WASHINGTON DAYS: Bigger is better in the land where fat is a felonious issue
Known for his commentary on international relations and US politics, Rupert Cornwell also contributes obituaries and occasionally even a column for the sports pages. With The Independent since its launch in 1986, he was the paper's first Moscow correspondent - covering the collapse of the Soviet Union – during which time he won two British Press Awards. Previously a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times and Reuters, he has also been a diplomatic correspondent, leader writer and columnist, and has served as Washington bureau editor. In 1983 he published God's Banker, about Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge.
Wednesday 25 October 1995
Alas, he was sighted once too often around town indulging in doughnuts, pizza and french fries. He was weighed in the scales of justice and found wanting. Instead of slimming down, he had added 20lb. The law would have no mercy, and this time Mr Younkin was given Kansas' maximum term for violating a probation agreement, three months in jail.
His lawyers are appealing, on the grounds that weight and diet are personal matters which are not for a court to decide, and that therefore Mr Younkin's spell behind bars is "cruel and unusual punishment" in breach of the eighth amendment of the Constitution. More to the point, though, if obesity were a prison offence, America's overcrowded jails would long since have come apart at the seams.
For once the evidence of my own eyes and government statistics agree. Americans are getting fatter and fatter.A third of adults are overweight, and according to a new federal survey, 11 per cent of all children are too - more than double the proportion 25 years ago. Taking their cue from their parents, children too exercise less, spend more time in front of the TV or computers and eat too much. And who is to blame them? The hardest thing to find in this country is a modest snack.
Take the American "sandwich", not to be confused with the dainty European concoction of the same name. A sandwich here is a monument to America's love for bigness - so thick you cannot get your month around it without sending part of the contents into your lap. Beg the man behind the deli bar to go easy on the filling and he looks at you as if you were some wimpish idiot. But sandwiches have nothing on the fast food industry, which spends $36bn (pounds 22.8bn) a year on advertising ever vaster servings to an ever more corpulent population.
An item in the Washington Post last week provided some astonishing facts. Remember the curvy old bottle of Coca-Cola? It contained six and a half fluid ounces. The latest monstrosity from the 7-11 grocery chain is the Double Gulp, offering nearly 10 times as much, 64 ounces of coke, equivalent to 800 calories. The diameter of regular pizzas creeps steadily higher, now at around 12 inches. But nothing quite matches the 3lb porterhouse steaks offered by Morton's Steakhouse of Chicago. The Morton's in Washington claims to sell five to 10 a night, and everything gets eaten.
The reason for the onward march of excess is said to be the concept of "value". But instead of offering more for the same price, why not the same for less?
And the problem reaches the summit of the state. True, George Bush famously loathed broccoli, but even so was as thin as a rake. Not so the 42nd President. "We do fibres and stuff," Hillary Clinton once said in reply to a question about the family eating habits, and for formal entertaining she has replaced high calorie classical French with trendy Californian. But husband Bill, as he is the first to admit, seldom fails to warm to a pile of junk food.
So what happened to the get fit and slim craze? It was always strictly a middle- and upper-class phenomenon. Once upon a time when only the wealthy could afford a full plate, being fat meant being rich. The poor as a rule were thin. In today's US, it is the other way round. And even the stigma of obesity is fading. One poll has found that only 36 per cent of people feel that fat is unattractive. A decade ago, the figure was 55 per cent.
None of which answers Mr Younkin's problem: how to earn the money to pay off his debt. Apparently a New Jersey freak show offered him a job - but on condition he gained 200lb and signed a five-year contract. Even Mr Younkin's weakness for doughnuts didn't stretch to that.
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
- 1 Bad cattitude: Family call police after crazed and 'hostile cat with a history of violence' attacks baby before attempting to 'flee custody'
- 2 Family forced to flee home after discovering 'terrifying' nest of spiders in bananas
- 3 First Kiss: Filmmaker gets 20 strangers to make out on YouTube with awkward results
- 4 Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
- 5 Bob Crow death: 'Admired by his members, feared by employers' - Tributes pour in for RMT union leader and 'working class hero' Bob Crow
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: One of the largest mobile advert...
£20000 - £23000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: Our client specialises in creati...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Private Cli...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residential...