An Interview With “Those People”

A little over two years ago, I began uploading sample clips from Fat Head to YouTube. Since then, I’ve received some valuable information from people who disagree with my views on food choices and personal responsibility. For example, until quite recently I was unaware that I’m a chubby, balding, self-impressed idiot who is most definitely not funny. I’ve also learned that I have no @#$%ing idea what I’m talking about, that I need to get a life, and that I’m a @#$%ing moron.

But by far the most valuable insight I’ve picked up in online debates is that THOSE PEOPLE are incapable of making intelligent food choices and need help — preferably in the form of government regulations. That insight came as the result of exchanges along these lines:

Fine, smart guy, we all know nobody drags anybody into McDonald’s, but when they’re spending $4 billion per year on advertising, you can’t tell me it’s just a personal choice, especially since the food is addicting.

I’m sorry to hear about your addiction to McDonald’s food. How often do you find yourself eating at McDonald’s against your better judgment, unable to resist the power of their advertising?

I’m not talking about me! I know better than to eat that crap.

I see … so you’re talking about all those people who lack your superior intelligence and ability to resist persuasion?

@#$% you!

Or …

What’s the big deal with making restaurants put calorie counts on the menu boards? How are people supposed to lose weight if they don’t know how many calories are in the food?

So you’re telling me you’re incapable of turning over the placemat to read the calorie counts? Or checking them online? And by the way, do you actually need to see a calorie count to know that a Big Mac, large order of fries and a large coke is a fattening meal?

Not everyone is as well educated as I am. A lot of people are uninformed and need our help to make better decisions.

I’m sure they’ll be grateful that you’re willing to use your superior education to help them make better decisions.

@#$% you!

Even when Fat Head was still in production, my wife had a debate with a friend who was in favor of the lawsuit filed against McDonald’s by those two obese teenage girls. The friend agreed that most high-school kids are capable of figuring out that eating a full meal at McDonald’s between lunch and dinner can cause weight gain. She even agreed that when the girls started getting fat, their parents should have looked into the matter … but then to my wife’s astonishment, the friend went on to explain that she had been a teacher in the public schools, and a lot of “those people” don’t know any better.

I’ve never been sure who those people are, but since the do-gooders in society file so many lawsuits and enact so many regulations to protect those people, I figured someone should talk to those people and inquire how they feel about all the efforts being made on their behalf. The trouble is, those people are difficult to find.

While filming Fat Head, I conducted street interviews with whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians, old people, young people, native-born Americans, recent immigrants, and even some foreigners on vacation. (Natasha from Russia comes to mind.) None of them were those people. Even the obese people I interviewed weren’t those people — they all knew sodas and french fries are fattening, but told me they don’t really care.

Desperate to meet those people, I finally came up with a solution: I bought a huge email list and blasted out an email explaining that I’m a former high official in the Zimbabwean government who was recently targeted for imprisonment and certain death by president Robert Mugabe and therefore need to escape the country with the $22 million I have saved but can only transfer the money to an existing account in an American bank, the use of which is so valuable to me that I’ll happily pay a 10% commission. Sure enough, I was soon in touch with those people and able to conduct an interview:

Fat Head: I’d like to start by making sure you’ll put the 10% commission to good use.

Those People: Believe me, sir, the $22,000 won’t go to waste. First thing I’m going to do is–

Fat Head: Actually, 10% of $22 million is $2.2 million.

Those People: So … is that more?

Fat Head: A lot more.

Those People: Sorry. I’m incredibly stupid, especially at math. That’s why I’m always telling people, “Man, I wish someone would come up with some way to tell me what to eat where I only have to look at one number.”

Fat Head: I believe that’s coming soon to a Kroger near you.

Those People: Awesome.

Fat Head: Speaking of eating, that’s partly what I mean by “putting it to good use.” Now that money will no longer be an issue, will you finally start eating vegetables?

Those People: Absolutely. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put carrots, spinach and broccoli into my grocery cart, then realized I could get a big bag of ranch-flavored potato chips, a half-dozen Little Debbie cupcakes, and a bottle of orange soda for a nickel or two less.

