Bird gets fat – Capitalism to blame!

Nearly three decades ago, when I was an overweight teenager, I sometimes ate six pieces of sliced white toast in a row, each one slathered in butter or jam. I remember the spongy texture of the bread as I took it from its plastic bag. No matter how much of this supermarket toast I ate, I hardly felt sated. It was like eating without really eating. Other days, I would buy a box of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes or a tube of Pringles: sour cream and onion flavour stackable snack chips, which were an exciting novelty at the time, having only arrived in the UK in 1991. Although the carton was big enough to feed a crowd, I could demolish most of it by myself in a sitting. Each chip, with its salty and powdery sour cream coating, sent me back for another one. I loved the way the chips – curved like roof tiles – would dissolve slightly on my tongue.

After one of these binges – because that is what they were – I would speak to myself with self-loathing. “What is wrong with you?” I would say to the tear-stained face in the mirror. I blamed myself for my lack of self-control. But now, all these years later, having mostly lost my taste for sliced bread, sugary cereals and snack chips, I feel I was asking myself the wrong question. It shouldn’t have been “What is wrong with you?” but “What is wrong with this food?”

Back in the 90s, there was no word to cover all the items I used to binge on. Some of the things I over-ate – crisps or chocolate or fast-food burgers – could be classified as junk food, but others, such as bread and cereal, were more like household staples. These various foods seemed to have nothing in common except for the fact that I found them very easy to eat a lot of, especially when sad. As I ate my Pringles and my white bread, I felt like a failure for not being able to stop. I had no idea that there would one day be a technical explanation for why I found them so hard to resist. The word is “ultra-processed” and it refers to foods that tend to be low in essential nutrients, high in sugar, oil and salt and liable to be overconsumed.

It’s never, ever, the fault of the individual woman, is it?

47 comments on “Bird gets fat – Capitalism to blame!

  1. “I had no idea that there would one day be a technical explanation for why I found them so hard to resist.”

    You have no will power?

  2. “for the fact that I found them very easy to eat a lot of, especially when sad“

    …if you’re eating because you feel sad you aren’t going to feel sated. Because you’re not hungry, you’re sad. And eating doesn’t make it go away. Might temporarily distract you, but it won’t make it go away.

  3. People have always been tempted by sugar, salt and fat, because for the vast majority of human existence it made sense to grab as much of that stuff as you possibly could.
    Terry Pratchett had a different list “Burnt Brown Crunchy Bits, fat, starch and sugar are the four major food groups according to many men in Ankh-Morpork.”

  4. Anecdotal, but there seem to be a lot more lardy teenage girls around in this enlightened decade than in the 90s. And these look to be the socially confident ones, not spotty nerds in goth makeup.

    Not that I spend a lot of time looking at teenage girls, or anything, you understand.

  5. I thought it was poverty that caused obesity.

    I was previously a National Geographic magazine subscriber (£15 for a year and they sent you a free fleece with it. Pictures were always really nice. Bargain). Cancelled it the day they released an issue on how highly obese poor people are actually starving. I knew then that the magazine had gone so far into loopyland that I’d risk losing too many brain cells if I persevered with it.

  6. She’s fat because she’s lazy and/or she was fat because she was lazy.
    The guru she quotes said that the people who cook are healthier than those who do not …. Surprise, surprise!

  7. Why were you only eating poor quality food? There has never been such a huge variety of good quality stuff stacked sky high on supermarket shelves. You can pick up cook books for next to nothing in remainder and charity shops and cooking is never off the telly.

  8. Stonyground said:
    “Why were you only eating poor quality food?”

    Because she’d rather blame the system than make an effort herself.

  9. Look, I appreciate the fish-in-a-barrel temptation of stories about Guardian female writers’ daftness. But there’s an observation to be made here, and that is why would anyone GAF about their stupid obsession with their own damn selves. Of course it’s not limited to the Guardian, it seems that whenever you give a woman a chance to write for publication she will write self-centred crap. I’m fed up with it. Have you ever taken a Sunday paper and its numerous supplements and sections and analyzed just how much of the content is useful, is not a sheer waste of time to read? The sooner they all croak the better.

