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Eating & Not Eating

Jack SpratApparently the United States is suffering from two opposed epidemics at the same time. On the one hand there’s anorexia — that’s the eating disorder where you can starve yourself in a mistaken attempt to achieve an impossibly thinner, more perfect self. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, anorexia is “a hidden epidemic.” On the other hand, we have obesity – a not so hidden epidemic.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association as many as 10 million girls and women, and 1 million boys and men, have eating disorders. And the peak onset among girls comes at ages 11 to 13. At the same time, Cynthia Ogden, PhD, a CDC epidemiologist, along with other researchers, made a study of weight in the United States and discovered that 31 percent of adults are obese.  Not only is one-third of our population obese, but two thirds are overweight. And obesity begins among the young: 15 percent of children and teenagers age 6-19 are overweight. Furthermore, Ogden reports that the proportion of obese people has been growing for the last few decades, particularly among blacks — 50 percent of all non-Hispanic black women are obese.

Whereas anorexia, or more properly anorexia nervosa, is a disorder of willful not eating, obesity comes partly from overeating but mostly from eating the wrong foods and drinking the wrong drinks. Obesity appears to be by far the greater of these two health problems. Indeed, if current trends continue, the health problems spawned by obesity alone will overwhelm our health system.  We’re reporting these twin epidemics just in case you haven’t got enough to worry about.


The illustration above this piece is, of course, Jack Sprat, who ate no fat, and his wife, who ate no lean. And if you don’t know the Jack Sprat nursery rhyme, we’re really sorry about your neglected childhood. Our particular version of the couple who licked the platter clean was done, we believe, by Frederick Richardson for Mother Goose, the original Volland edition, in 1915. We don’t know what Jack Sprat is doing with that knife, but we think it will give little children the wrong idea of how to handle a cutting utensil.

More Notes

The World Happiness Report, released by the United Nations, ranks countries on six key variables that support well-being: income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support and generosity. This year, Finland is first, followed by Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland, followed by Netherlands, Canada,New Zealand, Sweden, Australia. The United States, which has never been in the top ten, silpped down four places from last year and is now 18th. President Trump may make American Great Again, but apparently not happier.