By Hardy Jackson
“All the things I really like to do are either immoral, illegal, or fattening.” – Oscar Wilde
Immoral? None of your business.
Illegal? Too old for that. (Probably too old for immoral too, but let’s not go there.)
Fattening? Ah, there’s the rub.
Read recently that Alabama was the third fattest state in the union, right in behind West Virginia (No. 2) and — drum roll please — Mississippi (No. 1). To illustrate Mississippi’s top ranking the article showed a picture of the Taylor Grocery in Taylor, Mississippi (“Eat or we both starve.”). Well, I have eaten there and the catfish is first rate. But I can take you to half-a-dozen catfish places in Alabama just as good and just as fattening.
Which is part of my problem.
And maybe yours.
According to the same survey, 67% of Alabamians are overweight and 31% are down-right obese.
Now, excusing those who are fat through no fault of their own (“It’s glandular.”), the fact remains that we, as a state, are chubby, fluffy, more to love.
Especially white males.
Of which I am one.
And why are we this way?
Because we eat too much — duh.
And who is to blame for this?
Why, our Mamas.
(Another characteristic of white males, apart from the paunch, is a general refusal to take blame for their own shortcomings. It is always someone else’s fault.)
Because of Mama, I was a fat kid.
In the morning, I would rise early and breakfast on something pork, grits, eggs (cooked in the grease from something pork), biscuits and jelly, all washed down with coffee that was mostly milk and heavy on the sugar.
Then, there was lunch. (Mama called it dinner, ’cause the night meal was supper, just like in The Bible — the “Last Supper,” not the “Last Dinner” –’nuff said.).
Lunch was a belly busting meal with most dishes enhanced with the drippings from the pork we had for breakfast — saved in a can on the back of the stove.
Supper (I’ve already been over that) was much like dinner except in the summer when the garden came in and we made sandwiches that consisted of white-bread, lots of mayonnaise, something pork, cheese and thick slices of tomatoes. I could and would eat two or three at a sitting.
Life was good.
I was chubby.
“Ain’t he fat and fine” folks would look at me and say.
Years passed and I went through a thin period brought on by an addiction to long distance running, from which I am now recovered. Then, about the time I turned 45, my body began to thicken, and sag.
And here I am, mid-70s, “fat and fine” all over again.
Only what was once considered something to be admired, today places me in a category where I’d rather not be.
Well, for one reason it is costing me money.
Across our land, the companies that insure folks like me have started raising rates on the obese to cover the cost of taking care of them when they get old and sick. “They” (whoever “they” are) complain that “extremely overweight” people are expensive to insure. By one estimate, folks in that category cost Alabama’s public employee health insurance program some $50 million a year.
Hearing that, I began wondering if I was one of the “extremely overweight” that was contributing to the rising rates. Did I have “a body mass index of 35 or greater,” which would put me in that category? What was a “body mass index” anyway?
While pondering this I came across an article with the tempting headline “A simple way to add 3-to-7 years to your life.” Naturally I read it.
And it said, “eat less.”
But there it was.
It was like they are ganging up on me.
Eat less, be healthier, live longer. Do it for your state. Do it for your family (assuming they want you around three-to-seven more years). Do it for white males.
And save money in the bargain.
Money you can spend on catfish.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is professor emeritus of history at Jacksonville State University He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.