Fat Head: I see. So, let’s just say hypothetically the 10% commission takes some time to process. In the meantime, if your government raised the price of chips and soda and made it cheaper to eat broccoli, would that affect your dietary choices?

Those People: Yes, definitely. I don’t really consider taste when I’m choosing foods.  I go strictly by the cost.

Fat Head: And you’re not concerned about eating food that’s bad for you?

Those People: Say what?

Fat Head: Potato chips. Sodas. Cupcakes. Those are bad for you.

Those People: You’re kidding me. They’re not the same as broccoli and carrots?

Fat Head: No, what with all the sugar, and the hydrogenated oils, and-

Those People: Why the hell didn’t anyone ever tell me?!

Fat Head: Well…

Those People: I see that stuff advertised on TV all the time, and nobody ever said it was bad! They even showed people saying, “Mmm!  That’s good!”

Fat Head:  Tastes good, yes, but not good for you.

Those People:  I don’t get it.  How are those two any different?

Fat Head: Just out of curiosity, how much do you weigh?

Those People: A little over 350.

Fat Head: Can you put a more precise number on that?

Those People: No, my scale stops at 350.

Fat Head: I see. And are you male or female?

Those People: I can’t tell anymore. My boobs are more wide than long, if that helps.

Fat Head: Not really. But if you don’t mind me asking, do you mind being so overweight?

Those People: Are you nuts? I hate it. I keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and I have no idea why.

Fat Head: Well, let’s work on that. Suppose you spend some of that commission money eating out more often. You’ve got two choices in front of you: a grilled chicken salad or a deep-fried pizza. Which one should you order if you’re trying to lose weight?

Those People: Does the pizza have spinach on it?

Fat Head: It could.

Those People: Then I’m going with the pizza.

Fat Head: But the chicken salad is only 400 calories, and the pizza is more like 2,000 calories and a whole lot of starch.

Those People: Why didn’t you tell me that from the start?

Fat Head: You couldn’t guess just by looking at them?

Those People: Well, maybe if the fried pizza had a big label on it that said something like EATING THIS COULD MAKE YOU FAT.

Fat Head: I see your point. Speaking of labels, the FDA in your country has announced plans to force food manufacturers to start putting their nutrition labels on the front of the package. Will that make you more likely to pay attention to it? Is it really that difficult for Americans to pick up the package and read the label on the back?

Those People: There are nutrition labels on the back on the package?

Fat Head: Well, some of them are on the side, but–

Those People: For Pete’s sake, I can’t be turning boxes around and around every which way to find the labels. No wonder I didn’t know about the cupcakes.

Fat Head: So if the label is right there in your face when you go shopping, you’ll start choosing lower-calorie foods and lose weight?

Those People: I most definitely will, sir. But what’s this got to do with my commission for helping you escape Zimbabwe?

Fat Head: Uh … I’m trying to get a sense of my future countrymen.

Those People: Just because they’re more wide than long, I don’t think you can assume–

Fat Head: Future fellow citizens, then. Anyway, the research on low-calorie diets is quite clear: 98% of the people who try them fail to lose weight and keep it off. And those are people who made a conscious decision to restrict their calories. So why do you believe having the calorie count held up in front of your face when you’re shopping for food or ordering at a restaurant will inspire you to lose weight?

Those People: You lost me.

Fat Head: At what point?

Those People: Back there at “conscious decision.” I never took Latin.

Fat Head: Okay, I’ll try again. People have tried very hard to lose weight by cutting calories. They read labels, even if they have to turn the package around to find it. They check the nutrition menus in fast-food restaurants. They look up information online. They limit their calories on purpose. And yet 98% of them don’t become any thinner.

Those People: Man, that sucks.

Fat Head: Indeed. So what I’m asking is, if the vast majority of people who want to lose weight can’t do it by counting calories on purpose, do you really believe you’ll change your eating habits and lose weight permanently just because your government makes sure you see the calorie counts almost by accident?

Those People: Yes, absolutely.

Fat Head: But that makes no sense whatsoever.

Those People: I warned you: I’m incredibly stupid.

Fat Head: Fair enough. By the way, you never finished telling me what you plan to do with the $22,000.

Those People: I’m going to build a shed out back and stock it with Little Debbie cupcakes.

