L. Neil Smith's
Number 184, July 29, 2002


Fat Guts, Fat Heads
by Carl Bussjaeger

Exclusive to TLE

Caesar Barber is fat. He says so himself. But where I might admit to being lazy and choosing to eat too much for my activity level, Barber has different explanation.

Ronald McDonald made him do it.

Yep, the long-awaited food addiction suits against fast food restaurants have begun. Once more, greedy shysters - why, oh why can't some drivers shift their ambulances into reverse long enough to raise the national average IQ a few points? - are taking the makers of perfectly legal products to court for their clients' abuse of the products. And this time, unlike junior JBTs using stolen guns to kill and rob, the misuse isn't even illegal.

In a weird way, I almost can't blame Samuel Hirsch, Barber's shyster, for this; he just wants money. Don't we all? On the other hand, most of us more principled types don't try to get it by threatening people with gov-thugs. But giving Hirsch benefit of the doubt... Well, he claims that he only want to force fast food restaurants to add more variety and healthy choices to their menus. Even vegetarian offerings. (You are what you eat.) Maybe he's working pro bono.

Nah. I don't believe it either.

Okay, the base of Barber's argument, as expressed by Hirsch, is that it's all Fast Food's fault that Barber is obese - and suffering related health problems - because he's addicted to food.


Paraphrasing rather generally, the American Psychiatric Association characterizes addiction as dependence upon something - other than an actual survival need - for which the user develops a growing tolerance, exhibits withdrawal symptoms (the classic tremors, sweats, et cetera) when the substance/activity is withheld, the substance/activity is used to relieve withdrawal symptoms, it's used more often or in greater amounts than intended, social and occupational interaction is abandoned to satisfy the need, time is spent on activities related to satisfying the need, and the abuser will risk further loss of social and occupational contacts to continue the practice. One psychologist I know goes further to state that the dependence must be physical (i.e.- chemical) rather than merely psychological.

Somehow this all strikes me as differing significantly from mere hunger. Food is a survival necessity; without it, you don't go cold turkey - you starve. Stuffing your face because it makes you happy isn't addiction. Shooting smack because it stimulates brain receptor sites to induce euphoria and directly stimulates extreme discomfort when withheld is addiction.

But for the moment, let's pretend that we're nearly as out-right stupid as Barber and Hirsch, that we believe in this food addiction. Which leads to other problems with their position.

Umm... If Mr. Barber recognized that he had developed a psychiatric disorder, why isn't he going to a shrink instead of court? Doesn't he want to be cured?

And think about Hirsch's socially-conscious demands to expand menus. Imagine that you're addicted to crack cocaine (a real addiction - chemical receptor sites have been found). Now imagine strolling into court to demand that your pusher expand his inventory to include marijuana, a better grade of coke, maybe some opiates. Of course you'll remember to insist that the prices of those new items be kept artificially low so that you can afford them, else what's the point of it all. (Never mind that those fake low prices have to be supported by rate hikes on the menu items that other people are willing to buy; so what if someone else has to pay for your addictive behavior.)

Face it, Barber is fat because he's greedy, as he demonstrates quite well with this suit. If he believes he's truly addicted, he'd be in therapy and going cold turkey - no more Big Macs - instead of demanding that the courts force restaurants to carry even more yummy treats with which to stuff his face. If he wants healthier choices, he can walk past Mickey D's to that sub shop which advertises lo-cal fare. For that matter, even a bachelor can learn to boil rice and beans. It's a darned sight cheaper than fast food, and quicker, too.

If Caesar Barber's food addiction suit came before any court in which I had a say, I could sum up my decision quite succinctly.

Fat chance.

Copyright © 2002 by Carl Bussjaeger. All rights reserved. Permission to redistribute this article for noncommercial purposes is herewith granted by the author, provided that it is reproduced unedited, in its entirety, appropriate credit given, and that the author is informed.(It's an ego thing; I like to know how far my work gets.) Listing my home URL - http://members.surfbest.net/samizdat@surfbest.net/ - would be nice, too.


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