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I was pondering, as I am wont to do, and it struck me how I could never recall anyone being overweight or obese in Star Trek. As it is such an issue today, and has been a major one issue for the last 10-15 years, I was wondering if it was ever addressed in Star Trek?

I found data for levels of obesity going back about as far as Star Trek has run for, and I can understand why it may not have been addressed in ToS, as that show was primarily focused on finding new and interesting species, planets and conflicts. But later on, during TNG, and beyond it feels like the show became more about the characters’ development and addressing personal issues the audience could relate to. Around this time too, obesity became more prevalent in the general populace.

I'd have imagined with the development of the replicator as an instant-food creation device, obesity levels would have risen considerably, even if only temporarily.

Furthermore I can see that Starfleet may not want physically unfit individuals serving, but there are, at least in DS9, plenty of civilians shown who would not be subject to those (if any) regulation.

I understand that there various other explanations for obesity than over-eating, including epigenetics, pollution and lack of sleep. Some of these I could imagine could be tackled in the Star Trek utopia, but not all of them. Even so I could imagine it would be addressed in passing.

So:

  1. Are overweight, or obese people ever seen or described in the canon of Star Trek (film, show, book)?
  2. Is the issue of 20/21st century obesity ever addressed in the canon?
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  • 8
    Scotty at least was fairly large by the time of the movies. Jun 22, 2012 at 10:36
  • Keep in mind the novels aren't canon. My answer does not touch on them at all, I haven't read any.
    – Izkata
    Jun 22, 2012 at 10:57
  • I've been meaning to ask this question for a long time. Jun 22, 2012 at 12:28
  • 7
    I'd imagine that by the time replicators are widely available within the Federation, they'd figured out how to replicate extremely tasty but extremely healthy food (kind of like they introduced synthohol)
    – HorusKol
    Jun 22, 2012 at 13:04
  • Neelix has a few pounds too much, but it's hard to tell how much. They never used it in a story, except that he is quickly fatigue when it comes to physical exertion.
    – bitmask
    Jun 24, 2012 at 13:05

4 Answers 4

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As far as I can remember - not directly, no. Remember, in the vast majority of all the live-action series, the human characters are part of Starfleet, a semi-military organization that surely would have guidelines for how fit its members must be:

During Kirk's physical in 2366, Dr. McCoy noted that his weight was up "a couple of pounds," so he changed Kirk's diet card. (TOS: "The Corbomite Maneuver")

As for non-humans, here's one such fellow:

enter image description here

However, non-humans may have a different reason entirely for appearing to us to be overweight/obese.

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    Just to provide a reason for this particular alien's obesity: he knew he was about to die in a few days time; reason enough for anyone to gorge themselves with delightful delicacies, instead of egregious exercise.
    – NominSim
    Jun 22, 2012 at 14:18
  • 4
    How would you like to be poor David Ogden Stiers, whereby when one searches for "Star Trek Obesity", your picture literally comes up? Jan 7, 2013 at 17:54
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    He looks like a perfectly statuesque gentleman to me. I’d be surprised if he measured as obese. Jul 8, 2014 at 12:08
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    I might describe that guy as 'portly', but he looks healthy enough, especially for someone about to die.
    – DCShannon
    Feb 25, 2016 at 2:43
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    @DCShannon: “healthy enough, especially for someone about to die” — that’s the kind of awesome doctor remark that I suspect we’d only have got on TNG if Pulaski had stuck around longer. Feb 26, 2016 at 10:16
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Consider: food replication devices can create healthy foods easily. Part of the current obesity problem in America is "convenient" food often is not healthy. We know that the majority (if not all) food intake is monitored in the ST universe (see @Izkata's answer) so it's not far fetched to have that keyed to everyone's medical profile. If you have access to any type of food instantly AND a sophisticated computer, it should be relatively easy to duplicate healthy foods which are also tasty, which would likely lead to a great reduction in obesity.

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  • Not only that, but replicators probably made reduced fat versions of dishes trivial to produce. Jun 22, 2012 at 16:36
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    I'd say "food replication devices can create tasty foods easily". Today packaged food is designed for shelf life, fruits and vegetables are bred for appearance, fast food is intended to be prepared without skill from cheap ingredients, and the easiest, cheapest way to make food taste good is to load it with sugar, fat and salt. Replicators can make delicious food without resorting to corn syrup.
    – Beta
    Jun 22, 2012 at 19:57
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Harcourt Fenton Mudd is large bellied. So is Cyrano Jones. Kirk's been harangued by McCoy over his diet.

In by any other name, McCoy quips about a kelvin's eating by observing he'll need a diet:

KIRK: But then Tomar shouldn't be enjoying the taste of his food.
SPOCK: Yes. Quite correct, Captain. But they have taken human form and are therefore having human reaction.
MCCOY: If he keeps reacting like that, he's going to need a diet.

So there are overweight folk (Jones, Mudd), and an awareness of overeating.

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  • Greetings from a decade into the future! Much has occurred that you will find surprising. I immediately thought of Mudd and perhaps by choosing an overweight actor to play him, the writer/director/producer was signaling that he was a person who existed on the fringes of civilization.
    – releseabe
    May 17 at 8:34
13

To add to the other answers, in the TNG era, replicators seem to default to artificial sweeteners (at least for things that ordinarily contain unreasonable amounts of sugar), though they can be overridden:

TROI: Transfer the letters from my mother to the viewscreen. And, computer, I would like a real chocolate sundae.
COMPUTER: Define real in context, please.
TROI: Real. Not one of your perfectly synthesised, ingeniously enhanced imitations. I would like real chocolate ice cream, real whipped cream
COMPUTER: This unit is programmed to provide sources of acceptable nutritional value. Your request does not fall within current guidelines. Please indicate whether you wish to override the specified programme?
Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode 3x08 "The Price"

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  • Could it actually make real ice cream or only something chemically equivalent to it? I think the latter -- it would not be cream from a cow or sugar from some plant source.
    – releseabe
    May 17 at 8:36
  • @releseabe: Cream cannot be stored indefinitely, unless they're using some kind of space-magic stasis field, which to my knowledge is never discussed on the show, or unless they actually have cows on board (which I believe does happen during "Up the Long Ladder," bizarrely enough, but obviously is not the normal state of affairs). So no, the replicator is very likely incapable of providing cream that came from a cow.
    – Kevin
    May 17 at 15:11
  • a way of keeping real cream indefinitely vs traveling multiple times the speed of light? I would say the former seems more "lickable" by many orders of magnitude, word play intended. Even a statis field sounds like a walk in the park. Why, you could keep a herd of cattle in a transport buffer, materialize them, milk them and then put them back into the buffer.
    – releseabe
    May 17 at 17:22

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