Fat Head: I thought I just explained that those are bad for you.

Those People: Yeah, but while we were talking, I saw a commercial on TV that said they’re really good. I believe everything I see on TV.

Fat Head: Then you probably believe Crestor can save you from having a heart attack.

Those People: That’s right.

Fat Head: Enjoy your cupcakes.

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70 thoughts on “An Interview With “Those People”

  1. Dana

    Another commenter:

    “‘Those people’ sound ominously like ‘the poor’ in someone else’s mouth. You know, the kind of ad-hoc imaginary people with supposedly no helpful family at all, not even a cousin or uncle, no money, no income, no ability to perform any useful work, and also unable to even get started changing that sorry state of fact, but that ‘society’ must at all cost find a way to keep fed, healthy and happy ? Supposedly all those welfare benefit things are meant for them… but somehow I can’t get my mind around how they would make it through administrative mazes and actually get those benefits in the first place if they’re so apathetic to begin with.”

    As someone who’s been low-income pretty much all her life (my daddy was an enlisted man in the Navy–end of story), I see this *comment* as elitist. It’s not about the poor being stupid or lazy. Poor people aren’t poor because they’re stupid or lazy. Some poor people might BE stupid and lazy, but I’ve seen more than my fair share of RICH stupid and lazy people, so the stupid and lazy are not the determining factors.

    Poor people are poor because they don’t have enough money. Period. “Enough money to what,” I would say “survive and thrive.” If you’re *just* surviving, no, that’s not quite enough, sort of like 400 IU of vitamin D a day might prevent rickets but you’re still going to get chronic disease related to insufficient vitamin D, because rickets are not the only problem the vitamin addresses.

    You can work and still be poor. You can work *hard* and still be poor. You can, as my father did, work your butt off for your *country*, never see your kids, travel all over the world in a tin can where you’re jammed in so close that one night the cook on the floor above your bunk drops a bunch of pots and pans, scares the crap out of you so you sit up in bed and bruise your chest on the light fixture because your bunks are THREE to a set, not two, and live in constant low-level fear that some foreign military whackjob with a plane or a ground missile is going to blow up your ship and there is NOWHERE to go… and still be poor.

    If you’re poor, and the least little thing goes wrong, you’re screwed. I turned my husband in for B&E and grand larceny against the Army in 1999. Got no reward for it (wasn’t expecting any). Got no help. Even my own family had more important things to do than make my having to start over with a 2.5-year-old boy easier on me. Then my car died later that year. I have been struggling ever since. I’m in a situation now where someone is finally looking out for me, so I now have breathing room and time to figure things out. Eleven years down the road. Eleven years of bouncing from situation to situation, scared to death, grieving the loss of my son to his grandparents, malnourished and therefore borderline mentally ill (and borderline is enough, let me tell you) and therefore not what you’d call 100 percent functional to advocate for myself or do much of anything else. I worked, when I could get it. I fretted when I couldn’t. More than once I sold plasma just to get some groceries.

    The commenter who stated the above probably also believes that immigrants can steal jobs. Because we *take* jobs, we are not *given* them. Therefore anyone who is poor is lazy because they didn’t just *take* a job. What a load of tosh. The only way you can *take* a job is if you strike out on your own, and even then you’ll only have a job so long as you have customers. That takes time, and even more time before your finances are in the black. Getting a job, on the other hand, means you’re paid within the next three weeks. But what if you can’t get the job?

    The really stupid part of all this is if you have to settle for something that conservatives (and some liberals) think most Americans are “too good” to do, the reality is that the employer doesn’t even give you a chance to think that way. They immediately label you “overqualified” and decide you’re not a good risk, and refuse to hire you.

    I scored 31 on the ACT in high school. Before *that*, I took part in Duke University’s TIP program for seventh-graders and was one of the top two scorers in the state of Missouri for the 1986-87 school year. I am not a stupid person. I daresay that if you polled the low-income population of this country, you’d find very few who were.

    And I can say “nuclear,” too.

