What a blessed way to celebrate this festive Jewish holiday…Toronto Bodybuilder Eats 47 Latkes, Sets Record. The article says the previously held record for the number of potato pancakes eaten in one sitting was 29, which surprised me. As someone who has eaten potato pancakes (Jew) before, I honestly would have guessed the previous record was two and a half or three. Eating 47 potato latkes is one of those kinds of contests where the winner is the loser.
On a related subject, last night I watched part of a Discovery Channel special on the science of morbid obesity. It was fascinating in that “I just watched someone eat 47 latkes” kind of way. There were a number of interesting facts about morbid obesity, including this one: because of their unusually heavy load, morbidly obese people make their vehicles 10-20% less fuel efficient.
Another interesting fact: this Discovery Channel television special probably exhausted every piece of b-roll footage in existence of fat people shot from behind and below the head, waddling around shopping malls and amusement parks. They even had that rare footage of a fat person on an assisted-mobility scooter, stretching for a box of cookies on a high supermarket shelf. (That clip actually won a Rollie Award in 2006, for Outstanding Achievement in Padding Out a Human Health & Nutrition Local News Package.)
I found myself incredibly sympathetic toward the central “character” of the special — a man who weighs over 500 pounds and, after several failed attempts at diet, is preparing himself for last-resort gastric bypass surgery. He seemed like he was really struggling with his weight, and clearly came from a family where food = love. Apparently, crash dieting is often a terrible and unsuccessful strategy for the morbidly obese because, as that sized frame begins to quickly shed pounds, the body goes into a kind of state of shock and begins producing extra hormones to increase one’s appetite in order to help return to an “equilibrium weight.” (Which, in the case of someone who was morbidly obese, is much higher than the average person.) Learning about the science of obesity honestly gave me a new perspective on people who make the decision to have gastric bypass surgery. It is not so much of a cop-out as it is a final, desperate act to live a normal, less wheezy life.
However, I must confess my compassion toward the gastric bypass candidate waned a bit during the footage of the “going under the knife party” thrown by his family. (After this party, he would have to go on a four-day clear liquid diet to help empty his body, since morbidly obese people often have 20-30 pounds of toxic, undigested food in their digestive systems at any time.) Rather than regard this as a turning point in his life, the patient saw the party as his “last hurrah” and piled high plate after plate of oily Central American snacks, devouring everything with giddy delight. I realize the producers of this special wanted me to see how tortured this guy is by his own tremendous appetites, but I will forever be haunted by the image of him ladling barbecue sauce on a plate devoid of vegetables, while sing-speaking, “ooh…this is yummy yummy yummy for my tummy.” It’s one thing to give in to your weaknesses on camera, but did you have to write a children’s rhyme about it? I guess I just didn’t expect to hear the words “yummy” and “tummy” on the lips of a man who was precariously close to eating himself to death. I sort of expected that when morbidly obese people binge, they are more likely to say things to themselves like, “oh, fuck, what the fuck is wrong with you, man?” or “oh, jesus christ what the fuck am i doing oh god i can’t stop eating and crying and eating and pooping and crying.”