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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Obesity kicks ass

“Big” news lately with Burger King’s XXL hamburger ads. The Spanish Ministry of Health is throwing a fit over the American fast food chain’s aggressive, politically incorrect marketing approach. While McDonald’s is promoting its healthier side, Burger King is putting up posters with gargantuan hamburgers: the XXL burger for big boys.

I'd barely be able to eat one of these. On the other hand, I bet my cuñaooo* could eat one easily. He’s got an impressive stomach, almost shelf-like, which no doubt has grown a couple sizes after the quantity of food he scarfed down over Christmas.

I have no desire to eat an XXL burger. And I wasn’t magically hypnotized into wanting to eat an XXL burger by the advertising either.

I would expect to get fat after regularly eating these, and I wouldn’t go around blaming anyone but my fat ass self. It’s quite simple, really, if you don’t want to gain weight. Don’t stuff yourself. Move a little. If not, you’ll become a sedentary slug somewhat reminiscent of Jabba the Hut. I work all day in front of a computer, but I ride a bike, I generally eat what I want to, and I don’t gorge myself. Fish, for example, have eight second memories, and have been known to eat themselves to death. The more food you throw at them, the more they eat. That’s a fish, with absolutely no capacity for abstract thought. To relegate humans to the intellectual level of a fish is insulting and patronizing.

That’s one of the things I hate about the United States. Ridiculous litigations against fast food and tobacco companies are convincing the more impressionable element of the population that they themselves are responsible for absolutely nothing. Successful lawsuits against fast food chains for making you fat, lawsuits against tobacco companies for giving you lung cancer … hey I’m not saying your path is an easy one, but you chose it, and you shouldn’t be treated as a victim. This mentality produces babies in the bodies of men. Or rather men with michelines**.

Most of the people in Spain scoff at such stupidity, and this is why I’m shocked that such a fuss is being made over Burger King’s polemics. If anything, this is giving them more publicity. And it also might mean, ironically, more of an Americanization in terms of mentality. Let’s not take individual responsibility and blame it all on the hypnotic effects of some advertising exec’s nocturnal emission.

Like fatty foods have never existed in Spain. Bars all over the city sell patatas bravas, chocos, frankfurters, patatas fritas, salchichas. All of this, and more, swimming in oil and fat. On any given day you can walk into a bar and see a portly cigar-smoking gentleman drinking a beer and eating these tapas.

The average menu in Spain looks like this:

(click on the image for more succulent detail)

I bet you any one of these platos combinados has as much calories as Burger King’s XXL (which purportedly has 941 calories, or the equivalent of 7 fried eggs). In other words, fatty food is not an American phenomenon.

They put fried eggs in everything here. They put fried eggs on pizzas, as disgusting as that sounds. I have even grown rather fond of the legendary Hamburguesa Reloj, which consists of a hamburger patty, bacon, lettuce, onion, tomato, and a fried egg. It sounds awful, I know, but try one out at Reloj, on via Laetana. Really, not bad. My personal favorite is the Super Kentucky, which you can get at Frankfurter on carrer Urgell. This consists of diced chicken, a fried egg, jamon serrano, lettuce, and salsa rosa.

There’s so much paranoia about obesity and anorexia, and it’s always the fault of some outside entity. An evil eminencia gris. No blame is ever put on the individual. It’s always a conspiracy … I can’t find the article, but a few months ago a girl brought a lawsuit against a clothing store here in Spain that wouldn’t hire her because she was overweight. The store, I believe, was Mango, or Zara, both of which are very popular with young women. First of all, being overweight, why would you want to work in a store where your coworkers are a bunch of superficial and skinny little tarts? Are you masochistic? And second of all, why would a store which is all about image, and the “ideal look”, want to hire someone who decidedly deviates from this “ideal”? It doesn’t make sense economically. It’s not a conspiracy against obese people.

And to add to this, now that I’m going on about the subject, there’s the flipside of women starving themselves to death. Models in Brazil literally dying for the catwalk look, models in Milan fainting in the streets from malnutrition ... And it’s always implicated that it’s the fault of the media, of some misogynistic conspiracy setting unrealistic standards for women. Here’s a big secret: most men don’t like waifs. They’re not sexy. Skinny runway models are not what men look for. Voluptuous, curvy, yes, maybe even with a little baby fat, but not a reed of a woman. The fashion industry is not a good barometer of men’s tastes. And, as if the pressure wasn’t on men as well. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to hear women go on about some guy's “six pack” (that’s not beer, by the way, or the Kenny Roger’s movie from the eighties). Or be subjected to a secretary's George Clooney screen saver. Or hear women gasp at the mere mention of Brad Pitt. We’re all supposed to be tall and built like firemen. How many men fall into that category (and have a job pulling in six figures a year, and are sensitive, well-coiffed and intelligent – and not gay)? I’m not gonna go around crying about it. I’m not going to get angry if I’m turned down for a job as a receptionist at DiR because I don’t have a “six pack”. I’ll deal with myself, gracias.


* cuñao - brother in law. Also a popular television personality in Spain.

** michelines – rolls of fat. Some people are big, naturally big, and there is nothing wrong with that. But when people are obese they tend to grow rolls of fat, sometimes called "love handles". Here they are called michelines. Not surprisingly, the name comes from the Michelin Man, the roly poly icon of the tire company.