    By the way, speaking to your remark about Planned Parenthood: some folks on the pro-choice side of the argument STILL think being poor is genetic–that is their big argument for family planning. I don’t have to agree with them to understand that being able to control your own fertility is important. It’s something we’ve been doing as a species for a very long time now–the last 10,000 years of agriculture and the resulting population boom, and the pumping out of more kids because more help is needed on the farm, possibly excepted.

    I mean, conservatives often tout fiscal responsibility. I bet they use fire and the wheel too. Don’t diss a technology or an ideology just because people you don’t like happen to agree with you.

    I don’t see very many “pro-life” groups giving young women the entire gamut of reproductive choices–including keeping the baby and parenting. When they do, the support is half-a$$ed. A few cans of formula and a rickety crib are not going to see a young child all the way from birth to Head Start. But leave us not kid ourselves, most of the time they’re fronting for the adoption industry.
    Another form of social engineering–clearly the poor are unfit to have families, and always will be. But liberals are elitist. Okay.

    Jesrad can answer for herself, but I certainly didn’t take her comment as any kind of insult to the poor. It was directed at the elitists who believe that poor people, in spite of having the intelligence to navigate the welfare system, can’t decide for themselves what to eat.

    Reply
  2. Dave, RN

    “I’m often horrified as I stand in the checkout lane…”

    Ha. I play the “Guess how long that person will live” game at the store too. Most carts have mostly boxes of food and not actual Real Food.

    I’ve often wondered just how much my healthy eating habit costs me. So I’m going to try my best to track my food expenses next month, eating only grass fed, pastured meat, pastured eggs, wild caught salmon. I’ll buy only organic butter and coconut oil. Basically, I ‘ll do what I’m doing now but really make an effort to keep track. I’ll bet since I don’t spend any money on junk food “mouthertainment”, I’ll come out pretty good.

    Of course that won’t be factoring the medical expenses I won’t have over the next few decades.

    I can’t prove it, but I believe my allergic reaction (or whatever it is) to wheat led to the arthritis that led to the big ol’ bone spur in my shoulder that led to the surgery that cost me $10,000 in one year and $4,000 the next year for a minor surgery to fix the damage from the major surgery.

    You can buy a lot of whole food for that kind of dough.

    Reply
  3. The Cheap Vegetable Gardnener

    Think the nutritional info on the menu imagine when they are forced to do this. Though I might be partially one of those people I like having the nutritional information easily available though I am an avid calorie counter, though would rather see the the carb counts would make my selections much easier.

    I like seeing the nutritional info too, but it clearly isn’t making obese people any thinner, and it never will.

    Reply
  4. Dave, RN

    “I’m often horrified as I stand in the checkout lane…”

    Ha. I play the “Guess how long that person will live” game at the store too. Most carts have mostly boxes of food and not actual Real Food.

    I’ve often wondered just how much my healthy eating habit costs me. So I’m going to try my best to track my food expenses next month, eating only grass fed, pastured meat, pastured eggs, wild caught salmon. I’ll buy only organic butter and coconut oil. Basically, I ‘ll do what I’m doing now but really make an effort to keep track. I’ll bet since I don’t spend any money on junk food “mouthertainment”, I’ll come out pretty good.

    Of course that won’t be factoring the medical expenses I won’t have over the next few decades.

    I can’t prove it, but I believe my allergic reaction (or whatever it is) to wheat led to the arthritis that led to the big ol’ bone spur in my shoulder that led to the surgery that cost me $10,000 in one year and $4,000 the next year for a minor surgery to fix the damage from the major surgery.

    You can buy a lot of whole food for that kind of dough.

    Reply
  5. D

    “Those people”. Hmmm, I suppose most of us have been guilty, at one time or another, of classifying people that way, just because they are different from what we are. “Those people” could be”

    Fat people
    Very thin people
    Poor people
    Rich people
    Ugly people
    Celebrities
    People who eat low carb instead of the SAD
    People with a different religion
    People of a different race, color, or culture
    People with disabilities, whether mental, physical or emotional (those people can never learn, yeah, right, Temple Grandin proved that to be wrong!)
    http://www.templegrandin.com/ and http://www.grandin.com/

    I am one of “those people” and I’m proud to be one, whatever category I fit in. Life is a lot more interesting that way.

    Indeed. The HBO film about Temple Grandin was outstanding, by the way.