  10. ‘could be classified as junk food’: that’s not a scientific category, it’s a social category. In other words it’s a snobbery thing.

    ‘“ultra-processed”’ … refers to foods that tend to be low in essential nutrients, high in sugar, oil and salt and liable to be overconsumed.’ Salt is an essential nutrient. If the ‘oil’ is animal fat, it probably contains essential nutrients too. The same is true, I expect, of olive oil.

    I conclude that “ultra-processed” isn’t really a scientific category either, or that if it is it’s a lousy word for whatever it’s driving at.
    Maybe it really means “those foods that have been urged on you by decades of wrong-headed Government dietary propaganda”. Come to think of it that is essentially a scientific definition – you can check what it means by consulting the aforesaid propaganda. It was governments that told people to eat plenty of trans-fats: margarine not butter, rape seed oil not lard or dripping. And lots of starch – you need your carbohydrates – and plenty of sugar: neck lots of fruit juice at breakfast. They probably managed to shorten tens of millions of lives and make many a good deal less joyful. Don’t eat egg yolks, for fucks sake!

  11. Get a look at the length of that article.

    It’s part of a series called “the long read”. It’s doing what it says on the tin.

  12. The only sensible women who write seem to be writing for The Conservative Woman. I’m glad I didn’t let the name of the website put me off!

  13. “”No matter how much of this supermarket toast I ate, I hardly felt sated.

    “Dr. Atkins was right.””

    Sure was. Two fried eggs in a little butter at 6pm – no munchies the rest of the evening. And those yolks – lovely!

  14. She writes so lovingly about pringles I was tempted to go out and buy a tube. But then I couldn’t he arsed.

  15. Food is food. It has no capacity to be good or bad. It’s just food.

    What people do with the food isn’t the food’s fault.

    ‘driving the global obesity crisis’

    The Left is driving the global obesity crisis. It is fake, a tool to be used against you. Bee Wilson, et al, don’t love you. They don’t want to help you. They want to control you.

  16. Unintentionally hilarious, as always. Anyway…

    it seems that whenever you give a woman a chance to write for publication she will write self-centred crap. I’m fed up with it.

    Or a middle-aged middle-class woman advocating absurdly illiberal laws to ‘fix’ a non-existent or completely trivial issue (The Times).

    The quality of political opinion articles has plunged as the number of them has exploded. Completely dismal.

  17. Eat less and exercise more. As your belly shrinks from sit-ups and a sensible diet, you will eat less. And whatever you do, don’t eat for comfort.

  18. Interesting that the Grauniad Article says that she arrived in the UK in 1991 but Google says that she was born in the UK in 1974, the daughter of AN Wilson a Marxist public-school-boy

  19. What is actually the more interesting question is what is government’s role when it appears that people are doing something that is not good for them? That the portion of the population that smokes has dropped from about three-fourths to about a fifth over two generations is a success story. There is merit in telling people that if they eat too much junk food they’ll get fat and that will affect your health. There is a role for someone in pointing that out.

    The real problem is identifying who should point that out. If it’s the government, we know that they will eventually move from their “listen to me” phase to “dammit, you’re not listening so I’ll make you do what I want”. Who doesn’t think there will eventually be calls to send the stubborn final 10% of smokers to concentration camps? Perhaps trying to couple good advice without coercion is a role for non-government entities, though they too will eventually see their role as not so much educating but lobbying for enforcement.

    It progresses something like:

    People doing what they please which may be something that’s not healthy
    Someone pointing out that it’s not healthy and being mostly ignored
    Lobbying for new laws and government gets involved
    Passing of restrictive laws that do have some and perhaps significant effect
    Eventual rebellion against all these laws and people doing what they please in spite of them
    More rigorous enforcement and eventual election of someone who wants to take a wrecking ball to the whole edifice

  20. “junk food”

    Does it pass the Auschwitz Test? I.e., would it have helped people at Auschwitz to stay alive? If yes, then “junk food” is a lie.

    Food is innocent. As objects tend to be.

    People’s difficulties with food are quantitative, not qualitative. Calling food names is like calling a stick names. Utterly ridiculous.

  21. “What is actually the more interesting question is what is government’s role when it appears that people are doing something that is not good for them?”

