I love listening to CBC! I was never a big radio listener until I met the love of my life who taught me about the importance of publicly funded broadcast. Since then on the way to work (and whenever time allows) I religiously listen to my favourite stations. Monday morning, Randy franticly started texting me about this show that was going to air at noon. He kept saying I definitely needed to listen to it because they were going to talk about obesity in Newfoundland and given the main subject matter of my blog I should be informed. The show in question was CrossTalk and the subject was a certain Norwegian writer who recently visited a community of St.Anthony and wrote negative comments about Newfoundlanders. I dutifully complied and set my TuneIn to record the show for me for later listening.
The comment of the Norwegian writer had to do with the physical size of Newfoundlanders. He was sitting in a Jungle Jim’s restaurant and could not help but notice that everybody around him was overweight. Here is what he wrote in his travel piece and what everybody is very upset about:
“Everyone in the place, except the waiter, was fat, some of them so fat that I kept having to look at them. I had never seen people that fat before. The strange thing was that none of them looked as if they were trying to hide their enormous girth; quite the opposite, several people were wearing tight T-shirts with their big bellies sticking out proudly.
I couldn’t quite figure out a lot of the dishes, all those chicken wings and barbecue. I didn’t know what went with what, and was none the wiser after checking out what other people were eating, because they seemed to be having myriad dishes, served in baskets; some tables were entirely covered with them, some even stacked on top of one another. So I picked a spaghetti dish — that I could relate to. It consisted mainly of cheese, and tasted like something I could have cooked myself, back when I was still a student and would mix myself something out of whatever was in the fridge.”
As you see, the paragraph that relates to the offensive comment is only about 4 lines long, out of what seems like a 1000 page book. So, are we justified in being so gravely upset? Are we taking it the wrong way?
Let me start by saying that it’s rather strange that the guest of the program, Mark Hiscock, kept advocating throughout the program that in order to lose weight we just need to go to the gym. Why I find it strange? Two reasons, really:
- All this talk about obesity this month is due to the fact that March has been proclaimed Nutrition Month. So why on earth won’t we talk about food, instead of the gym?
- Mark points out that he has a very regular gym routine of 1.5 – 2h a day and yet, even though he has lost some weight, he still has a lot to lose (this is Mark’s admission on the show).
So, given those 2 reasons, why won’t we do something about our food? Isn’t it becoming painfully clear that we need to reconsider our food choices and see what that does to our bodies in conjunction with some exercise?
What I find even more debilitating is the fact that Mark did admit at one point that he has not significantly altered his eating habits. He says that he has added some fruits and veggies into his diet when he first started this weight loss process, but he also admits that he still likes his jiggs dinner. And clearly exercise alone is only taking him so far in his pursuit of a tinier waist.
He also refers to crazy diets that don’t work. I’ll have to agree with him in that as long as we think of a diet in terms of it having a start date and an end date, they will not work. Plain and simple. If you do something in order to achieve a goal and after you have achieved that goal you go back to doing what you did before you started, your result will falter away. Think of diet as a way of eating for the rest of your days and when you stick to that diet you will have results for the rest of your life.
Back to the “fat comment”. There were callers who took it the wrong way and got offended by it. Obviously, that was to be expected when you just point your finger and call somebody fat. You wouldn’t do it walking down the street, or for that matter sitting at a fast-food restaurant (notice that the author of the article didn’t do it at Jungle Jim’s and “waited” until he was able to put it on paper) so why would anybody put it in writing in a travel piece for New York Times? Well, in my opinion the author did not try to deliberately offend anybody. I don’t even think that he realized anybody in Newfoundland would make an effort to read his article. If he had wanted to purposefully offend Newfoundlanders he would have spent more time writing about it. Now, could he have used different language to make this unfortunate comment? Certainly! And he probably realized it by now (that is if he had heard of the uproar it created). Just as he never voiced his opinion in the restaurant by pointing his finger at every person in there saying to them: “You are fat”, the same way he shouldn’t have used the F-word in his article. Period. Other than that, he simply stated the obvious. Newfoundlanders do have a high obesity rate.
As far as CrassTalk goes, I was pleasantly surprised that among all the callers that expressed their disapproval Karl Ove Knausgaard’s fat comment, there were those who took the comment for what it is. An observation of a problem. What’s more, those callers did recognize that the problem should be fixed by fixing our eating habits! One person pointed out that the problem lies in the fact that our eating schedule is conductive to putting on weight. He said: “We skip breakfast, then eat out for lunch and our biggest meal comes late at night and instead we should eat Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince and Dine like a Pauper”. I couldn’t agree more! It only makes sense (especially if you are not extremely physically active) to eat the least amount of food before the night, after all you will be sleeping.
Another caller, also said that we need to hear it from somebody else and that there is no need for sugarcoating it. I don’t think we need to hear it quite as harshly, but I do know that when being told the truth we might be able to look introspectively to see if there is any validity to what we are being told. It’s like looking at a picture of yourself that you don’t recognize anymore, I know that I certainly wake up with increased purpose to fix it when I look at a picture of me as a former fat self.
In my opinion, we should use this comment to our best advantage. Now, wether or not this will happen I’m not sure. I’m not sure that there is enough conviction and will to change collectively. Many of us either don’t care or don’t want to sacrifice a constant candy in their mouths for better health and a smaller pant size. But there certainly are individuals who given the right tools and encouragement will turn their lives around.