'Cerberus, a ruthless and fantastic beast,
with all three throats howls out his doglike sounds
above the drowning sinners of this place'
- Canto VI line 13-15, The Divine Comedy Volume 1: Inferno, Dante Alighieri
The above passage describes, in Dante's great work of fiction 'Inferno', the Glutton's punishment in hell where Cerberus, kind of a big guard dog with 3 heads who routinely terrorises the hapless sinners. The beast represents the unrelenting gorging and hunger of those who committed which, when you think about it, isn't the worst thing to do: Gluttony. Supposedly, stuffing one's body like a Goose in a Foie Gras factory is disrespecting the body, and therefore somehow disrespecting God? (I know, I know; like I said; it's a work of fiction). I wonder then, why smokers or drug addicts aren't punished in a similar way.... seems a bit unfair to me.
But scary fiction aside, let's look at gluttony. I have touched on the topic of food abuse previously but now I find myself pondering this topic again. This might have had something to do with a throwaway comment made by Personal Trainer Michelle Bridges on her recent time in the home of the 4 men she will be training on 10's 'The Biggest Loser Families'. She claimed she initially was looking forward to having a week where she might get to enjoy some fabulous, gourmet foods but instead had to tolerate plate after plate of greasy, sugary, fatty rubbish. What is funnier is that she was surprised!
When you think about it, when someone gets to such a large size it can simply not be about the food any more. I think this is where the show falls down a bit and you tend to see a situation where many contestants put the weight back on. Food as an addiction is really no different to drug or alcohol addiction, it's outcome is just a lot more visible and therefore more easy for people to discriminate. Clearly, the food is medicating a much bigger problem and a more practical way to deal with the issue is to treat the cause rather than the symptom. Diet and exercise are obviously important but if you are not dealing with the underlying psychological issues.... well that's when the weight piles back on.
I think it's strange that Bridges would lump those with a serious weight problem together with people who truly adore food. True, I've never been seriously overweight so it hard for me to comment with authority (I did carry a couple of extra kilos in my first year of marriage but I shed those with some serious hard work!) but I imagine when you are obese the food is as much an enemy as a love. There's nothing loving about sitting down and eating 2 Litres of ice cream after a dinner of a whole pizza. It almost seems like a punishment.
On the other hand, as a person of healthy weight who loves food in a serious way (and who has a very handy gym membership to work off the calories that result), I don't have that love/hate relationship with food. I can think of nothing better than a glass of wine and a gorgeous cheese that I most likely spent too much on (it's always worth it) or a square of 85% dark chocolate. I'd rather enjoy small amounts of that type of luxury than the 'cheap and nasty' equivalent which may consist of a few cheap beers or cask wine (gah!!), a whole chunk of cheap club cheddar and the whole family block of chocolate.
Anyway, I haven't really drawn any conclusions (as usual), but I guess I have established (thanks to Dante) that people have always been cruel to the obsese (I don't feel that the punishment described in his poem fits the crime) when really what they need is not to be told to 'put down the fork', (which is like telling an anorexic 'Just eat something') but a bit of understanding and access to the right help that treats what is causing them to medicate with food.
Pondering over... I'm going to go enjoy an espresso and a square of 'Steven ter Horst' chocolate, yum!!