    I beg to differ. Not only is it not an interesting question, it is a question to which the only answer capable of withstanding scrutiny is, “None of its business, and none of yours. Go and get a hobby. A proper one, which doesn’t involve bossing people about”.

  22. Junk food is merely shorthand for stuff that will fatten you up quickly if you eat too much, and that will have other consequences for your health. Telling people that does provide a benefit. Go back to the ‘50s and earlier and you’ll find old advertisements telling you that smoking was healthy. If you can think of a better short hand term provide one.

    I didn’t argue in favor of government intervention but rather that it may best be done by non governmental agencies. However, as they find their efforts fail to produce the results they want they will begin to advocate for laws to force compliance. It’s nice to be a libertarian, but they are a minority; the majority wish to impose on others; they just have different things they want to impose and sometimes the best you can hope for is to mitigate the imposition.

    To a great extent putting out health information is akin to providing a review, and reviews are simply putting out the information necessary for a free market. I read reviews when I recently bought a new car and a camera. In fact, I think reviews are largely useful, though they can be wrong or incomplete. I don’t really care to see them put out by the government though, but it’s foolish to think that’s a majority viewpoint.

  23. “Junk food is merely shorthand for stuff that will fatten you up quickly if you eat too much”

    So junk food = food? Hardly a useful expression, then.

  24. “junk food” used to describe food that had very little nutritional value in terms of non-calorific essentials such as protein, vitamins and key elements (iron, calcium etc)
    Now it’s just an insult like “right-wing”

  25. “Junk food is merely shorthand for stuff that will fatten you up quickly if you eat too much”

    Then don’t eat too much, dumbass.

  26. To feel full, you need to combine protein with fat (rabbits have almost no fat, hence “rabbit starvation”).

    The government has waged a war on fat ever since the mid-70s (I bet this lassie was not eating butter, in fact, but some ghastly vegetable oil product), hence people never feel sated. So, they snack all the time: this is probably why, even though consumption of sugar has massively decreased since the 80s, there are more obese people.

    And, incidentally, it’s Jussi’s couple of eggs fried in butter does fill you up. (Frying stuff in butter tastes better too.)

    Simples.

    DK

  27. Her Grauniad byline spiel is 11 months out of date:

    “Bee Wilson is a food journalist and author. Her most recent book is First Bite: How We Learn to Eat. Her next is The Way We Eat Now: Strategies for Eating in a World of Change (out in March 2019)”

  28. Bee Wilson – another Guardian Mad Cat Woman

    No dear, your fatness is not due to “ultra-processed” food, it’s due to your self-admitted self-harming ‘comfort eating’ and “I blamed myself for my lack of self-control.”

    There’s a reason we don’t allow our pet dogs unlimited food: they’re too unevolved to realise there is no shortage

    “Capitalism to blame” – in some ways Yes, it’s made food cheap and abundant. However, nobody is force fed, eating is a choice.

    I sometimes ate six pieces of sliced white toast in a row, each one slathered in butter or jam. It was like eating without really eating

    Sounds like you obtained no pleasure from stuffing your face. Why do it?

    I never ate quantities you did, I’m not fat.

    @JuliaM February 13, 2020 at 8:17 am

    +1

  29. @NDReader

    Some of us have recognised the dependable food storage & availability, evolved and stopped ‘feast and famine’ eating. It occurred over 2,000 years ago.

    @BiG

    In UK poverty causes skinny malnutrition And obesity – Left don’t do logic

    @rhoda klapp

    Spot on eg Sara Vine (Gove) and Liz Jones in DM/MoS

    @dearieme

    +1 like “Mechanically Recovered Meat” no different from “Mother’s Home Made Chicken (carcass) Broth”

    @Jussi

    +1 Good male writers on TCW too

    @Gamecock

    +1 +1

    @TD

    The source used to be Schools, esp Home Economics, back when schools taught facts and skills rather than fairy tales and fads

    As Mr Lud says.

  30. Does it pass the Auschwitz Test? I.e., would it have helped people at Auschwitz to stay alive? If yes, then “junk food” is a lie.

    Gulag prisoners were reported as eating axle grease to stay alive.

