ARISTOTLE REPRIMANDED GREENHORN scientists in his Academy for
their immature disgust toward the gross and unappealing in nature. The
consideration of the lower forms of life ought not to excite a childish
repugnance. In all natural things there is something to move wonder"
(Boorstin 51). He believed that all things looked at impartially are
manifestations of the divine. Ralph
Waldo Emerson extended Aristotle's estimate of the beauty of
nature into the process of death itself: There is no object so
foul that intense light will not make it beautiful. Even the corpse
has its own beauty(Emerson 9). In our society we consider physical
deformities, decay, death, and any unpleasantness of appearance as objects
of aversion. Aesthetic aversion to fat may be at the top of our contemporary
(b. 1949), philosopher of science and consciousness, developed a unique
method to reveal the deeper meaning of any subject. Approaching obesity
from Wilbers four quadrants (the objective, the subjective,
the cultural and the systemic) has enabled me to appreciate the role
that fat plays in culture. To understand fat we must suspend judgement
on the unhealthy condition of obesity, look unflinchingly at fat as
a substance that behaves in observable ways, and view it as an internal
condition experienced by individuals. Once the objective and subjective
perspectives have been considered we can view fat culturally and systemically.
Seeing Fat: The Objective Quadrant
Scientifically, fat can be described in terms of components and processes
that are substantially agreed upon by researchers. In its pure form
fat is a colourless, odourless, semi-solid comprised of three basic
molecules, thus the name triglyceride. The molecules of hydrogen and
carbon are chemically bound together by an agent called a glycerol.
Fat is produced by the absorption or conversion of proteins and carbohydrates.
There are two basic types of fat: unsaturated (fat derived from plants)
and saturated (animal fat)
While present throughout the body, fat is especially related to the
digestive and lymphatic (circulatory) systems. In addition to the sheer
delight of making food taste better and increasing satiety, fat provides
the bodys energy and insulation, helps absorb vitamins, creates
cellular membrane and protects vulnerable organs. Obesity develops when
fat is stored instead of converted into energy by the body. The presence
of excessive fat deposits leaves individuals vulnerable to a variety
of health dangers including high cholesterol, heart disease, hardening
of the arteries and social psychological complications.
obesity requires a multi-disciplined approach that may include behavioral
therapy, nutritional counseling, exercise and chemical treatment aimed
at increasing serotonin (and other neurotransmitters) levels in the
brain. A restrictive food regime and yo-yo dieting unsupported by the
above-mentioned therapies can increase weight and endanger health.
These are the objective facts of fat yet the first time I attempted
to consider fat dispassionately, it was displayed in a way that left
me reeling and revolted. Like Aristotle's young students I was grossed
out by nature. My pseudo-scientific instructor placed a simulated example
of two pounds of human fat tissue on the table. There it lay a brownish
yellow, lumpy substance with a greasy, shiny texture. Isolated from
its home in the human body, it was an undefined mass with no natural
framework to contain it. It was not a part of anything, never mind a
living person. Science, which can be so helpful if used correctly, can
encourage a distortion of the facts of fat by addressing it in isolation.
Being Fat: The Subjective Quadrant
Fat is not an amorphous mass disassociated from me. Walt Whitman said,
I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones (Whitman
sct. 50). My body is fats domicile that transmutes its mass and
shape into a totality called Arthur Paul Patterson. Nothing is closer
to me than the parts of my body and fat is one of those parts.