When Matt Groening conceived The Simpsons way back in the cube-gleaming, flash-dancing, jazzercising ‘80s, he somehow saw past Yuppie fads like nouvelle cuisine and exercise to successfully foresee the obesity epidemic that was set to sweep America.
By our reckoning, roughly a third of the Springfieldianites who comprised the cast of the first season could be classed as obese. Perhaps that’s part of the reason those early episodes still feel so contemporary and timeless. Now that we’re all fat, dumb and horribly jaundiced, with nothing but a new episode of Star Wars to look forward to, we’ve never identified so closely with the likes of Comic Book Guy.
But what can we learn from The Simpsons about fatness to help us ensure our kids identify with the show about as much as our generation identifies with The Jetsons?
#1 “All You Can Eat” is not a dare.
We all like getting a good deal and when it comes to the business of selling us food, the industry knows exactly how to exploit this weakness. When bulk buys are heavily discounted, when it’s only a few pence more for the extra large portion or when it’s cheaper to get sides and drinks than not, we’d be fools not to comply, wouldn’t we? Nowhere is this weakness more evident than the all-you-can-eat buffet, where we feel obliged to cram literally as much food as we can stomach into our aching guts in one sitting, just to be certain we’re getting our money’s worth.
#2 ‘Health Foods’ are not always healthy.
A lot of the foods that are marketed to us as healthy options aren’t. Breakfast cereals are a famous offender in this field, boasting things like “added vitamins” to fool consumers into thinking they’re buying something nutritious, when what they’re actually buying is something so devoid of nutrition, it needed to have vitamins added to it. Cereal bars and similar snacks, including some protein bars, also have dubious nutritional value and many contain more calories, sugar and fat than you might expect so check the label. Unlike Powersauce bars, which were just apple cores and shredded Chinese newspapers.
#3 Exercise alone will not help you lose weight.
Exercise is an essential part of maintaining your health, but when it comes to losing weight, it must go in tandem with a proper diet. When you actually sit down and work out how many calories you burn through exercise versus how many you consume on a daily basis, you realise how unrealistic it is to imagine that you can eat what you like as long as you show your face at the gym every now and then.
#4 ‘Emotional’ eating is unhealthy.
Thinking of food as either a comfort or a punishment can lead to poor eating choices and is clearly representative of a bad relationship with food in general. Unless, of course, the food in question is your faithful and loveable pet lobster and the comfort you feel from eating him comes from knowing it’s what he would have wanted.
#5 “If the paper turns clear, it’s your window to weight gain!”
That probably doesn’t need much explanation.
BONUS: Being fat is undignified.
From being too large to wear any clothes other than moo-moos to being unable to fit into chairs designed for humans in prime condition to sit uncomfortably in, being fat comes with its fair share of indignities to bear and fat people are treated by society in an undignified manner. Of course, The Simpsons have been known to aspire to fatness and the minor celebrity that comes with being a shut-in.