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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?
  • 7
    Scotty at least was fairly large by the time of the movies. – Daniel Roseman Jun 22 '12 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 '12 at 10:57
  • I've been meaning to ask this question for a long time. – Jack B Nimble Jun 22 '12 at 12:28
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    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 '12 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 '12 at 13:05
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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.

  • 4
    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 '12 at 14:18
  • 3
    How would you like to be poor David Ogden Stiers, whereby when one searches for "Star Trek Obesity", your picture literally comes up? – Chris B. Behrens Jan 7 '13 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. – Paul D. Waite Jul 8 '14 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 '16 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. – Paul D. Waite Feb 26 '16 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.

  • Not only that, but replicators probably made reduced fat versions of dishes trivial to produce. – Brian Ortiz Jun 22 '12 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 '12 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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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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