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Digesting Thanksgiving

Isn't there a better way to lose weight than dieting? Sure--just stop being "fat."

11:00 PM, Nov 30, 2003 • By LARRY MILLER
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I KNOW EVERYONE is supposed to think about Thanksgiving before it happens and be consciously grateful prior to the feast, but I always reflect on my blessings afterwards, when we've eaten our fill and must begin the hard work of getting back into the shape we were never in in the first place.

This year, through no fault of my own, I actually didn't eat too much. I tried to, and I thought I did, but then, during coffee, I turned to my friend Hamilton, who was visiting with his family, and said, "Hey, I think I can still breathe involuntarily." His eyes were lidded, and his head lolled like a lion that's been tagged, and he burped a gravy bubble and said, "Good to hear."

Is it my imagination, or were there more people than ever this year saying, "Now, folks, let's not overdo it on Thanksgiving?" Because, like Warren Oates in "The Wild Bunch," I wanted to say, "Why the hell not?" I mean, come on, already. I spend every day of the year picking hot dogs out of their buns at Little League games and eating Whopper meat like cookies at Burger King (and feeling like a perfect idiot about it, too, especially to the Mexican family sitting next to us wondering what in the world I'm doing). Why can't we have one day of the year when we eat all the bread and potatoes we want? My body processes carbohydrates and starch like wood chips, and even a few glasses of restorative drag me down the next day like unfaced obligations. Ah, gone are the days of reckless abandon. It's not youth that's wasted on the young, folks, it's smoking and drinking.

Okay, we all know America has a huge obesity problem (if that's not redundant), but I think I have the answer and it has nothing to do with losing weight. See, most Americans know they're fat, but still have hopes of being slim as a reed, or Lou Reed, whichever comes first. That's the problem. We need to stop fighting the battle and just redefine what fat is.

I call this "Anti-Anorexia." Anorexics, as you know, are horrifyingly underweight, but when they look in the mirror, they sincerely think they're fat. It's terribly sad and very hard to fix. Well, the truly fat people in America aren't getting better anyway, so why don't we just start calling them skinny? Keep telling them "You're not too fat, you're too thin." Until they believe it. If this sounds stupid, think about it again, because it's the same logic we've been applying to all sorts of problems for a long, long time.

Living in a Third World country that's borrowed money from American banks and can't pay it back? Poof, you're not in debt anymore. Wasn't that easy? Oh, sure, there are some abstract costs on paper to other customers and the entire world, but never mind that now. We'll all agree to call you debt-free, so you are. Getting the idea?

Got a problem with illegal aliens? Just stop calling them that, and the problem is gone, just like one-two-three. They're "undocumented citizens," or didn't you know?

Oh, sure, a lot U.N. member nations have never had elections and never will, but when their representatives stand up and gravely insist they're worried about the slow pace of democracy coming to Iraq, let's not call them what they are, let's call them diplomats. And our old pals all over Europe? They're not impediments, they're allies.

Yes, yes, a lot of students have trouble passing math, but let's not bother trying to teach them. After all, who are we to say anything in life is objectively right and wrong? Just pass the failing students, and stop forcing them to solve tough problems next year. Hey, kids, you're all great in math! It's not technically math anymore, but who cares? SAT scores too low? Just add 100 points to each one. I don't know about you, but I feel much better.

Can't get enough qualified candidates for civil service jobs? Don't help them learn the requirements. Change the test! End of problem. Please write your name. You're in! Can't write your name? You're in, too!

Excuse me, I can't understand what you're saying, because you have an impenetrable accent and a lisp, but it's my fault, nor yours, and I'm sorry I have to keep saying, "I beg your pardon?" To prove it, NPR will hire you as an on-air reporter. After all, it's not the news that's important, it's your self-image and our need to feel inclusive. There, you don't have a problem anymore. No one does. We've said so, so it's true.

A frightening percentage of college freshmen need remedial tutoring just to read and write, but that doesn't matter because everyone must go to college and get a degree. Hey, look at us, we're all college graduates. It may not mean anything, but we are.

And, of course, we all know that every religion is a religion of peace.

So why not do the same with any American who's pudgier than he wants to be? You're not fat. You're perfect. Everyone is.