Time to Put That Gorilla on a Diet. That’s the title of a major headline in the news today. This irks me. Besides replacing what should be many other more important news stories, it just reminds me how obsessed we are with weight.
There is no doubt that America’s obese. In 2004, the CDC reported 66.3% of adults in the US were overweight or obese. That was four years ago, I can only imagine the pounds we’ve put on since then.
I’m not suggesting we need a makeover. The fatter everyone else gets, the skinnier I look (should I not say that out loud?). What I’m annoyed at is how much our weight consumes our media and our conversations. You can’t turn on the TV, drive down the road, listen to the radio, or have a conversation without a commercial, billboard, or freakishly thin aunt announcing you could afford to lose a few pounds. Conversely, you can’t turn on the TV, drive down the road, listen to the radio, or have a conversation without a commercial, billboard, or pudgy uncle offering you a flame broiled 5 pound cheeseburger, triple chocolate meltdown, or some tater tots.
I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum: much too fat, much too thin. It seems the gorilla has been too. Before zoo nutritionists became commonplace, the animals often got food similar domestic livestock or pets which resulted in malnutrition. Then they got too fat, feasting on marshmallows and hosts of other fattening foods that visitors threw at them. Now the Gorillas are on Weight Watchers, polar bears are slurping sugar-free Jell-O shots, and Giraffes are nibbling on alfalfa biscuits.
The growing focus on diet and nutrition in zoos parallels the fitness craze in humans, except theirs will be much more successful. The zoo tigers cannot run down to the local 7-Eleven and pick up a six pack of beer, a gallon of ice cream, and a box of donuts. Their diet is monitored beyond their control, which will be entirely to their benefit. Humans don’t have that luxury, unless they enter into exclusive fat camps or sell their soul and bank accounts to Jenny Craig.
One of my biggest pet peeves is women who habitually complain about their bodies. One of my good friends insists on announcing just how fat she will be before every meal, highlighting specific areas of her body which will be especially chunky. It’s impossible to go more than a day without hearing about her thunder thighs, floppy arms, bulging love handles and cankles. She weighs about 120 pounds.
At first I felt sorry for her. I wanted to help fix her self image, restore some self worth and show her how beautiful she was. Now I’m just continually agitated, especially when she broadcasts her false obesity in front of people who are actually overweight. My latest response is to agree with her, which has proven to be both effective and entertaining. She says, “I shouldn’t eat anything today, I’m such a fat-ass. Look at me in these jeans. They barely zip up.” And I say, “You’re right, you are looking a little tubby lately. Maybe you should starve yourself for a week and do us all a favor.”
Too harsh? Maybe. But it always shuts her up.
Many zoos help animals avoid couch potato-style eating by hiding bits of food around their enclosures to encourage food foraging similar to hunting in the wild. I picture Karen the Rhino, once kicked back on the couch in front of Judge Judy with a large bag of Ruffles, now jumping through an obstacle course to find food. Poor thing, at least she’ll look good in a bikini this year.
Maybe I should tell my friend to join the zoo.