About one in every five people in America is obese. It’s a fact of life and a product of our consumerist culture. We’ve learned to accept it, and integrate overweight people into society as equals. But has Yale? Take a moment and look around the dining hall — go ahead, I’ll wait. How many fat people did you see? The answer: not enough. And this is a room dedicated to eating. Twenty percent of America is obese and 60 percent is overweight, yet, by my estimation, less than 3 percent of an incoming Yale class will even be classified as hefty. Why the disparity?
As someone who is husky, bordering on chunky (I clock in around 212 pounds, ladies), I constantly ask myself why our campus holds a disproportionate number of fit students while those of pudgy heritage bear the weight of under-representation. This certainly doesn’t match demographics in the real world. There are tons of fat people in Congress, business and even professional sports. Some of the most powerful men and women on earth are fat cats. My real worry: Yale may not adequately prepare its students to enter a substantially plumper community.
One might blame the students, who succumb to habits of exercise and the tantalizing temptations of vegetables and whole grain oats. We all remember the peer pressure of our friends joining a sports team, one-by-one neglecting the glow of the Super Nintendo. Perhaps it’s the parents. They create a home unfriendly to a fat lifestyle, enabling their children with healthy food and exercise. Perhaps it’s our dining halls, which after adopting the sustainable food project and installing a salad bar in every college, has made it extremely difficult to keep a rounded figure. Meaty sandwiches at Gourmet Heaven may help stave off thinness, but their prohibitive cost prevents the average student from maintaining that diet.
On top of that, we have to walk to class. According to a scientific study, physical activity is the leading deterrent to a sedentary lifestyle. Yes, we have a Yale transit system; yes, our meals are all-you-can-eat with information regarding caloric intake. It’s a start, but it’s not enough. Keeping oneself large is a painstaking process that requires discipline. It wasn’t easy getting myself into the rotund shape I’m in today. Still, I am in the beefy minority at Yale, and sometimes I must ashamedly hide the fact. “I’m not fat,” I’ll say, tucking my shirt in, “I’m majestic.”
Let’s face it; Yale is not an environment conducive to those of blubber. I’m sure we all entered college eager to put on the freshman fifteen, and some of us may have pulled it off, but most of us have fallen off the wagon, undercutting the solidarity of heavyset students. For those still with me, do not lose hope. We must hold our chins up high.
Despite the current slim state of our campus, Yale has a proud fat tradition. William Howard Taft ’1878 graduated near the top of his class, and became America’s first fat president. His legacy, very wide doors in Connecticut Hall, still echoes in our campus tours to this day. Look to him as an example.
If you want to waddle in Taft’s footsteps, you have to get hungry … for change. Vote for an overweight YCC representative to ensure more cholesterol options at the dining hall. Write an e-mail to the administration proposing that school dances have a non-physically strenuous alternative. Sure, people might have trouble stomaching obese-friendly parties at first, but they’ll quickly digest it like the crispy crust of a Philly cheese-steak hot pocket. And the next time someone carelessly makes a fat joke, slap your gut three times, look them in the eye, and say “I have a belly.”
On Jan. 16, the News published a piece “Unfit Elis Missing Out on Benefits of Exercise.” While I applaud the author’s courage on bringing these health issues to the public eye, it is, unfortunately, overly optimistic. The truth is that the slim population far outweighs the heavy crowd at Yale. And don’t even get me started on the athletic community because I am already out of breath and it’s almost dinner time.
If we want to balance the scales, we need to move … but not run. Let’s encourage our thin friends to leave the Midnight Mile and join the Midnight Snack. Do not self-segregate — A book on Why are All the Fat Kids Sitting at the Lunch Table Together is both unsettling and unnatural. And please, if you simply must go to the gym, do yourself a favor and use the elevator. Don’t indulge on the stairs. Remember this as all food for thought. If Yale does inflate its campus with two new residential colleges, let’s hope that it follows with an inflated BMI. With any luck, we’ll all be living in Fat City.
Doug Lieblich is a senior in Timothy Dwight College. He is an editor of the Yale Record.