How can obese people be happy?

One of the great questions in life often pops into my head when I walk past some hideously obese person sitting down at a Chinese buffet, stuffing pork dumplings and tangerine chicken down their gullet. I’m not talking about “fat” people, I’m talking about people who almost resemble moons. I think to myself, “how can they possibly be happy?”

Now, of course, a lot of them are unhappy. A lot of them flagellate themselves with the barbed self-loathing they so thoroughly deserve. However, some do seem happy. Why?

For most of human history, we’ve associated happiness with our situation — if we are super rich and living in a mansion, we’re happy. If we’re stuck in prison we are unhappy. We tend to view happiness as a rational analysis of how well our needs are being met. And this isn’t an unreasonable way of looking at things: I imagine most rich people living in mansions are happier than most prisoners. But, there do seem to be a lot of unhappy rich people, and we’ve all heard the stories of prisoners who get out of prison, and then immediately commit a crime to get sent back to prison.

Let’s consider the view of happiness from the chemical/neurotransmitter level. You get “happy” when your brain releases certain neurotransmitters — serotonin and dopamine being two prime examples — into your system. Certain drugs like cocaine and Prozac can lengthen periods of happiness by allowing these neurotransmitters to swim around in your system for a period longer than normal. By applying this explanation of happiness, perhaps we can see why the horribly obese would be happy.

We, or least I, tend to view extremely fat people from a situational prism: how can these people whose corpulent forms stand in direct opposite of my trim and beautiful physique (though, getting less trim) be happy? The reality is that if they’ve got a decent amount of neurotransmitters flowing through their brain, they can’t not be happy.

That’s an oversimplification of course, but I’m trying to point you, my dear reader, towards an appreciation of the chemical/neurotransmitter view of happiness.

There’s an inverse to this. How is it that people who seem to have everything can be unhappy? Obviously if they’re low on the proper neurotransmitters, or are otherwise getting signals causing negative sensations, their wealth becomes largely meaningless. Would you be willing to become a millionaire if it meant that you would have a constant, nagging neck-ache? Some people might, I suppose, but it doesn’t sound very appealing.

A frequent target of my jabs has long been Kurt Cobain. I feel his music is mediocre and his coronation as the musical messiah of his generation was misguided. And I suppose I even at times wondered why a guy who was at the top of the music business would decide to turn his brain into SpaghettiOs. But we do know he had aggravating stomach issues. And that constant gnawing at his gut might have rendered everything — his wealth, his status, the love of his child — meaningless.

4 Responses to “How can obese people be happy?”


  1. John Saleeby

    How can fat people be happy? Food. Huge amounts of food. Ton and tons and tons of the shit.

  2. Wil

    And what happens when you eat food? You experience pleasurable sensations, which are basically the brain releasing neurotransmitters.

  3. John Saleeby

    Not when you at Arby’s.

  4. Wil

    Mmmmm… Horsey sauce….