Thebastidge: Fat America- I'm not so worried
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    Wednesday, June 20, 2007

    Fat America- I'm not so worried

    It seems the last few years, everyone has become obsessed with diet and obesity trends. I was over reading at Inessential Musings among some other things today.

    It's undeniable that we, America specifically, Europe too, and increasingly the better parts of the rest of the world, are getting heavier. What I would argue is that it's not always such a bad thing. At worst, it is not a disaster. Yes, there are some fat bastards out there ruining themselves. But not as many as some would have us believe, and some of the so-called experts are actively harming us with their obsession with standardized categories.

    I myself, am a few pounds overweight. Probably about 20. I'm six feet tall, and I weigh 235 pounds. That puts my BMI at about 32, which is supposedly 'obese'. Taking away the negative feelings associated with the word, that means I am supposedly at risk for health problems associated with being overweight- to name just a few, diabetes, back and joint problems, heart disease etc.

    On the other hand, the last time I had a body fat estimation (I won't call it a measurement), I was about 19%. (I think this was about 4 years ago.) My weight has not changed drastically since then, I was about 225 then, so call it 21% now just to err on the side of caution. That puts me in the "acceptable" (but not "athletic"), before even considering that I am in my mid-thirties. More than a couple generations ago, I would most likely be considered a 'grandfatherly' age by now- though it pains me a bit to admit that.

    Why do I bring all this up? It's not because I am proud of my fitness- on the contrary, if anything I berate myself to get in better shape. But I do feel a little ridiculous looking at myself in the mirror and labelling it 'obese'. I still have something of the delta shape to my upper body, even with (I want to say 'incipient' but it would not be true) love handles.

    I reached my full growth as a large-framed man in my mid twenties, after being a VERY skinny little kid. Something of a runt, actually. At that point (about 24 or so) I came close to 200 pounds, with body fat in the low teens- probably around 13-16%. That would be a BMI of 27, on the upper end of the "overweight" category, while at a body fat percentage not far from the professional athlete category (not that I was ever that "athletic" per se, simply muscular and in good shape from hard physical work). I returned home from overseas at the age of 27 at a weight of 195 pounds, and was pronounced "emaciated-looking" by relatives who hadn't seen me since I was a kid- that is what my adult frame looks like at that weight. It's true I had not been eating much due to budgetary constraints, and I almost immediately shot up to a more healthy (for me) 210. I wear XL or 2XL shirts (depending upon brand) to have looseness in the shoulders and arms, not to hide my gut.

    There's just too much variation in the human form, too much ideology, and not enough science to put much stock in popular 'obesity' studies and most especially, policy prescriptions. Even the 'food pyramid' you all learned in public school is not such a great idea, running by relatively unchallenged but without a lot of facts to back it up.

    So America: enjoy your food, eat heartily and healthily, get some exercise, and feel good about yourself. Rate your health on how you feel- do you have energy, is it a strain to bend over and tie your shoes? Don't worry about looking skinny, it's just not that important. If you're fat- you know what to do. Eat less. Exercise more. Incrementally, because no fad or supplement is going to be able to overcome your bad habits. Only good habits will do it.

    If good habits, consistently applied with honest self-assessment do not work, then you have a medical problem you need to see a doctor about. But that's not the majority of us. Lying to ourselves on either side of this issue (about being fat or not, whose fault it is) is not a good habit.

    Peripherally related to the good habits: Food Security

    Tag: Patriot's Journey (with JimK, Scott, Lil, Doug, Moorewatch and our fearless leader Drumwaster)


    Anonymous Doug Arrington said...

    I'm certainly in the same boat, my friend, but we can't argue with the trend. It's quite dramatic.

    Are there some people who defy categorization due to higher bone density etc? I'm sure there are. But we can hardly deny that, as a society, we've become more "super-sized" during the last decade.

    I'm not pointing fingers; we all enjoy free choice. But it would seem that we're letting others make eating choices for us. To wit, in order to increase sales, restaurants now serve twice the quantity of food per plate than ever before (for twice as much). And we eat it all, don't we.

    And we've become addicted to "convenience", aka fast food. Never mind that it contails massive amounts of trans-fat, calories etc; it's "convenient."

    No, if anyone's to blame, it's us. And we have within us the power to change, to take responsibility for ourselves. If we want the love handles, fine. If we don't, then we can lose them. We just have to recognize what hurts us and avoid it.

    Simple? Hardly. But doable.

    Inessential Musings

    9:22 AM  
    Blogger Larry said...

    Well, if you read the wikipedia article (yes, I know, not authoritative, but I'm just looking for commonality of concepts) it points out that we saw a 10% increase in obesity overnight by re-defining the standard in 1998.

    "In 1998, the U.S. National Institutes of Health brought U.S. definitions into line with World Health Organization guidelines, lowering the normal/overweight cut-off from BMI 27.8 to BMI 25. This had the effect of redefining approximately 30 million Americans, previously "technically healthy" to "technically overweight"."

    People with an agenda are massaging the numbers, brother. The World Health Organization is not your friend.

    Lies, damn lies, and statistics. Best thing I ever did before the age of 14 was read Darrell Huff's How to lie with Statistics; it was in the library sale at my elementary school because the cover was slightly torn, it was old-looking, and nobody in the 5th grade read at that level any more, (ha!) so it was irrelevant. I bought it for 10 cents and avidly devoured it for the prose, because I did not yet have the math to follow everything.

    If there's any college course-ware that I regret skipping through with a minimum of knowledge to get a passing grade, it is statistics and finance.

    Sadly, that first edition was out of print for a long time, and when I went in the Air Force, my friend's basement (whose house I stored my things in) flooded.

    Happily, the book and others of his are now available in reprints.

    12:14 PM  

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