Eat And Grow Thin - Tragedy Of Fat
( Originally Published 1914 )
THE fate of nations depends upon how they are fed. " This historic remark was made a century ago shortly after the battle of Waterloo by that meditative Frenchman, Brillat-Savarin. He had seen the mighty French empire fall to pieces in the hands of a fat Napoleon. He had foretold the sad event as he watched the young hero take on paunch and jowls--and join the grotesque band of the gastrophori. No one heeded him. He was a prophet without honor. And when the fat man fell--and shook Europe to pieces he wrote his famous essay on corpulency, in which he tried (as so many have vainly tried!) to lead mankind out into the lean pastures of life. With what splendid clamor did he trumpet the joys of going hungry not as an end in itself, but as a way to aesthetic tenuity.
And mankind went on being fat.
It did not want to be fat; but it did want to sit at table and eat of roasted and boiled and stewed and baked and ówith gloomy resignation it accepted the hulking consequences. And fat generation followed fat generation in a procession, at once tragic and grotesque, over the quaking earth. Of course there were some, even among Brillat-Savarin's contemporaries, who battled against corpulency. Lord Byron, a poet famous in those years, tried to starve out the enemy and bombarded him with soda-water bottles and vinegar-cruets in vain. In our day the battle has been more fiercely waged. Men and women of the first social importance have fasted and rolled on the floor in calisthenic contortions. Perhaps they have triumphed in a measure; perhaps they have gone forth to table with a more awful and more formidable appetite.
The tragedy of fat !
One could write books, plays, poems on the subject. One thinks of the beautiful women one has known loved perhaps-who have vanished forever, drowned in an ocean of turbulence and tallow; of actresses who filled one's soul with shining dreams and now the dreams are wrecked on huge promontories; of statesmen and rulers who cumber the earth, now mere teeth and stomach, as though God had created them, like Mirabeau, only to show to what extent the human skin can be stretched without breaking. The tragedy of fat!
An ancient man said: "Plures crapula quam gladius" gluttony kills more than the sword; but the saddest part is that it kills with a death more horrible. One may face with fair courage the lean and bony fellow with the scythe meet him with grim fortitude; but the boldest man shudders at the thought of a fat death; as one who sinks in a sebaceous sear