Staff column: Entombed in the food pyramid
Early in December I was standing against a wall in a hospital in Salt Lake when I was told how fat I looked.
It all came about as I visited an old friend I had worked with almost 30 years ago after she had her knees operated on. Having reconnected with her a few years ago through the miracle of the Internet, we had become good friends again. Into the room walked another old co-worker, who had been in touch with her continually since I left the place of employment where we had toiled together. He looked at me.
"I thought you told me he was in good shape," was the first thing that came out of his mouth as he spoke to the newly kneed patient. "He looks a lot bigger to me."
I looked around the room to figure out who the "he" was and I realized it was me. As they went on it was like one of those third person conversations, you know like I wasn't there, but I was.
"Look at him," he went on. "Look at that belly."
I looked down. Just cause I had to lean over a little to see my toes didn't mean I was fat, did it?
My friend, laying in the hospital bed got really mad at him.
"I think he looks good," she said. "He's very active and in very good shape. Just cause you look like a thin blade of grass that blows over in a very slight breeze."
If I hadn't known better I would've thought the two of them were married by the way they were talking to each other.
The fact is that Tim, the perpetrator of the Rick-is-fat comments, is very small and very thin. Now over 70 years of age he probably doesn't weigh over 92 lbs. with a challenged height of about five foot five.
Finally the conversation turned to me like I actually existed somewhere in the universe.
"Don't listen to him Rick," she said. "He just eats bean sprouts and whenever we go out to eat together he always says things to me like 'Are you going to eat all that' or 'You mean you are actually going to eat that piece of beef.' I mean he eats the same thing for lunch day in and day out; some kind of vegetable soup and a half a sandwich made with whole grain bread with lettuce on it. He washes it all down with a big glass of purely filtered water. I think it is his biggest meal of the day."
Now the third handed conversation had turned on him. I felt like the child whose parents aren't talking to each other and say things at the breakfast table as they sit together like, "Tell your father that the sugar for his coffee is in the second cupboard from the sink where it has always been."
I then tried to make them talk to each other and to get both of them to talk to me at the same time. I looked at Tim.
"Yes Tim, I am a little overweight," I said, admitting that for my frame I should weigh about 180 instead of the 207 lb. number that I last saw on the scale at the doctors office. "When I die they will bury me under the food pyramid. And my body will be so filled with the chemical nutrients the food industry is pushing on us these days that they will not need to mummify me. My image will be preserved forever, like the proverbial Twinkie."
He looked at me, stood up, and started to laugh. I could hear his bones creak as he rose to his feet. I went on.
"I am truly a victim of the Nutritional Industrial Complex; a middle aged, mid 20th century born man who was raised on miracle food-like substances developed in the 1960's that was marketed as being better for me than food itself," I said. "Up until recently my grandmother wouldn't have recognized 90 percent of what I was putting into my body, because what they sell in the supermarket has changed so much. Now she would only not recognize about 60 percent of what I eat."
"So are you feeling better now that you are eating real food instead of that manufactured stuff that fills the grocery isles?" he asked as he shivered in a room that was 80 degrees.
"Well contrary to my years of nutritional abuse, I have to say yes," I replied. "Me and my little belly are happier as we wing down the highway of ignoring every nutritional study I see and eat things in moderation. I have taken the attitude to not shop in the middle of the grocery store but around the edges where all the fresh non-manufactured foods are."
Of course, what I didn't tell him was at my local Albertson's the donuts are on one of those walls too.
"You'll be healthier for it," he said as he tried to adjust the band on his wristwatch to tighten it up so it wouldn't fall off his emaciated arm. "Look at me. I am the picture of health."
"Yes Tim, I want to be in the picture of health just like you when I am 70," I told him. "That beautiful pale skin, your hair thinning everywhere but from your nose and your ears, and who can't help but notice those striking cheek bones, all the more accentuated by fact you have only skin on your face."
He stood there, unsteadily, looking at me.
"I think that is enough conversation about the state of our health," he said uneasily. "Let's talk about work shall we?"