Friday, 14 August 2009

Mrs Grape and other very, very, very fat people

I couldn’t sleep last night so I got up and made myself a cup of tea and a piece of toast with lots of butter and Marmite, and got back into bed to watch Oprah and scatter crumbs all over my sheets. But last night’s show was Yet Another One about weight loss and gain, and pretty soon I lost my appetite. (In fact, I haven’t eaten since and may never again.)

It featured actress Kirstie Alley, who has turned being very fat into a personal promotion (one in remarkably questionable taste) and a man called Michael Hebranko, who once weighed over 1 000 lb (about 455 kg), lost it all over some years, then put it all back on again.

Now, although like many people my age, I could afford to shed a few kilos, I am nowhere even vaguely near obese. I am, however, occasionally known as Mrs Grape* in our village, particularly on mornings after big parties, when I have been known to eat a lot. (A doctor friend once told me that this is not necessarily because I am hungover, but because I haven’t slept enough: apparently some people’s minds confuse tiredness with hunger, and who knows, maybe he’s right.) By ‘a lot’ I mean, for example, the leftover Thai curry from the night before, a slice of pecan pie with ice cream, a packet of chips, a couple of bowls of broccoli soup (my favourite hangover cure) and perhaps a bag of nuts – this spread over a day. While I’m filling my face with food, I also clean the house and do other chores, and almost always walk for an hour or so with the dogs in the afternoon.

I’m telling you about my own ‘fat’ days because once I’ve munched my way through the list of food above, I feel so full that I sometimes worry I might explode and scatter my innards all over the walls. So how, I have to ask, does someone like Michael Hebranko reach a weight of 455 kg without popping?

Here’s how. He described, on Oprah, how, at his fattest, he could eat 24 pork chops, about 1 kg of bacon and 24 eggs at one sitting. And I assume by ‘at one sitting’ he means ‘at one meal’ – breakfast, perhaps? God alone knows what this man managed to put away for lunch and dinner, and I dare not ask if he snacked between meals.

This echoed the dietary habits of another gigantically fat man, ‘Half Ton Dad’ Kenneth Brumley, who ate in one day what a normal-sized man would consume in two weeks, including ‘ chilli-cheese fries for breakfast’ and ‘three or four cheeseburgers at a time’. (I was going to post a pic of Kenneth here but I actually can’t bring myself to – if you want to see him and read his story, click here.)

So, basically, these people get this fat because they eat far too much and exercise far too little. (Another gigantic fatty, Renee Williams, claimed that she’d reached a weight of 440 kg in spite of eating ‘normally’ – her morbid obesity was genetic, she said. Excuse me while I roll my eyes.)

Both these men got so fat that they were bedridden for, literally, years at a time – they were not able to move at all; in other words, they never got out of bed even to wash or go to the toilet. (The mechanics of that just doesn’t bear thinking about – and the least of it is that these people are so fat they can’t wipe their own bottoms.)

Now, I have two questions regarding these people (and there are quite a few of them in the good ole US of A). The first and most obvious is, how can they afford to get that fat? Food is expensive, and eating enough every day to feed a family for a week must burn through bucks like nobody’s business. (And since these fatties can’t get out of bed, who’s earning that money? Or are they all on some sort of welfare?)

Living in a country where many people survive on ridiculously small sums of money – often feeding families into the bargain – this seems astonishingly profligate. And forgive me for being hard-hearted, but the fact that these people are often helped with super-expensive interventions, including (but not limited to) being removed from their homes by squadrons of people and forklift trucks, being hospitalised, having gastric-bypass and other surgeries, and being under close medical supervision for years at a time, just makes me bloody furious. What an incredible waste of money!

The other question – and one that I haven’t seen tackled on Oprah yet, which I think is interesting in itself – is who enables these people? If they can’t even get out of bed to brush their teeth, how exactly are they getting their hands on this gigantic amount of food? Who is supplying these colossal quantities of calories for these gargantuan people, day in and day out? And, more to the point, why are they doing it? I mean, if the greedy bed-bound fatty threatens to kill you if you don’t bring them 20 Macdonalds burgers with all the trimmings, and now, you can just run away – it’s not like they can run after you and catch you.

* ‘Mrs Grape’ comes from the movie What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? starring a gorgeous young Johnny Depp and a teenage Leonardo DiCaprio: Bonnie Grape, Johnny Depp’s character’s widowed mother, is morbidly obese and housebound.

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1 comment:

ali g said...

And I was just about to make myself another honey sandwich...