    Reply
  6. The Cheap Vegetable Gardnener

    Think the nutritional info on the menu imagine when they are forced to do this. Though I might be partially one of those people I like having the nutritional information easily available though I am an avid calorie counter, though would rather see the the carb counts would make my selections much easier.

    I like seeing the nutritional info too, but it clearly isn’t making obese people any thinner, and it never will.

    Reply
  7. CindyD

    Thankfully, I know no one like this. I’m a Libertarian and have great faith in my fellow countrymen. My sister and her husband work for the gov’t, and they think most people are stupid. Guilt by association??

    I like that theory.

    Reply
  8. D

    “Those people”. Hmmm, I suppose most of us have been guilty, at one time or another, of classifying people that way, just because they are different from what we are. “Those people” could be”

    Fat people
    Very thin people
    Poor people
    Rich people
    Ugly people
    Celebrities
    People who eat low carb instead of the SAD
    People with a different religion
    People of a different race, color, or culture
    People with disabilities, whether mental, physical or emotional (those people can never learn, yeah, right, Temple Grandin proved that to be wrong!)
    http://www.templegrandin.com/ and http://www.grandin.com/

    I am one of “those people” and I’m proud to be one, whatever category I fit in. Life is a lot more interesting that way.

    Indeed. The HBO film about Temple Grandin was outstanding, by the way.

    Reply
  9. Redskin

    I get it. If the ninny-state told us to eat wrong and we all did it. Then we got fat and all dying of it. Well why don’t the ninnys tell everyone to eat right? And if we all do it then is the ninny-state still bad? I always vote. Just give me a good ninny to vote for. Then I will just wait. Or die doing it. My father never voted. He said he would vote if they promised to shoot everyone that won. But then he would hate it if he voted for the wrong guy.

    Reply
  10. CindyD

    Thankfully, I know no one like this. I’m a Libertarian and have great faith in my fellow countrymen. My sister and her husband work for the gov’t, and they think most people are stupid. Guilt by association??

    I like that theory.

    Reply
  11. Redskin

    I get it. If the ninny-state told us to eat wrong and we all did it. Then we got fat and all dying of it. Well why don’t the ninnys tell everyone to eat right? And if we all do it then is the ninny-state still bad? I always vote. Just give me a good ninny to vote for. Then I will just wait. Or die doing it. My father never voted. He said he would vote if they promised to shoot everyone that won. But then he would hate it if he voted for the wrong guy.

    Reply
  12. The Cheap Vegetable Gardnener

    “I like seeing the nutritional info too, but it clearly isn’t making obese people any thinner, and it never will.”

    Unfortunately if anything just makes them a little more guilty and depressed about what they just ate and according to Oprah would just lead to more eating…

    Being overweight most of my life I have always known how to lose weight just the intentional bad choices or excuses (too tired, too busy, etc) Though if you ask an overweight person how to lose weight they know exactly how it can be done though many keep looking for the easy solution.

    For example I have lost a great deal of weight lately and when someone asks, “How did you lose the weight?” and I answer with, “eating less and moderate exercise” Normally get the, “oh…wish I could do that” I am guessing if I said I was on the, “celery, watermelon diet, and choclate diet” I probably would had a longer conversation, except if I was talking to you with your public hatred of poor celery 🙂

    I’m trying to overcome my hostility towards celery.

    Reply
  13. The Cheap Vegetable Gardnener

    “I like seeing the nutritional info too, but it clearly isn’t making obese people any thinner, and it never will.”

    Unfortunately if anything just makes them a little more guilty and depressed about what they just ate and according to Oprah would just lead to more eating…

    Being overweight most of my life I have always known how to lose weight just the intentional bad choices or excuses (too tired, too busy, etc) Though if you ask an overweight person how to lose weight they know exactly how it can be done though many keep looking for the easy solution.

    For example I have lost a great deal of weight lately and when someone asks, “How did you lose the weight?” and I answer with, “eating less and moderate exercise” Normally get the, “oh…wish I could do that” I am guessing if I said I was on the, “celery, watermelon diet, and choclate diet” I probably would had a longer conversation, except if I was talking to you with your public hatred of poor celery 🙂

    I’m trying to overcome my hostility towards celery.

