I took out a subscription to the London Review of Books a few years back, in the hope that some of its literary excellence would rub off on my translations. And to have something to read in the bath. My attitude to it is generally one of respectful awe at the elegant mastery of the canon displayed therein, but when finance specialist John Lanchester strayed into an ill-founded discussion of the current obesity epidemic, I quite naturally composed this grumpy letter to its editor. Unsurprisingly rejected, for its ill-tempered criticism of both the writer, and the editor who sent him thence, and its slight inaccuracy (he mentions inactivity twice, not once), it appears here, in suitable obscurity.
John Lanchester laments the ill effects of the general increase in occidental adiposity, but sadly, as is all too common of articles in the genre, he mentions 'inactivity' as a factor only once, discusses it not at all, then lapses into a contentious and unsystematic review of possible dietary factors.
But the average Briton walks on average eight miles per day less than they did fifty years ago. In 1949, fully one-third of all miles travelled using a mechanical mode of transport were by bicycle: by the year 2000 only 1-2% were .
It's quite simple. The scales do not lie. If you eat more calories than you burn off, you gain weight; if you eat less than you burn off, you lose weight. What's more, the relative error of the hypothalamic mechanisms that produce the sensation of satiety is greater when energy requirements are low.
I realise I sound like some ruthless P.E. teacher when I tell people to get out of their bloody cars and start using their legs again, but that is what is required. As for those poor little underage prisoners strapped into car seats everywhere they go, never getting to explore their world for fear of getting knocked down, I weep for them.
It is disappointing indeed that Lanchester aimed so wide that he missed an obvious target by a mile: the re-examination of the Fordist mode of revictualment represented by the private motor car and the supermarket car "park".