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Maybe this subject of Elvis' weight (more precisely, the general perception of his weight) deserves it's own topic, and maybe there is one that I just haven't seen yet, but here's my thoughts on the matter as briefly as I can manage them.
First, if Elvis WAS overweight significantly, well, I find people making fun of other people's weight to be as odious as if they were making fun of any other physical attribute. It sucks. You poke fun for no reason at an overweight person around me and you'd better be finding some new fingers to poke things with. Stretch your neck like a long rubber band, you sumbitch.
Second, any adult here in the United States (and, increasingly, worldwide) who criticizes Elvis' weight is, statistically, very likely to be in need of cleaning up their own back yards. A fair while back the official stats were something along the lines of at least 60% of Americans over the age of 30 being clinically obese so, basically, if you're an American adult you're more likely to be toting 30 or more likely excessive pounds than to not be. Glass houses and rocks, black pots and kettles, and all that...
Third, the perception and reality are very much mismatched. For a start, we know that Elvis was looking too heavy for just a brief time, really, and even then he'd periodically slim down. In 1968-69 he was underweight, his natural 'ideal' minimum fighting weight probably being something along the lines of how he was during the latter part of 1971 and all of 1972 up to perhaps about his size in August of 1974. In 1975 he was heavier (though a fair bit slimmer in June than at other times, just as he slimmed down by the end of 1976 and started to again a little bit in March of '77) and it was obvious but he still was a very good looking man and even if the internal troubles were getting out of hand by year's end he managed to not just turn in excellent shows all year long but did so with a greater degree of physicality than was true of some earlier periods, most notably part of 1973 (compare his very physical presentation of "Burning Love" in 1975, for example, with his 1972 versions, especially from the November tour that was excellent vocally and boasted some of the best setlists ever but featured a fairly sedentary Elvis). So it's the uneven year of 1976 and what remained to him of 1977 that saw him looking his worst. Not always, but sometimes.
And, increasingly, within a single tour he could look starkly different from night to night. He'd had problems with weight gain before, including during the movie years, and although his dietary habits were often atrocious and he did have a genetic predisposition to perhaps higher-than-average tendency to weight gain, what was going on by 1976 was, in hindsight, very obviously a lot more systemic than mere transitory weight gain. He suffered from edema, particularly obvious in the dramatic change in his appearance during the February, 1977 tour, and was swollen more from water retention than from the adipose tissue that comprises body fat. The fat he could have dealt with, had he chosen to remain disciplined and work toward achieving that goal healthily (and he knew enough about nutrition and exercise and so on to do so), but the cause of most of his apparent weight gain was deeper and ultimately more detrimental. There may even have been signs as far back as the early '70s, or perhaps even earlier, given how his face would often appear a bit puffy (certainly in 1970) even though his waist was slimmer than it had been for years and he very obviously was an unusually lean man for one with such a large frame. He was sick, and people who make fun of people who are sick, and who die from it, rate even lower on my Enemies List than do those who laugh at chubby people.
There's more about the perception, too. The meme of the 'fat Elvis' has become so ingrained that it's used in a knee-jerk way, often by lazy so-called journalists who won't hesitate to call it up when any mention of Elvis pops up (you know the kind of trash I mean: "Elvis rose to become a hugely influential and important figure then got fat and went to Vegas") and it's utterly wrong. Again, I harken back above where I suggest that using "he's fat" as a criticism is invalid and insulting -- also, very tellingly, plenty of stars who always WERE extra hefty don't get this quality used as an argument that somehow suggests their work is less valuable -- but there's also massive cognitive dissonance at work when someone who's looking at a 1971-73 picture of Elvis in a jumpsuit, for instance, immediately drops the "he's fat" bomb. It happens all the time. Have you had people who caught a glimpse of Elvis in "That's The Way It Is" shake their heads sadly over how fat he was, how terrible it was that he was allowed to be filmed in such condition, and how apparent it was that the end is near? I certainly have. Some of that's a result of knowing how the story ends, of course, because if Elvis had lived there wouldn't be anyone who could look at Elvis circa 1970 and call that man overweight. Most of we males could only dream of looking that good, let alone having any of that charisma and the vocal and physical energy required to perform as he did in those years. In "On Tour," sure, he's a little chubbier, at least around the face, but he's still pretty godlike in appearance and his body is still pretty broad and lean, certainly more so than is true most of us past our 20s.