    Reply
  14. Craig

    “I see … so you’re talking about all those people who lack your superior intelligence and ability to resist persuasion?

    @#$% you!”

    The outright viciousness exhibited by those who consider themselves not to have the better idea, but rather, to actually be a better person, when they have this self assumed position of power calmly and cogently ripped away from them, is always a joy to behold.

    Oh, I admit it: it’s fun.

    Reply
  15. Dave, RN

    “Some people love to eat and would rather be fat than give up the foods they love. That’s okay by me”.

    I see your point, but The problem with that is that the rest of us end up shouldering the financial burden. Diabetes alone cost billions. The most common reason for amputation in the US is diabetes. A surgery like this was the first I ever took part in. We took her leg off just above the knee. The sad part was that by that time she was happy to get rid of it.

    So OK, let them eat cake, but let them pay for it.

    We don’t necessarily shoulder the burden, and if we do, the real problem is with socializing the cost. See this post for a full rant:

    http://www.fathead-movie.com/index.php/2010/02/18/meme-roth-a-burden-on-us-all/

    Reply
  16. Chad Wallace

    OMG Tom, I can’t stop laughing! Especially that boob joke!

    I aspire to be a chubby, balding, and self-impressed idiot just like you!
    Upon further, I truly AM chubby and balding, many call me an idiot, and I have one more trait – I’m sometimes extremely flatulent too! I’m certainly not as funny as you are – but you’re older, so there.

    Maybe ‘those people’ could take some advice from that most noted scholar, Dean Vernon Wormer: “Fat, Drunk and Stupid is no way to go through life son”.

    Sadly, i’m still doing it! I eat too much, drink too much, and weigh too much, and its no one’s fault but my own! Maybe it would help if I found someone to blame?
    Thankfully I’ve inherited some genetics that has kept me pretty healthy.

    Thanks for the laughs, Tom, and do let us know when you do some more standup gigs!

    And if you want to go through life fat, drunk and stupid, I say more power to you.

    Reply
  17. Rambodoc

    This post needs to go viral on Twitter and FB.
    Incidentally, most of my obese patients (not all) keep saying, “But I don’t eat anything at all!” till their food intake is taken apart hour by hour. And I have never come across a person who got morbidly obese from eating eggs, meat, cheese or fruits. After all, barring the last, everything is bad for you, aint it?

    Yup, that’s why I’m falling apart.

    Reply
  18. Dave

    “You’d almost think some people choose to eat for pleasure.”

    “Some people love to eat and would rather be fat than give up the foods they love. That’s okay by me.”

    Oh, no, no, no. According to Oprah, people never overeat because they like simply like the food or just like to eat. Nooooo. Everybody is an emotional eater. “What’s eating you?” she asks. Such bunk.

    Oprah has done a lot of good in the world and I admire her, but she’s definitely steered people wrong on the whole diet issue. She bought into the “she’s not craving food, she’s craving love” nonsense and turned anti-fat hysterics with MDs after their names into media stars.

    Reply
  19. Dana

    To be fair, Tom, advertising costs a lot of money. If it didn’t work to influence people to buy products, businesses would never use it and major corporations like McDonald’s, in particular, wouldn’t touch TV advertising with a ten-foot pole.

    It is not that anyone forces a person to enter a McDonald’s, but societal pressure is powerful, particularly around choices like religion and food. On top of that, we’re a visual species. So these ads show up on TV and they sort of normalize the whole McDonald’s thing. So we think it’s no big deal and we walk on in.

    Anyway, who cares? You already proved that it’s possible to eat at McDonald’s and still be relatively healthy. So I don’t know why these people are getting all het up about Mickey D’s to begin with.

    In industries with multiple providers — fast food, autos, life insurance, etc. — the primary purpose of advertising is gaining or maintaining market share … keep customers coming to McDonald’s instead of Burger King, etc. The ads may bring some people to McDonald’s who otherwise would’ve eaten at home, but as you pointed out, what’s the big deal? So many people buy garbage at the grocery store (I’m often horrified as I stand in the checkout lane), I’m not sure it makes much difference.

    Reply

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