Cattle Call

By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, August 19, 2007

Everyone knows that America has an obesity problem. But when I read about a recent medical study suggesting that getting fat is socially contagious -- that if your friends gain weight, you become much more likely to -- I was skeptical. It seemed an illogical form of bandwagon behavior:

Warren: Hi, George. Long time no see!

George: Yes. I notice you've become the size of a bathysphere.

Warren: You're darn tootin'! My buttocks are larger than your wife.

George: [looks crestfallen]

Warren: Aw, chin up, fella. If you follow my pulled pork, pasta and parfait diet, you, too, can become a thunderous, waddling leviathan!

So, as I said, I was skeptical. However, I soon came to understand that the study is probably right. I came to understand this because, on the very day that the report was issued, I learned something interesting about human nature from my friend Bruce Friedrich. Bruce was planning to spend a morning leafleting, and he suggested that if I accompanied him I'd get more than enough material for a column.

"Leafleting" is not a typical way that friends get together, unless your friend happens to be Bruce, who is always working, and whose work consists of informing most everyone in the world, often via leaflet, that they are bloodthirsty monsters. Bruce is a national spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the in-your-face animal rights organization that believes it is immoral to consign fully sentient beings to nightmarish lives of immobility, fear and pain just because we like to eat them instead of eggplant.

I know you probably have a problem with the previous sentence. Many people do. If you are like me, your problem is that you think it is

(1) personally insulting and obnoxious; and

(2) true.

This, however, is not a column about animal rights. It is a column about human behavior, specifically about whether we will tend to get fat if people around us get fat.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company