I am currently “wintering” in your fair city (I live in Germany) and I have become an avid reader of the Orlando Weekly. While reading a recent issue [Feb. 21] I ran across the discussion in the Mail Sack section, particularly the letters regarding fat/obese people, their “rights” and the general discussion of how being fat/obese is perceived. This is a topic that has been on my mind for quite some time. How so? As a fit American white male; a former Army officer; 47 years old; 6 feet, 4 inches tall and 200 pounds; and as a person who, as of 2006, has lived in Europe longer than I have ever lived in America, I can say that there is simply no such thing as a “fat gene.”

In Europe, there exists a completely different mindset concerning health, healthy eating and exercise. In Europe, we walk almost everywhere. On Sundays, after a nice Sunday meal, you will see on every street hundreds, if not thousands, of citizens, out walking off that same Sunday meal.

In America, however, we are a people of contrasts. We have the freaks who virtually live in a gym and these people augmented with absurd amounts of cosmetic surgery who become almost “not quite human.” Then, on the other end of the spectrum, there are the massive, can-barely-walk-or-function, motorized-scooter-driving, oxygen-tank-breathing “blob people.”

The proof I have that the so-called “fat gene” does not exist is the fact that obesity (in its purest and unique American form) does not exist anywhere else on Earth. (OK, there are a quite a few in England as well, but statistically far less than America.) If you do not believe me, Lufthansa has specials on flights from Orlando to Frankfurt four times a year; hop a plane, take the subway to downtown Frankfurt, get off the train and take a look around. You will not see a single fat or obese person. Nor will you find one after days of looking. Women stay fit in Germany. They have several children and are back to their original weight often less than 40 days after delivery. Here? Women tend to get fat and stay fat.

When you do eventually find an overweight person in Europe (and they are indeed rare) then they do have something in common with their American counterpart: They simply eat too damned much! These are people who have simply resigned themselves to overeating, no exercise, and have sentenced themselves to permanent back and joint damage and a drastically shortened lifespan because of their own lifestyle choices.

There is a saying in German that means “eat the half,” or, choose a half-portion. Portions and food quality are the key! Food in Europe is far healthier than in America. Nowhere else on Earth are there more manipulated, genetically altered, processed foods than here. In Europe, the breads are healthier, the meats are leaner and (here is the key) the portions are more sane and controlled. There are no “all you can eat” buffets.

Jim Calhoun, Orlando

Michael Niman’s Upfront piece, “935 lies” [Feb. 21], gets it right by reminding us that lies are corrosive to democracy. But Niman, unlike this reader, is unsurprised by the lack of shock waves, either in Washington, D.C., or on a national level, from the revelation the Bush administration has been found to have conducted a deliberate, orchestrated campaign of deception against Congress and you and me in the run-up to the Iraq war. He implies our culture of lying is responsible for the collective big yawn to the big lie.

  I was 11 when I watched Richard Nixon resign his presidency on national TV.  Even though at the time I didn’t understand the Watergate scandal, I learned from this that we are a nation of laws, and not even the president can break them without being held to account.

The system worked when I was growing up. It’s not working now. Is that because of a culture of lies? Or is it because too many of us are disengaged from our roles as citizens to stand up against tyranny and the Big Lie, and to demand this administration be held to account and this insane war stopped?

    Bill Leavy, Orlando

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