    Sure it may have helped sustain them in the short term, but if consumed over the long term the effects would undoubtedly have been harmful.

    Nobody is saying that a burger, fries and coke is immediately harmful. But such a diet over the long term will make you fat and sick. Hence the term ‘junk food’ is perfectly cromulent.

  31. Nobody is saying that a burger, fries and coke is immediately harmful. But such a diet over the long term will make you fat and sick. Hence the term ‘junk food’ is perfectly cromulent.

    I could eat a burger a day for a year, and come out no less healthy than I am now. Burgers are reasonably balanced as food goes. Some protein, some — but not excessive — carbs, a bit of fat and even some vegetable.

    I could eat fries twice a week for a year and suffer no ill effects. None.

    I know students who can drink a Coke a day because actually, they need the energy. As a middle aged man, I would need to moderate it. But they don’t.

    It’s all snobbery.

    Nobody is saying that a pate, oysters and champagne is immediately harmful. But such a diet over the long term will make you fat and sick. Hence the term ‘junk food’ is perfectly cromulent.

  32. I don’t know where I read this, IIRC a South African website.

    “Junk food is food which did not take your mother (or some posh chef) at least twenty minutes to make.”

    It’s a term invented by mothers to denigrate people who sell food their kids actually want.

  33. Some observations.

    Complaints about ‘junk food’ are almost-universally mouthed by those with a safe, urban and sedentary lifestyle. In other words, they have never had to haul a stick of drill pipe in -20° weather, or wrestle a balky calf into the back of a pickup. There are people – lots of people – who need all of the fat and calories, and more, that typify what is so airily dismissed as ‘junk food’, just to do their daily work, and it is a miracle of our modern age that those calories and nutrients are so freely and cheaply available. Our ancestors would have been simply stunned – gob-smacked – that today, even the meanest manual worker can walk into a small, well-lit building in Cavalier, North Dakota and walk out with 2500 calories of nutritionally-complete, hot, safe and wholesome food, made fresh for them and at a cost no more than 1/4 of their hourly wage. It’s simply staggering to comprehend how this can be brought about.

    The basic equation of calories of food in minus calories of work done = resulting body type has no regard whatever to the type or nature of the food. Food is fuel, no more, no less, and it makes virtually no difference to the equation whether it is a Big Mac and fries or an exquisite ris de veau in cream sauce. If you do not believe me, simply Google for a minute the diet of the average Olympic swimmer. It’s not for the faint of heart, and it’s virtually-all ‘junk food’, because that’s the only way that a human can take in all of those calories in any reasonable way. Yet they never, ever get fat, their whole existence is built around the fact that they cannot allow themselves to get fat.

    The equation has always been true. It’s a proven fact that the sailors of Nelson’s Navy were not the starving wretches of legend, struggling to get by on fetid water and weevilly biscuit. On the contrary, they were consistently fed between 4500 and 5000 calories a day, every day, because on less than that, they simply could not sail and fight their ships and maintain healthy body type and weight. And they weren’t eating any kale chips or vegan nut cutlets, either – their diet, which was strictly monitored and strictly-enforced, was filled with high-quality fats, starches and many “highly-processed” foods, simply because there was no other way to keep them fed. And they didn’t get fat.

    If you get fat, you ate more calories than you expended. Simple as that. If you don’t want to get fat, match your food intake to your energy expenditure. If that means that you have to eat less of what you like to eat – too bad. Your body, your choice. But blaming food manufacturers for making tasty, wholesome and attractive foods, or trying to tie your lack of willpower to the fact that the foods you like to eat have been ‘highly-processed’ (whatever THAT means) is like blaming the fact that you are fat on the makers of knives and forks, for making it to easy to put the food in your mouth.

    llater,

    llamas

  34. “Food is fuel, no more, no less”

    Some pendantry . . . though I agree completely with your sentiment.

    Food is also building materials to maintain the physical plant. Though the body gives priority to energy. If you eat no carbs, your body will metabolize protein for energy, and not do body maintenance.

    [I am Gamecock, and I approve this message.]

  35. @Chester Draws, llamas

    +10

    I present fat filled Foie gras, food repeatedly drizzled with olive oil and add cream/butter posh food

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