When I was five years old, I was sitting in my parents’ living room after an exhausting day of kindergarten. My twin brother was sitting next to me, drawing a picture. My mother, who was always interested in my brother’s drawing talent (she used to tell him that he should follow his childhood dream of being a cartoonist for Disney), noticed something different about his picture. “Why did you make a circle for that boy’s stomach?” she asked. “That’s John-John,” my brother replied, matter-of-factly. “Oh,” my mother responded with a slight raise of her voice, as if she realized that my brother, even at age five, understood diversity. John-John, as all the kids called him, was fat. It was the first time my brother and I knew a fat person.
Now 40 and still single, I think I’ve finally discovered why it is so hard for me to find a mate: nearly everyone in the U.S. is fat. Despite my late mother’s repeated wish for me to get a wife and present her with grandchildren, I have to be selective. “Do you really want fat grandkids?” I would ask her. That usually satisfied her until the next phone conversation, which was later the same day.
According to the most recent data of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 69.2 percent of the U.S. adult population is overweight (defined as a body mass index, BMI, of greater than or equal to 25) and 35.9 percent is obese (defined as a BMI greater than or equal to 30). That’s a lot of fat people. Mississippi, with 34.6 percent of its population obese, has the honor of being the fattest state in the country. I guess if I want to find a wife I should stay away from Mississippi. Of course, fat people are not just in Mississippi. They’re everywhere—McDonald’s of course, but they’re also in bookstores, nightclubs, Starbucks, corporate offices, shopping malls, on college campuses, at friends’ barbecues, and in online personal ads—everywhere one looks for a potential mate. Even fitness centers, once considered the ideal pick-up spots for hard bodies, are today filled with America’s flab. Aside from the numerous documented medical issues all of this overfatness is linked to, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, gallbladder disease, menstrual abnormalities, arthritis, and other orthopedic maladies, not to mention the billions of dollars it costs in health care, it also makes it harder for a guy like me to meet someone and get married. And that’s the real tragedy.
To find someone to date, I have to immediately eliminate two-thirds of the population. And the outlook gets bleaker as I get older. While 53 percent of U.S. adult females aged 20 to 34 are overweight or obese, overweight and obese people make up 61 percent of 35- to 44-year-olds, 65 percent of 45- to 54-year-olds, and 72 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds. If I don’t find someone soon, I either have to marry someone a lot younger than me, or I’m in big trouble.
Remember your middle school and high school gym classes, where there was a non-athletic fat kid who always got picked last to be on a team? Searching for a potential mate in the twenty-first century dating pool is like being back in that gym class, but instead of there being one or two kids whom you don’t want to pick for your team, there’s 20 out of 30 kids whom you don’t want on your team. And the other ten kids are already playing for other teams, since it seems every thin woman I meet is already taken by some other guy.
In trying to understand obesity, and in an attempt to discover the probability of me ever finding a thin mate, I look in a few places. As a scientist, I first look to evolution. In Charles Darwin’s seminal book, The Origin of Species, he describes one of the principles of evolution—divergence of character:
“Mere chance, as we may call it, might cause one variety to differ in some character from its parents, and the offspring of this variety again to differ from its parent in the very same character and in a greater degree… The truth of the principle that the greatest amount of life can be supported by great diversification of structure, is seen under many natural circumstances.”
From an evolutionary perspective, since more “fit” variations of a species survive and proliferate, and less “fit” variations become extinct by natural selection, variation, which results from a chance mutation of a gene, is obligatory for natural selection to occur. Does this mean that fat people have to exist for our species to survive? (And here I was hoping that someday every woman would look like Pamela Anderson.)
As a person of faith, I look to God. I ask him, “God, why is everyone so fat? Can’t you see that I can’t find a mate in a sea of fat people?” Surprisingly, I get no response. So I read the Bible. Surely the Bible will have an answer. And there I find it, right there in the book of Genesis (1:26-27):
“And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
So, am I to assume, as I walk through the shopping malls of America sipping my Starbucks’ double chocolate chip mocha grande frappuccino, that God wore a size 42 when he created us? Of course, that was long before Jillian Michaels’ weight loss books were published, so I bet that God is now thin.
Being a runner for most of my childhood and my entire adult life, I value being slim and fit. Quite frankly, I don’t have much tolerance for fat people. For one thing, it’s medically threatening. If I’m going to stay committed to someone “in sickness and in health,” why would I want to increase the chances of my wife’s sickness by marrying someone fat? And let’s not forget to mention what the sex life would be with a fat woman. That’s just downright unattractive. Do I really want to have sex every day with a fat wife? No, thank you. If I’m going to be with the same person for 30 or 40 years, she better have a body that looks just as good if not better naked as it does dressed.
Of course, I can hear all the fat people exclaiming as they read this that real beauty is on the inside and blah, blah, blah. And of course that’s true (even the blah, blah, blah part). But beauty is also on the outside, as any television evening news broadcast or women’s magazine cover can attest to. And it’s important to be physically attracted to your mate. After all, physical attraction is one of the key differences between being friends and being lovers.
There’s certainly no shortage of information on how to lose weight. Check out any library or bookstore and you’ll find dozens of weight loss books and health and fitness magazines, happy to tell you how to lose weight and get a beach body. I even write some of those articles myself. The problem, however, is that all that information competes with the fast food restaurants and technology and the human nature to be physically lazy. And the fast food restaurants and technology win every time. Because it’s easier to stuff your face with a double bacon cheeseburger than it is to walk or run five miles each day. But those double bacon cheeseburgers are preventing me from finding a mate. If the rate of obesity in this country continues to increase, one day everyone will be fat. Then what will I do? Sue McDonald’s for negligence of my love life? Start courting Kirstie Alley? Listen to my friend who says, “They all look the same when you turn off the lights!”?
Maybe when Teri Hatcher is ready to settle down with a nice Jewish doctor from Brooklyn, I can give her a call. Anyone have her phone number?