Joining the Big Fat Club

One in a series of posts on my struggles with maintaining a healthier weight, starting in early 2019 and working into the present day

: 250-something in January, 2019

I’d been giving some though to the big, fat club of which I was a member.

In January 2019, I wrote:

The obvious remedy to being fat is to stop eating so much.

But here’s the thing: I can’t seem to do it. Or, at least, I can’t seem to do it over the long run.

Look, there are thousands of diet and fitness books out there. I own some of them myself. But I know that this isn’t about eating more meat and less bread or whatever. This is less about my body than my mind. 

Having said that, I imagine there are some genetic components. In my family, we males tend to gain weight on our hips and only later does it creep up and around our stomachs. At the beach, it’s all too easy to identify us as siblings. 

But, hey, even if there is a genetic factor, that doesn’t mean I’m somehow fated to be fat. It just means that losing weight is a somewhat bigger challenge for me than for some other folks. 

Yet, that are a lot of other folks, of course. Not long ago, I was at the shuffleboard courts and decided to look for men that weren’t fat or, at least, overweight. Know what? It was a challenge. We fats guys are legion.

Yeah, I know. Shuffleboard, right? The ultra-low impact sport of fat fellows. Especially older fat fellows. But here’s the thing. It’s getting to be a pretty popular sport among the Millennial and Gen Z generations, and a lot of them are pretty heavy as well.

But, again, shuffleboard! 

Okay, so go ahead and Google that stuff. You’ll see that an astonishing 80% of U.S. men ages 50 to 54 are either overweight or obese. It’s a frigging American epidemic.  And, though we U.S. guys are the poster children of fat people, being fat is a global thing.

We fat folk are over 2 billion strong, at least 30% of the whole world’s population. The number of overweight and obese individuals in the world increased from 857 million (20%) in 1980 to 2.1 billion (30%) in 2013. And things aren’t getting any better. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the percent of U.S. adults aged 20 and over who are overweight or obese was a whopping 71.6% in 2015-2016. 

Okay, so there’s not just a genetic component, there’s a cultural one. We denizens of the so-called developed world are just a lot more likely to be fat. Why? Take your pick.

  • Jobs where we mostly sit all day long
  • Lots of processed, tasty and calorie-packed foods
  • Entertainments (Netflix anyone?) where we also mostly sit or, even better, lounge
  • Tons of work and life stress, especially in the U.S.

Those are just the tip of the iceberg. If we wanted, we could delve into the evils of advertising, the fantastic success of the modern agricultural revolution, and more. But you get the drift. There are a lot of external reasons so many of us have gotten fat.

And, for me, there are a lot of internal reasons as well, which I’ll get into later.

The Fat Men’s Clubs of Yesteryear

Does it matter? That’s a question I keep coming back to. At one time, being fat was fine, even trendy.

There actually were fat men’s clubs in the U.S. back in the day, meaning the late 19th to early 20th centuries. They were literally social clubs that you could only join if you weighed over 200 lbs (91 kg). Back then, the stereotype associated with being a fat man (and, yes, there was double standard for women even back then) was that they were financially successful, benevolent and, well, kind of jolly.

Times have changed, though. Now we fat folk are in a club that few folks want to be part of. Maybe that’ll change again in the future. For now, though, we are legion yet often still ashamed of our not-to-hot bodies.

Engraving showing the 15th Annual Clambake of the Fat Men's Association in Connecticut by Neosho Absecon

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Mark R. Vickers

I am a writer, analyst, futurist and researcher. I've spent most of my working life as an editor and manager for research organizations focusing on social, business, technology, HR and management trends. But, perhaps more to the point for this blog, I'm curious about the universe and the myriad, often mysterious relationships therein.

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