From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

When Fat Was Healthy

How ideas about being fat have changed


"Get fat; get nice and plump... ," an advertisement from an old newspaper urges. Cod liver oil was just the product to help put on some fat for winter in 1900. A good layer of fat would help one ward off sickness and make it through to spring.

When we read old advertisements like this, we should remember that a century ago, people didn't have many effective drugs to fight off sickness. A bad cold could kill, if pneumonia developed. There were no antibiotics or sulfur drugs. Even aspirin had not yet been invented. To recover from an illness, a person needed all the strength he could muster -- and some cod liver oil and a bit of extra fat on his bones might help.

My goodness, how our ideas and living conditions have changed! Today, most of us don't need any help getting fat. On the contrary, we struggle to avoid gaining weight. In the mass media of our day, we see dozens of advertisements for weight-loss products.

I'm reminded of a fellow whom I once heard talking on the radio. Mr. Jones (or whatever his name was) told how he took a job in a small Japanese town after World War II and stayed there for many years.

At first, he was astonished when the natives complimented him frequently on his more-than-ample girth. "Oh, Mr. Jones, you are so fat."  They admired his pudgy physique because it was a symbol of wealth. Poor people were always thin.

Mr. Jones said that he was never quite comfortable with their admiration of his obesity. As he ate the local cuisine over the years, he gradually lost a lot of weight. His admirers were a little disappointed in him, but he was happy when his size was not so showy as it had once been.

I am fortunate to have plenty to eat, and I don't need any cod liver oil to help me put on extra fat for the winter. To be honest, this topic is making me feel a little guilty about the abundance I enjoy while some in this world are hungry. I looked up Feed the Children and made a donation. Maybe you can afford a few dollars for them too.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.