One day, in the early spring of 1935, I had lunch at the soda fountain counter of a department store near my office. There was an empty stool at my left and two vacant ones at my right.
I was contenting myself with a delicious salad when in swooped three ladies. “Swooped” is the word, for they must have totalled at least 675 pounds of concentrated womanhood. Two of them squeezed into place on the stools at the right. The third one started to maneuver herself into the space at my left.
Since they all overflowed the accommodations considerably, a bit of discretion was obviously in order-I stepped back from my stool and offered it to the lady at my left. She accepted most graciously, and then the fun began. Of course I listened. Soda fountains are not exactly ivory towers of isolation.
Said the first lady to the soda clerk, “I’ll have a liverwurst sandwich with pickle relish on white bread with no lettuce and no butter, a large glass of soda with ice in it, please. And don’t forget, no butter!”
Said the second hefty one, “Well, that sounds like a good idea. Waiter, I’ll have the same.”
They looked expectantly at their friend, who was studying the menu with visible perturbation. Finally, No. 3 looked up appealingly and said, “I’d just love to have that creamed shrimp, but I never eat shrimp away from home. You’re having liverwurst? Waiter, I’ll have the same, with relish and mayonnaise-no butter.”
While they were waiting for the orders to come, they busied themselves with a discussion about Sarah. Sarah, I gathered, had accompanied them to the knitting class upstairs, but couldn’t join them for lunch because her knees were hurting badly. She was going to rest a little bit and then go home.
The first Liverwurst Lady carried most of the conversational burden. “So sorry for Sarah. . . . Her rheumatism really is bad. . . . Really, though, Sarah ought to reduce. . . . She must have gained 100 pounds since she moved to Brooklyn. She used to have the loveliest figure.” . . . And so on.
The liverwurst-and-mayonnaise lady broke in. She just knew Sarah would die of a broken heart. Sam left her alone all the time. He always had some excuse to be out and away from home-conferences, conventions, business. He never took her any place.
Then they all chirped up and put Sarah’s husband on the pan. Just as the waiter hove in sight with the liverwurst sandwiches, the first queen of the liverwursts concluded mournfully that Sam was such a nice little fellow when he and Sarah first moved to Brooklyn.
By that time, the sandwiches were before them, the ladies fell to work, and silence ensued. But I had to stick the situation out. After all, not one of these Liverwurst Ladies weighed less than 220 pounds; not one was over five feet, four inches tall. Here was the chance for a very candid glimpse at fat people. I just had to see my little adventure through.
Soon the liverwurst sandwiches with no butter were gone. Time for desserts. Said the first lady to the second lady, “And now, my dear, I’m going to make you very jealous. I’m going to have chocolate layer cake.”
Said Liverwurst Lady No. 2, with a most accusing look, “Doesn’t your conscience hurt you?”
“No,” said No. 1. “I want it.”
Up piped Liverwurst Lady No. 3 to Liverwurst Lady No. 2, “She’s smart. She’s getting what she wants.”
The soda clerk by this time had deftly placed an enticing portion of layer cake before the beaming countenance of Liverwurst Lady No. 1. He looked at Liverwurst Lady No. 2, for all the world like a cat looking at a mouse, and said, “And yours, Madam?”
Lady No. 2 registered a stageworthy blend of agony and wistfulness, and, with a despairing glance at the layer cake, said in a tone of complete surrender, “Oh, I’ll have layer cake, too.”
There was a fateful moment when the clerk, after a hasty glance at the cake shelf, said, “I’m sorry, lady, there’s no more chocolate layer cake. But,” he added swiftly, “we do have lemon and maple layer cake.” From the look on the face of Lady No. 2, you would have sworn that he had saved her life.
She wasted no time. “I’ll have the lemon layer cake and coffee, please.”
“Oh, yes, coffee for me, too,” said the first lady, “and two creams, please.” Then with a sort of superior little smile on her face, she said to the other two, “I don’t use sugar!”
The lemon layer cake was served in all its glory. The first lady had already taken a comforting mouthful of her chocolate layer cake. The lemon layer cake was about to be attacked, when the third Liverwurst Lady abjectly surrendered. She murmured, “I’ll have some lemon layer cake, too.”
Well, that closed the chapter as far as I was concerned. I’d bet a handsome wager that each one of those three would have been just the type to tell you, “Everything I eat turns to fat.”
My thoughts wandered to Sarah, the unseen. Somewhere in that big store, Sarah was sitting, huffing and puffing, and resting the knees that hurt her. The fragments of gossip about her told her story.
There she sat, unhappily alone, no doubt wondering about her complaining knees-knees fashioned by Nature to carry a moderate weight, but now compelled to support an extra 100 pounds since Sarah had moved to Brooklyn.
Her husband, the “nice little fellow” (when they moved to Brooklyn)-just picture his unhappy plight. According to the evidence, he is a little man; undoubtedly, when he was attracted to Sarah and married her, she must have been about his size-perhaps smaller.
She was a girl with a nice figure, one that her friends still remember. We can guess that she must have weighed perhaps 120 pounds-a girl Sam liked to take to movies, to a show or a dance, a girl that he loved enough to marry, the girl that he had selected for a mate.
When they moved to Brooklyn, Sarah apparently started on the royal road to rotundity. It ended up with the gain of 100 extra pounds. Here, certainly, was a different Sarah from the one Sam had married. The girl he took to the altar had one chin; the lady he comes home to in Brooklyn now probably has three.
I hold no brief for men who neglect their wives, but Sam did not deserve the lambasting he got from the Liverwurst Ladies. The girl he married had disappeared gradually under billowing rolls of fat. Gracious, no little man likes to walk down the street with a woman twice his size, even if she is his wife! Perhaps, in justice, the blame for that marital situation lay with Sarah, who thought so little of her husband and so much of her food that she allowed herself to grow into a waddling mountain of flesh.
