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?
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.
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.