Category Archives: obesity



‘Gula’, detail, The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things, c. 1450-1515, attr. Jheronimus Bosch

Not all Siamese are elegantly slender

img_3041Passing through Bangkok, Dalrymple is provided with an illustration of the connection between junk food and obesity.

I watched children emerge from an exclusive school, and they grazed on huge quantities of junk food the moment they were free to do so. Not surprisingly, they were fat, startlingly so in a land where most people are elegantly slender.

Mankind’s increasing tendency to blubber

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 08.22.23The blubber, says Dalrymple, is

particularly grotesque in the Anglo-Saxon world, but is spreading at an alarming rate elsewhere.

Obesity, he writes,

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 08.30.56is not straightforwardly a disease like any other, but rather (in most cases) the consequence of human weakness. I hold this view not only or even mainly because of the evidence in its favour, but because I am afraid that to hold the opposite view, that obesity is in principle no different from, say, Parkinson’s disease, is to turn mankind from subject to object.

We cannot

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 08.39.05become good, sensible, or temperate by purely technical means that require nothing of us as moral beings endowed with agency except compliance with treatment and obedience to technicians.

Appetite will not

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 08.41.33come under the control of geneticists, who will relieve us of the necessity to exercise self-control.

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I am very corpulent. It’s not my fault

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 08.12.19Like my hoarding disorder, my penetration disorder, my caffeine-induced sleep disorder, my sex addiction, my impulse-control disorder, my sexual aversion disorder, my anorexia, my social phobia, my oppositional defiant disorder, my lepidopterophobia, my depression, my hypoactive sexual desire disorder and my gambling disorder, my adiposity is a disease. I blame

  • the food manufacturers
  • my childhood
  • chemical imbalance
  • restaurants. Portions are too big
  • brain scans
  • genes
  • evolution
  • neurochemistry
  • my parents. I hate my parents, don’t you?

Anglo-Saxon gastronomic impoverishment

British culinary imbecility British culinary imbecility

Dalrymple writes:

I happen to dislike prepared foods, though more on æsthetic than on health grounds; I see what people choose and am appalled by their choices, which seem to me to be those of overindulged children who have never matured in their tastes.

He has

no real objection to regulation of the sugar content of prepared foods, provided it was done on intellectually honest grounds. Those grounds would not be that people are incapable of acting other than as they do, but that they are too idle to cook, their tastes and pleasures are too brutish, their habits too gross, for them to be left free to choose for themselves. Someone who knows better must guide them.

Corpulency follows self-indulgence

Screen Shot 2013-03-09 at 00.38.47Adiposity, writes Dalrymple,

is a natural consequence of overeating, which is to say of human weakness.

Deeply meaningful drivel

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Dalrymple draws attention to the slogan ‘I would prefer not to’ on a T-shirt worn by Slavoj Žižek as the Slovenian charlatan-philosopher delivers what is, to put it most kindly, a rambling and daft speech on the subject of ‘freedom’. The T-shirt, writes Dalrymple, covers Žižek’s

capacious trunk, the bulk of which indicates that if he is opposed to the consumer society on ideological grounds he is nevertheless no ascetic.

The slogan sported by Žižek is of the same genre as the 1970s London railway-line graffito ‘Far away is close at hand in images of elsewhere’, which Michael Wharton used as the title of one of his collections of ‘Peter Simple’ columns.

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If Žižek did not exist, says Dalrymple,

it would be necessary to invent him. He is deliciously, archetypally intellectual; he incarnates the satirist’s idea of what an intellectual should be. His Central European accent is perfect: it would be impossible to say anything in it that was superficial. He understands the workings of the universe so well that he has no time or energy left over to look other than a mess.

A doctor writes

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Dalrymple is available to answer any questions you may have about corpulence, intemperance, liverishness, lunacy, narcosis, senility, hemp, alimentation, misopædia, inoculation, etc., etc.

English gastronomic cretinism

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Cuisine britannique: le chip butty

I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, must you eat that muck?

An important feature of the profoundly unappealing modern British, writes Dalrymple,

is their lack of self-control. They scream their obscenities in the street, eat everywhere they go, and leave litter behind them. They are opposed to self-control on grounds of health and safety. They see self-control as psychologically harmful or impossible: self-control is the enemy of self-expression, without which their existences would be poisoned as if by an unopened abscess.

The idea that sugar is addictive is

music to their ears. Not only is self-control bad for you, it has been proved (by science) to be impossible. Further good news is that fatness is genetic. Never has Man’s eternal urge to excuse himself received so much authoritative support.

The debased British

are among the fattest people on earth. Much of the economy is the Soviet Union with takeaway pizza.

Meals are

nasty, solitary, British, short, and frequent. The elementary social discipline of eating with others is lost. The Englishman’s street is his dining room. Streets are littered with the detritus of junk food. Were it not for smoking, the British would be even fatter.

Many billions of pounds of public expenditure

have made the dream of the political class come true: people have become the product of their environment, all needful of official assistance.

‘Vomiting quietly in the corner’

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A Merry Christmas to readers of this blog, who I hope will end up as merry — indeed, as hog-whimpering drunk — as I have happily become this festive season. This is a reproduction of De koning drinkt (1638; Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels). Jacob Jordaens is known, Dalrymple points out, ‘for his acres of canvas covered with depictions of unattractive fat flesh and Bacchanalian drinking scenes. These usually include someone vomiting quietly in the corner while an obese, grog-blossomed king wassails away in the middle of the picture’

Jordaens’ representation of spewing is very human, but the best part is the woman wiping the child’s fundament, presumably bemerded, though no trace of ordure is shown — unlike in, for instance, Dalí:

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Salvador Dalí, Jeu Lugubre (detail), 1929, private collection