Healthy Lifestyle: A Virtue in Search of a Vision

Was Pavarotti healthy or unhealthy? If we are to use the World Health Organization’s definition of obesity as a BMI ≥30, argues Jonathan Steffen, then the illustrious opera singer was the latter. Yet, as the West becomes ever-increasingly obsessed with achieving a ‘healthy lifestyle’, Steffen points to the “paradox at the heart of the search”.

Despite having been an ‘unhealthy’ size, Pavarotti had a career that spanned half a century: he performed the most famous operatic roles, lived to a great age, collected numerous awards and raised considerable amounts of money for charity. These achievements, one can argue, do not indicate an ‘unhealthy life’.

Luciano Pavarotti: “One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”

In his study, Ever Seen a Fat Fox? Human Obesity Explored, Mike Gibney argues that humans are the only species to orchestrate a society in which it is possible to become obese. However, Steffen reasons that in a society so obsessed with living for longer, considerations other than food must be taken into account. The danger of taking ‘healthy living’ too literally is that those extra years could be spent working, paying bills and taxes and ultimately engaging with the consumerist structures which perpetuate the obesity epidemic. In assessing the definition of a ‘healthy lifestyle’ therefore, Pavarotti can be used as an example of both sides of the coin.

Read more here.


Image of Pavarotti:
Luciano Pavarotti, Mandalay Bay, 1999 by Dan Perry.
Licensed under CC BY 2.0

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