That’s the adventure of the Liverwurst Ladies, as I like to call it. It brings us face to face with the most difficult problem in reducing-the problem of human nature. Now bear with me a minute, please. We are not going to indulge in the overworked indoor sport of berating human nature. It is overdone these days and generally done very badly. As a matter of fact, the person who flays human nature most severely is, too often, a most flagrant example of its perversities, perplexities, and weaknesses. But we simply cannot go on until we take human nature into our reckoning.
You see, this is about as good a time as any to tell you frankly that we are in dead earnest about persuading you to reduce.
I may be a little “cracked” on the subject of the importance of health and disease. I was brought up in my father’s Sanitarium, lived within its gates until my high school days. A healthy youth, a happy one, I constantly rubbed shoulders with sick people, young and old.
Just as the tenement child is intimately acquainted with the squalor and horror of poverty, so I got a first-hand view of the misery and terror of sickness and premature death. I grew up with an abiding horror of disease, and perhaps a fanatical appreciation of health.
To me, there is no more important endeavor in life than to plan, work, and aspire to live long-and to live free from the tyranny of disease. The value of health is far above that of financial achievement, social success or political freedom. After all, there is no bondage so fearful, no poverty so cruel, no failure so unhappy as that encompassed by the word sickness.
Perhaps this view was, unwittingly, best expressed by the wit, Ed Wynn, when he said, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and becomes the richest man in the cemetery?” When we become more wise and reasonable human beings, we shall strive to live healthfully with the same ardor and effort that we now expend in trying to outdo the Joneses.
The Grim Reaper has a thousand weapons other than the Scythe with which we usually picture him, and none is sharper or more serviceable to him than excessive obesity. We may laugh and joke with each other about fat and overweight. But Debble Fat laughs last.
The cost of overweight in human suffering and human life is impossible to calculate. I have an earnest belief that I am doing a bit of good, in a world that needs a lot of good done, by helping people to reduce. But to help you reduce, I have to give you more than a set of diet directions; I have to help you understand fat, and fat people.
The Liverwurst Ladies can aid us. I have never forgotten them-they were examples. Those three worthies were lipophilic, no question about that, but they didn’t have to be fat. They ordered, of their own will and desire, the liverwurst sandwiches and layer cake-food which just naturally spells fat to individuals constructed as they were. We can guess from their conversation that they knew very well that those foods were fattening, yet they insisted upon eating them.
I remember noting that while the three ladies were all very stout, each one conformed more or less to a certain type. The first Liverwurst Lady, I am sure, would be classed as a thyroid type of fat person; the second, as that roly-poly pituitary type; and the third leaned heavily toward what is called the maternal or ovarian type of fat.
These are technical names that you may forget now if you please, but the ladies undoubtedly had the so-called glandular types of fatness. Probably, each one of them murmured often, “I eat like a bird.”
To be honest, they no doubt ate much less than they wanted. Perhaps, like many lipophilics, they were possessed of big appetites. Pity them if they were. Lipophilics with medium-sized appetites have a bad enough time of it; those with generous ones are in for double trouble.
Many a fat person eats only half of what he really wants to eat. Too bad! If he only knew, the kind-not the quantity-of the food he eats is what matters.
That skinny fellow over there likes to eat, too. And, likely as not, he eats twice as much as we do. Lipophilics have an altered body chemistry. I believe it can be made normal; certainly it can be compromised with. So while we may have to be lipophilic, we do not have to be fat. The point is, lipophilics do not understand why they are different from the four out of five who are not lipophilic-why their eating habits have to vary from those of most people. There is the rub, and that is the gist of our story. Fat people unaware of this undeniable fact (or aware of it but unwilling to acknowledge it) fall back on excuses. That’s bad!
We will not fight fat successfully with excuses, so let us dispose of these deterrents.
Generally, the excuses for being fat run in three classical patterns:
1. It’s glands!
2. It runs in the family!!
3. My work is too confining!!!
And excuses, to paraphrase Shakespeare, make the fault of fatness a11 the worse by the very excuse. Since we must dissect some of them carefully, we will have to lead you into a rather strange experience the inside story of fat people.
Have you ever noticed how a tailor or a person interested in the dress goods business casts a rather speculative eye over your clothes? I have, and I always feel a little uncomfortable. Maybe my imagination is too good.
The last cloak-and-suiter with whom I lunched had me especially worried. Mind you, not a remark passed between us about clothes or cloth, but I had the discomforting notion that he was carefully appraising the almost new suit I, was wearing.
I imagined he was saying to himself, “Well, Lindlahr may know something about calories, but he doesn’t know anything about clothes. Wait till the first rain hits the rags he’s wearing. Strictly Grade C stuff. They will be shining like a new brass nameplate in six weeks. Probably paid a good price for them, too. It only goes to show. . . .”
Every man to his trade, I suppose. Whenever I see fat people and have a brief chance to study them, I try to size up their characters and general types. I speculate a little bit on how much they eat, and wonder what they eat, and wonder why they don’t get wise to themselves and take off some of that weight.
I wonder what their fat fate is going to be. Not that I am morbid, but just as a man acquainted with details about various automobiles has a good idea of how each type will behave on the road and just about when they’ll end up at the wreckers, so the person who understands fat has some idea of the general fate awaiting average fat persons, and can reflect on what the end will be.
We can learn much in the next chapter by examining the characters of some various types of lipophilics. We will be introduced, so to speak, to a few people.
Try to understand these fictional characters. And if you can find traits, habits or faults that you share with them, ‘fess up. Then strengthen or oust the weak links in your character, because, they really are the villains that make you fat!