And, yeah, in this day and age Elvis at his biggest would be a lightweight compared to many at your friendly neighborhood buffet. On that point, I very recently got a bunch of photos from my mother and in some there was a woman who I remembered being hugely overweight; she was, by the standards of that time and place, but looking at the pictures I was surprised to see that, indeed, she'd hardly stand out at all in the USA today and I'd be surprised if she was anything over 250 lbs or so, at the most, at least 50 lbs short of the point nowadays where someone her sex and build is considered particularly noteworthy in terms of obesity. Just as much of the music of the '80s got to sounding a little less sucky lately because most of the Top 40 crap vomited up since 1990 or so has been such garbage, this woman got smaller over the years just by comparison with current standards.
The image of Fat Elvis has been established and has built over the years such that it bears no resemblance to the reality of Elvis Presley at any point in his life. I have a very strong feeling that people confronted with the reality -- pictures and video from the last two years -- would be surprised to find Elvis was not the gargantuan fat man they've built him up to be, even those who saw the CBS TV special and have had that ingrained memory (and, probably, a degree of shock) augmented by the too-often-repeated myth of fat Elvis, and a lot of bad jokes to that effect, whether because it sells or because people just love tearing down their idols. I bet more than a few would watch "Elvis In Concert" and wonder what kind of trick photography pared down the singer's profile. He's not as big as they think, guaranteed. When they see that broadcast they're watching a man who is obviously in poor condition, and not doing well even if he still manages some vocal magic, but even if you discount his swelling and put all of the bloat down to fat, well, he's just not that big.
Part of Elvis' sin, of course, was that he dared to grow older. He dared to get sick. He betrayed his people by being mortal. He was ELVIS; he wasn't supposed to grow old, get out of shape, or die. Because, really, if Elvis was subject to those human events then what the hell chance did the rest of us have? Being an Adonis, and staying that way for most of his adult life, in the end played against him, increasingly in sometimes scathing newspaper reviews (usually shock pieces, very unfairly skewed as became the fashion then) but certainly, for most of us, in the caricature that's been promulgated since his passing. The King's subjects felt betrayed by the man simply because he was just that: just a man. The embodiment of youth, beauty, and vitality, he just was not supposed to die, or ever be anything but that ideal.
He wasn't supposed to be overweight, either.
For that matter, I have been heavier than Elvis. I am taller than him, with similarly broad frame, but even if you scaled me down to 6' I'd still have been proportionally heavier than him at his heftiest. I know a lot about nutrition and physiology and though it's true that people's weight is increasingly not just because they're gluttons or lazy (calories-in, calories-out may remain true, but added to the relatively few with innate endocrine problems we now have people packing on weight because of environmental influences like intake of certain drugs, including a lot of antidepressants, the ubiquity of high fructose corn syrup, and the array of endocrine disruptors and other pollutants in our increasingly toxic surroundings) in my case I have no excuse other than that I decided pizza was a good thing to eat every day and I knew exactly how wrong that thinking was even as I followed it. Anyway, the difference is not that I am any more solid or muscular than Elvis was (I am pretty solid, as was Elvis, though that excess of up to 50 pounds or so on me was undeniably more fat than muscle) but that even at a par with what was likely to be his heaviest weight I was still not just healthy but basically fit by all measures except percentage of body fat because -- hold on here -- I WAS NOT FREAKIN' SICK! Keep it up, yeah, and maybe it'd have caught up with me as I got bigger; maybe (there're a lot of variables at play, including the big black box of genetics). But even at my peak weight I was not sick and, thanks to having a very large body over which to distribute the weight, still didn't look especially obese. Elvis was a sick man, not a fat man, at the end. Fat was the least of his issues, cosmetically and certainly otherwise.
But still you hear it: fat Elvis, hahaha.
It's not funny.