Sunday, February 24, 2013

A veritable food and comic vortex

The goal of this blog is not only to share my progress and journey (and food), but also the variety of research that's out there on weight loss, weight maintenance, dieting and the food industry, I know I find it interesting, but a lot of it can be heavy going, mulling through statistics and methodology, especially as many reports contradict other ones.

So I often escape into the mundane world of news and of course, the comforting lure of comic books.

However, now both have betrayed me into coercing a new blog post. Damn you, leisure reading!

First, the NY Times. I rue the day I started checking out their Health and Wellness section, Too many reports about new research on diet and weight! And almost every one makes me think, "Dang! Now I have to write a post! Will I ever get to discussing recipes?"

For example, here's an article that sort of addresses the topic of my previous post on the cost of working out. Of course, the fellow teaching this "pay what you want" course is not certified and I'm not sure if this sort of class would address issues such as my wonky leg in a boot camp setting, but there it is...topicality. I'm almost...prescient.

But then here's another, more substantial piece on junk food addiction and food companies development of such items. Now, part of me upon reading this thought, "well, duh!" I mean, is it so hard to grasp that companies will do most anything to sell products? It wasn't as if they were being deceptive, but just rather uncaring to the health of the general population.

Perhaps I felt it wasn't a surprise because it covers almost the exact same topics as The End of Overeating by David Kessler. I had to check that it wasn't written by the same person, although the Times article is more accusatory than the book, as it tied to the industry and less to personal responsibility.

And while I personally find the marketing of food science experiments into consumer product success studies interesting, I know it's not the most comforting thing to realize that snack food has been maximized for "mouth feel" and sugar-salt content. So as interesting as food chemistry is, it makes me run back to the comforting arms of the graphic novel.

Except that good ol' comic books have probably also contributed to my Retro Ska Librarian physique. My most comforting memory from youth into adulthood is new comic day, which was usually accompanied by a snack. Back in the 80's, I remember always buying two gooey confections at the now defunct Encore Patisserie in the East Village, so I could hole up in my bedroom of my crappy tenement and enjoy a visual and taste sensation combination. 

I can tell I conditioned myself into this behavior, as I still get an incredibly strong urge to snack when I pick up my new comics each Wednesday. The sense of escape almost seems incomplete without the proper "mouth feel" of a piece of cake or a bag of cheesy somethings. Can I blame the CEOs of snack food companies? Meh, they probably got me hooked, but it was up to me escape that grasp.

But I can see I'm not alone in that idea. Long time comics editor, writer, commentator Tom Spurgeon wrote a piece back in 2000 called Comics Made Me Fat. Spurgeon was at the time nearly 400 lbs. I suggest you read the whole snarky piece. It certainly hit the nail on my own denial of my then body and actions. But here's a snippet:

"comics has an effect on food consumption by fans because of their shared model for proper kids' behavior - doe-like passivity. As better critics than I have argued, superhero comics promote such an unrealistic fantasy based on bizarre, arbitrary models of action that they don't really give anyone a model for fully socialized behavior."

This past year, Spurgeon underwent emergency surgery and now is on a major weight loss regimen. He has lost over 200 lbs. His posts about that in Comics Made Me Somewhat Less Fat. He eats regular, healthier food and exercises a good amount.

Again, I recommend the entire piece, but here's this snippet:

"It's likely that I have a biological disposition towards overeating and even more likely that I have a giant suitcase full of hangups and emotional difficulties that helped frustrate any and all earlier efforts to do anything about it. But let's not bury my responsibility in buzzwords and gentle excuses. That was my fat, and my fault. I take full responsibility for that aspect of my health, and I die a little bit inside for anyone that doesn't."

He does add that he misses a lot of the food he used to eat and, indeed, food is awesome.

And this could be me. 

A lot of food out there was created to taste better than what we could whip up on our own. A lot if it tastes incredibly good. And a lot of it...a whole lot of a lot of us in hot water, both physically and psychologically.

A lot can be blamed on the food companies...adding extra sugar and fat into food, odd chemicals and such. But we knew what was happening. We saw our bodies changing for the worse.

I can't blame them for filling my gullet beyond the recommended daily allowance. Nor can I blame comic publishers for getting me to buy their wares every week for the past several decades.

Choices are ours to make. Blame can only go so far.

Otherwise, we'd all end up in the hospital imitating Matter Eater Lad:


Kessler, David A. The end of overeating: taking control of the insatiable American appetite. Emmaus, Pa.; New York: Rodale ; Distributed to the trade by Macmillan, 2009.

Moss, Michael. “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.” The New York Times, February 20, 2013, sec. Magazine.
Rubin, Courtney. “People’s Bootcamp in New York and the Price of Fitness.” The New York Times, February 22, 2013, sec. Fashion & Style.
Spurgeon, Tom. "Comics Made Me Fat" Comics Reporter January 1, 2000. 
_______. "Comics Made Me Somewhat Less Fat" Comics Reporter July 19, 2012


  1. Great post David. I really enjoyed The End of Overeating. It was definitely a worthwhile read and it, truthfully, scared me with some of the scary statistics.

  2. Thanks, Diane. The End of Overeating was very scary, even more so in that you realize just how much taste sensations are controlled by these corporations. Thanks for reading! (and by the way, It's Dan, not David. :) )

  3. It's interesting how conditioning works with food. I associate snacking with reading except that when I started reading comics in college, my boyfriend the comic book collector taught me that you don't eat around comic books. To this day, I won't eat while reading a comic book.