More than 60 years ago, there circulated a story about Ike, a high school senior, who wrote on the blackboard, “Ike is the best kisser in school.”

To the huge delight of all his friends, his teacher, pretty Miss Leslie – one year out of Gorham Normal – kept him after class on detention.

The next morning his buddies asked if he had learned his lesson. He said, “Boys, the only thing I learned is that it pays to advertise.”

Advertising is a win-win business because you service the people who sell the unhealthy food that makes your friends fat, and you service the people who sell the products that help your friends diet.

We read that, within a year, more than half of American dieters regained all the weight they lost and that only 3 percent kept off the weight for five years.

Americans want to believe that simply paying money for most any miraculous diet promised can take the place of eating right and exercise. They shelled out around $46 billion in one year alone for self-improvement books and diet products.


After reading this, some folks would shake their heads and say, “What a waste. Forty-six billion that could have been spent on beer.”

The bell curve indicates that people come in three sizes: jumbo, median and small. Because most of the anorexic models used in television commercials are no more than skin stretched on very small bones, the American woman has been conditioned to think that she’s overweight.

The goal of many television commercials is to make women dissatisfied with the way they look, smell or feel.

You might have heard about the good wife who dieted faithfully for a month but seemed stuck at 180. Cutting back to the amount of lettuce that would have starved Peter Rabbit only made her cranky.

To find reprieve from her snapping and snarling, every evening her husband stayed up alone, nursing his hot chocolate in front of the television, until he fell asleep on the couch.

And then, night after night, his wife lost weight. When their nutritionist figured out why, he published his findings in Science. The television ads for weight-loss books and products had made that dieting woman so sensitive to calories that she’d gained half a pound every night just by smelling the hot chocolate on her husband’s breath.


It was not television commercials but the inability to stand after I bent over to tie my shoes that made me decide to lose weight. Upon returning from a three-day radio conference in San Antonio, where eating seemed to be the order of the day, I resolved to quit eating anything that made life worth living.

There are those who cannot do anything in moderation. If there is a quart of ice cream to be had, you have friends who will eat it all and cry because there is no more.

Perhaps you are strong and know that you can have “just one.” But your spouse knows that your figure belies your words. For those who are weak there can be no one cigarette or one drink or one cookie, so I went cold turkey. And since that day my lips have not touched sausage, bacon, doughnuts, pie, cookies or ice cream.

Does the proliferation of fast-food places prove that most young people have the intestinal fortitude of a crow? We read that college freshmen gain weight the first three months. My Psych I textbook (2009) attributes this to the all-you-can-eat dining halls. Some of the more adventurous certainly augment all they can eat with night-time pizza and beer.

In 1960, when I was living off the Gorham campus as an undergrad, obesity was never on my mind. Playing for the Saturday night dance at The Blue Goose paid me the $10 that got me through the following week. Five went for room rent, and I squandered the rest on food.

Although I had forgotten this incident, classmate Frank McDermott recently reminded me of the time the kindly campus cook gave me a quart of leftover American chop suey. (It was headed for the garbage.)


Because we weren’t allowed to have hot plates in our rooms, I warmed the half-filled can of nutrients over a small fire of smoldering twigs in the driveway.

My landlady stormed into my room while I was eating from the odoriferous container and said, “OK, Mr. Skoglund. Where is it?”

“Where is what?”

“The hot plate. Where is the hot plate you used to heat that food?”

“There is no hot plate. I built a fire in the driveway and heated it out there.”

When her husband was summoned, and was finally convinced by the black can and evidence of ashes, he came back in and grunted, “Man’s gotta eat.”


You have often read that the Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. Whereas the French have lots of fat in their diets and also suffer fewer heart attacks than either the British or Americans.

Any advertising agency worth its salt could construe this old story to mean, “Eat whatever you want. The danger is in speaking English.”

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website:

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