Slow down? I will starve to death!

Grow or bust

Diet? Have you considered the trade-offs?

Based on a true story.


A fat man walks into a clinic one day.

“Good morning, mister, how can I help you today?” asks the doctor.

“Hey doc, I have a problem,” the man says, not looking too happy.

“I’ve been on a supersized diet for the last forty years. It used to make me strong and muscular, fitter than everyone else, but in the last twenty years or so I have grown so much, now I have difficulty getting around.

“Everyone hates me because everywhere I go, I jam up the space. In trains, in buses, on the streets, in the malls, everywhere. They stare at me because I take up the space for four people on a crowded bus. If I take a seat on the train, they make snide remarks that I should pay triple the ticket price or something. It’s not pleasant at all. To be honest, I don’t feel so good either inside and just a bit of moving around leaves me breathless. Because of all these problems, I don’t feel as happy these days as I used to.

“I’m not sure what you can do for me, doc, but reckoned I should see a doctor still.”

“But why are you on a supersized diet in the first place?” asks the doctor.

“Because I need to keep growing, doc,” says the man.

The doctor looks closely at the man. He appears to be in his forties, close to fifty.

“And why do you need to keep growing…?”

“Every man has to keep growing, doc. It’s a competitive world. If not, he will become irrelevant.”

“Irrelevant? Ha ha, okay. Well, normally only children and teenagers need to keep growing until they become adults. It’s one thing to keep fit, healthy and strong, but there’s really no need to keep growing for the sake of it once a person is in adulthood.”

“No, doc. If I don’t keep growing, the consequence may be disastrous.”

Clearly puzzled at this point, the doctor decides however not to probe further.

“So what kind of supersized diet are you on exactly?” he asks instead.

“Well, basically I eat whatever I can get my hands on. Good food, bad food, junk food. Anything really. Junk food especially because they are really cheap and give quick, easy boost. Cheaper, better, faster, as they say. Big Macs, fried chicken and stuff. Also, the more expensive, top-class stuff as well, like weight gainers and protein supplements, that I pay good money to ship over all the way from the US or Britain. I think of it as a vibrant diet. A vibrant diet will create more nutrients and benefit the body as a whole.”

After a quick examination, the doctor is shocked to find that the man has a body fat percentage at a dangerous level. This level of obesity is like nothing he has ever seen before.

“Well, clearly you need to go on a diet,” the doctor says calmly, concealing his shock. “Start by cutting down on the junk food and focus on eating healthier—”

“I can’t, doc. I will starve to death,” the man shoots back quickly.

The doctor laughs. “No, you’re not going to starve to death. I’m only asking you to cut down and eat healthier. Eat moderately, enough for your daily energy needs. You should also watch out for those processed, low-quality instant fixes — you know, those we normally import from other countries. Try some local organic farm produce. That should be good for you. I could recommend a nutritionist who can come up with a proper diet plan for you.”

“But, doc, you don’t understand. This is not a tap where I can just turn on and off. If I eat less, I will collapse and starve to death! If I don’t eat all the food I have, someone will come and steal my lunch! I know my Vietnamese neighbour is always keeping an eye on what I eat at home. He will steal my lunch if he could get his hands on it.”

“Oh, don’t be silly,” says the doctor, amused by the idea of stolen lunches. It just sounds silly to him. “Nobody is going to steal your lunch. There is enough to go around I’m sure.”

The doctor continues, “Besides a diet, I would recommend some exercise as well. I suppose you have a hectic working life, but do try to get some work-life balance and squeeze in time for some exercise whenever you can. Again, I could recommend someone to help in this area.”

“Doc, work-life balance? Don’t listen to what they say on the Internet,” the man says in a grave manner. “There are trade-offs to consider. I can’t just stop eating and go exercising instead. People from other countries will come and steal my lunch. I will lose the vibrancy and all the nutrients needed to support my body. In the end, I will just collapse and starve to death!”

The doctor grows impatient. “Look, mister, I’m not asking you to starve yourself. Just to cut down a little at a time and go slow. Moderation is the key, and slowly your body will adjust to a new diet. It might be a bit tough to start with because it will take some time getting used to and some changes in mindset and daily habits, but a healthy diet will benefit you in the longer term. Don’t look for the easy way out. And don’t overstuff yourself for the sake of growing — what’s the point if it damages your body? The end goal is a sustainable diet that is enough to keep your body going and healthy without harming it through excessiveness.”

“Doc, are you talking about zero growth? I’m not sure you understand the consequences. There’s no way I could slow down. I will collapse and starve to death the moment I cut down on anything!” insists the man.

“What the—?” The doctor is flabbergasted. “What exactly is it that I don’t understand? Who said anything about zero growth? Is there no concept of an in-between? I’m only asking you to watch your diet and do some exercises. Instead of 6 meals a day, you start by cutting down to 5. Then slowly to 4 or 3. Focus on eating well and any growth will come naturally. There’s no need to obsess over it. Which part of this don’t you understand? How can I make this any clearer to you?”

“But I will collapse and starve to death if I don’t grow!”

Exasperated, the doctor realises he is facing a dilemma. Should he continue this conversation with a man who just won’t listen, or should he just kick him out?