LGBTQ Obesity: We Eat, Therefore We Die – Shepherd Express


Posted: March 6, 2020 at 5:41 am

Last week, I watched KFCs TV spot for its latest monster sandwich that consists of a piece of crispy fried chicken between two glazed donuts. It ran repeatedly during each commercial break. You may remember the soundtrack from a British Airways commercial many years ago. Its lyrics describe a dome of jasmine and roses. The ethereal melody sung by enchantingly blended soprano and mezzo voices conjures otherworldly beauty, perfect for glancing out an airplane window pondering the clouds below.

In the KFC ad, however, accompanied by images of donuts and chicken parts in a carousel of grease, the duets new lyrics, intoned in a grating, loud and off-key rendition by the Colonel himself, extol the 1,100-calorie culinary atrocity.

Later that evening, in a sublime coincidence, the news led with a report of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the nations latest obesity numbers announcing that 42% of our population is obese, 10% severely so. Those figures reflect a 40% increase in just two decades. Meanwhile, reviewers are loving the sandwich.

That juxtaposition of marketing and our ever-expanding national girth reminded me of a Diverse & Resilient event at the LGBT Community Center I attended many years ago, back when the Center was still housed on Court Street. It presented survey results on the state of LGBTQ health. The categories spanned the spectrum of unhealthy lifestyle choicesalcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use, as well as obesity. Across the board, the report concluded, LGBTQs have a disproportionately high rate of those health-compromising behaviors. An extended discussion around confronting and reducing substance abuse followed. The meeting convened, and attendees grabbed a parting snack and soda from the refreshment table as they left. Later, an acquaintance asked if I had noticed the elephant in the room.

I had. Whether due to time constraints or the particular awkwardness and political charge of the subject matter, there had been no discussion about the health crisis that dares not speak its name, obesity. Coincidently, around the same time, Boulevard Theatres Mark Bucher presented a grant proposal to the Milwaukee Arts Board for Weighty Matters, a project addressing the issue. A grant review board member dismissed it as too touchy a subject.

Especially in dairy and beer state Wisconsin, obesity is often excused with a goes-with-the-territory defense. Not surprisingly, we rank among the states with the highest obesity rates. In fact, we celebrate it. I recall a Water Street haberdashery that featured a window display of dad bod mannequins sporting shirts covering a noticeable paunch. Meanwhile, our State Fair glorifies cream puffs and all things deep fried with blithe abandon.

Besides, some lesbians and bisexual women (among whom obesity rates are particularly high) politicize their bodies, arguing that non-conformity to patriarchal expectations is their prerogative.

But beyond body politics and the allure of over-indulgence, its a health crisis. The list of obesitys often fatal consequences is long: heart disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, cancer and depression, to name but a few.

Admittedly, theres already a lot on the communitys plate. But sooner rather than later, we need to start talking about obesity. Its killing us.

Since returning to Milwaukee in the early 1990s, Paul Masterson has been a contributing writer to Milwaukees LGBTQ and mainstream press. His beat spans the spectrum from athletics to the arts and from heath, politics and history to religion.

Mar. 03, 2020

2:30 p.m.

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LGBTQ Obesity: We Eat, Therefore We Die - Shepherd Express

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