible until proven guilty.

BMI: Body Mind Intelligence

From the body, the mind, and the intelligence there has to be harmony in one’s values and actions otherwise there is an upsetting conflict that arises in the self, often referred to in psychology as cognitive dissonance. To prevent cognitive dissonance and subsequent neuroticism, one must abide by a philosophy that governs how they interact with their environment and think about the universe. Therefore, in order to facilitate a corporate lifestyle, there must be a corporate paradigm. Practically one can see this from a more technical level. When the mind is convinced through discrimination of the intelligence, the next natural sequence is to act on that information.

From a subtle level, the acceptance of an unhealthy lifestyle is heavily proselytized through the incessant blitzing of advertising messages. According to longitudinal studies taken from the 1970’s up until contemporary times, the amount of advertising messages people receive on a daily basis has increased by 900%.(shooting up from an average of 500 to 5000) – ads that are increasingly piquant to promote gorging, prostituting, and abusing.

Mentally the mind is allured by what will taste good, smell good, feel good, sound good, and look good. Let’s be honest, we are searching out for pleasure at every moment, and for the average Joe with little self control, discipline, or austerity, and what to speak of knowledge of how things are working in life, any little push towards sensory stimulation just adds gasoline to the flames.

Nurturing What Is Natural

It is the paradoxical situation for those inured to the modern lifestyle of having to promulgate that which is already akin to the human being: living a peaceful, healthy, and happy life. However, in a widespread social system that conditions one again, and again, and again to interact with artificial, materialistic stimuli, demarcating between ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ becomes exceedingly difficult. One’s own real welfare and sense of welfare are jeopardized by social influences which bring to mind the cliché, ‘if [blank] jumps off a bridge, will you too?‘

Today’s world is operated under hegemony of monopolist corporations who easily commandeer the multitudes of people. How? Because they are distracted by economy, inured in exploitation, emotionally desensitized, and retarded by shortsightedness and sensory overload. When there is a problem on a large scale – in this case a universal scope – other crises are spawned, and in the confusion of the moment, what is of immediate concern is taken as priority, but oftentimes the origin or catalyst is neglected. Therefore, whatever the public eye sees to be a social pandemic or any sign of inauspiciousness, is an integral, albeit tumorous part of the society itself, and any solemn change of behavior by the group begins with the sincere self-reflection of the group. Subdivided further are the members themselves who must also be willing to practice what they preach. That’s the second half of the root cause: the self-control of the individual – the self-incriminating, direct evidence.

Srila Rupa Goswami, a great saint and scholar that lived around 500 years ago, in his spiritual guide book, Upadesamrita or The Nectar of Instruction, gives clear instruction on self-control and discipline. He enjoins that one’s ultimate benefit comes in being able to control the urges of the mind and senses. Explaining further, Srila Rupa Goswami scientifically describes that the tongue, belly, and genitals are situated in a line on the body, and controlling all three begins from the top down. In other words, one must first be able to control the first and most voracious of them all, namely the tongue. Thus the belly and genitals will more easily be tamed, and the carnal urges of lust, greed, and anger will be properly pacified.

Peace with one’s self and other living entitles is the natural sequence for one whom properly uses the senses. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita (5.7), “One who works in devotion, who is a pure soul, and who controls the mind and senses is dear to everyone. Though always working, such a person is never entangled.”

Matthew McManus

Born and grew up in Los Angeles. Graduated from the San Diego State University. Currently a monk at the ISKCON ashram in San Diego.

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