It's not only the collapse of the stock market that has the upper classes biting their fingernails. In the last couple of weeks, the low-fat, high-carb way of life that was central to the self-esteem of the affluent has been all but discredited. If avarice was the principal vice of the bourgeoisie, a commitment to low fat was its one great counter-balancing virtue. You can bet, for example, that those CEOs who cooked the books and ransacked their companies' assets did not start the day with two eggs over easy, a rasher of bacon and a side of hash browns. No, those crimes were likely fuelled by unbuttered low-fat muffins and delicate slices of melon. Grease was for proles.
But, as we have been learning, there never was much to support the dogma that the low-fat approach will make you slim and resistant to heart disease. In fact, the epidemic of obesity coincides precisely with the arrival of the anti-fat dogma in the 80s, accompanied by a cornucopia of low-fat potato chips and frozen pot roast dinners.
I, meanwhile, was raised on a diet of eggs every morning with bacon or sausage, meat for lunch and meat again for dinner, invariably accompanied by gravy or at least pan drippings. We buttered everything from broccoli to brownies, and would have buttered butter itself if it were not for the problems of traction presented by the butter-butter interface.
Fast-forwarding to the present, I still regard bread as a vehicle for butter, and chicken as an excuse for gravy. The result? I'm a size 6 and have a cholesterol level that an envious doctor once denounced as "too low." Case closed.
And if that doesn't convince you, Dr. Barry Sears, inventor of the high-protein Zone diet, has been arguing for years that there's a solid explanation for why the low-fat, high-carb approach is actually fattening. A meal of carbs -- especially those derived from sugar and refined flour -- is followed by a surge of blood sugar, then, as insulin is released in response, a sudden collapse, leaving you cranky, and hungrier than before you ate.
Fats and protein can make you fat too, of course, if ingested in sufficient quantity, but at least they fulfill the conventional role of things designated as foodstuffs, which is to say they give you the feeling that you've actually eaten something.
But facts don't seem to matter when a major dogma so flattering to the affluent is at stake. In the last couple of decades, the low-fat way of life has become an indicator of social rank, along with whole-grain -- as opposed to white -- bread and natural fibre clothing versus polyester. If you doubt this, consider the multiple meanings of "grease," as in "greaser" and "greasy spoon." Among the nutritionally "correct" upper-middle-class people of my acquaintance, a dinner of French bread and pasta has long been considered a suitable offering for guests -- followed by bone-dry biscotti. And don't bother asking for the butter.
What has made the low-fat dogma especially impervious to critique, though, is the overclass's identification of low-fat with virtue and fat with the underclass's long-suspected tendency to self-indulgence. Low-fat is the flip side of avarice for a reason: ours has been a culture where everyone wants to be rich, but no one wants to be known as a "fat cat."
We might be hogging the Earth's resources and tormenting the global working class, the affluent seem to be saying, but at least we're not indulging the ancient human craving for fat.
The long-term effects of a low-fat, low-protein diet are easy to guess: a perpetual feeling of insatiety, a relentless, gnawing, hunger for more. No doubt, for many thousands in the low-fat/high-earnings crowd, money has become a substitute, however unfulfilling, for dietary fat. The effect was naturally strongest in Silicon Valley, where dot-com mania collided with the Berkeley-based carbo cult to disastrous effect. That "irrational exuberance" of the late 90s was, in fact, the giddiness of hypoglycemia induced by a diet of boutique muffins and $5-a-loaf "artisan bread."
As I write this, the stock market keeps plunging like the blood sugar of someone who has just made a meal of sweet potatoes. There is a definite chance that it's finally over: this whole frenzy of getting and spending, betting and trading. If the food pyramid can be kicked over, so perhaps can the entire socio-economic hierarchy. At least the piggies at the top have lost one of their major ideological props.
My advice to the fat-deprived yuppies who are now watching their fortunes melt away: Go out and get yourself a bacon cheeseburger and fries. Then lean back, with the grease dripping down your chin, smile and appreciate, perhaps for the very first time, what it feels like to have enough.
From The Progressive