"I am not overweight, I am underheight - My weight is perfect for a man of 7'9"."
-- Victor Buono
Being a little overweight can kill you, according to new research that leaves little room for denial that a few extra pounds is harmful. Baby boomers who were even just a tad pudgy were more likely to die prematurely than those who were at a healthy weight, U.S. researchers reported Tuesday.
I try to be a good citizen of the world; Lord knows I try. I recycle newspapers, if for no other reason than to save money on trash bags. My family and I have an unwritten understanding that I will not accept anything unhealthy on my plate, so don't even try to sneak a buttery slice of Kobe beef onto it when I'm not looking. During the week I exercise in between hassles and might even take a run on Saturday, if only to justify drowning a couple of olives later on that evening.
I'm even trying to turn off the idiot box in an attempt to keep the old flight data recorder from corroding. It's not easy. Lord knows it hurts to miss the jewels of prime-time programming, but I'm convinced watching television does not promote a healthy lifestyle, so off it goes. I am on the front lines of the battle for great health and I'm ready to fight - goddammit, I'll even stop cursing if it will add more years to my life!
And now this:
Researchers analyzed patients' body-mass index and mortality rate over a 10-year period from questionnaires they filled out in 1995 and 1996 detailing their weight and diet. Under current government standards, a BMI -- or weight-to-height measurement -- of 25 or higher is overweight; 30 and above is obese. Generally, you must be 30 pounds overweight be to considered obese. Using the body-mass index, a 5-foot-10 man would be considered overweight if he is between 174 to 208 pounds [my italics], and obese at 209 pounds or more.
Gentle readers, I hereby confess to the world that according to the United States government, I am overweight. Not by much, but officially I am not under 174 lbs. So why am I laughing?
Being overweight "is not a benign condition," said Dr. Frank Hu, an epidemiologist and obesity researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health. "The public health message should be loud and clear: Maintaining a healthy weight and preventing weight gain in middle age is important to maintaining longevity," said Hu, who was not connected to the research.
I'm laughing because anyone who reaches the age of 16 and still thinks he or she can eat whatever they want and not exercise anymore is either in denial, cognitive dissonance or a true ignoramus. Do not despair, however, for one can reverse the slow slide toward obesity and an early death with just a little smarts, will power and motivation.
"This study adds good and compelling evidence to our previous suspicion that being overweight is a risk factor for early death, not just being obese," said Dr. Tim E. Byers, a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and author of an accompanying commentary in the journal. The advice is nothing new, Byers said. "Let's watch our weight, especially for us baby boomers who have seen our weight creep up by a pound or two a year," he said. "Let's turn that around, and take small steps to start losing weight."
Did you hear that? Take small steps to start losing weight. One of the reasons I believe it is hard for people to keep excess weight off is because they deny themselves all tasty things, then break down and overeat in a moment of weakness.
Don't make it so difficult on yourself, is what I say. Take small steps, like deciding to give up just one fattening item, say, ice cream - for good. Find a time every day that you can spend twenty minutes exercising - in your own home. Learn to like foodstuffs that are healthy choices. Announce to your friends that you're allergic to cheeseburgers - I'll vouch for you.
Say to yourself "I am stronger than this," and then go out and prove it - to yourself, your family and to the world. It can be done.
This message is brought to you by your overweight narrator. And now, if you will excuse me, I am off to prepare a (gulp!) perfectly delicious dinner.
Now you must wake up, all dreams must end
Take off your makeup, the party's over
It's all over, my friend
I'm still not buying it.
As someone who has fought with his weight all his life, I've tried to keep on top of this subject. There is also a large body of evidence which shows that, except at the extremes, weight doesn't correlate that well with longetivity. One example, a study from earlier this year that showed that a Low-Fat Diet Does Not Cut Health Risks. It followed its subjects for a little longer, a little more deeply, and says somewhat the opposite.
Granted, I'm not a scientist. I can't evaluate all of the little nuances of all of the studies. But with two large bodies of contradictory evidence, I think there is still something that we're missing that better shows the relationship between weight and life expectancy.
I'm not sure I buy this healthy lifestyle thing. As one who as never smoked and jogged nearly every day (2+ miles), I'm 5' 10" and weighed 154 Lbs. I am now undergoing chemo for lung cancer.
I swear there are times when I see an antismoking commercial that I feel like screaming.
The medical types like to think they know what they're going. They don't. They're just throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks.
To Jody and Ted:
Really? Have you heard of one overweight person who lived to be 100?
My (overweight) maternal grandmother made it to 92 and my (really overweight) paternal grandmother hit 90. Does that count, or are you going to cherry pick some more data points?
Also, I want to know how much the added weight reduced their lifespans: 1 year per pound? 5 minutes?
like 2nd hand smoke, the devil really IS in the details.
What about the effect of stress on life expectancy ? i'd wagger that it has a more profound effect on life than a 30lbs swing from the average (either way)
Alain (6'0 140lbs).
Look at it this way - say we can't prove for sure that maintaining a healthy weight via wise food choices and vigorous exercise guarantees everyone a long life. Even if we die younger than we prefer, we'll probably feel better than if we were obese, suffering less pain and less likely to develop obesity-related medical problems - not to mention leaving behind a corpse Michelangelo himself would have paid beaucoup bucks to use for a model.
There will always be exceptions. Some people who wear seat belts die in car crashes anyway, and some who don't survive. But looking at the big picture convinces me to keep on wearing mine.
I'm an athlete and a healthy eater: low calorie intake, organic broccoli sprouts, green tea, the works; and I've always been healthy as a horse, never sick a day in my life. At 52, I maintian my bodyfat at a slim fit 16% (BMI is deceptive because I have a lot of muscle mass from weight lifting), I have the cholesterol and blood pressure of a healthy 10 year old, the bone density and lean body mass of an athletic 19 year old, the hormone profile of a horny 17 year old, and the energy of the Eveready Rabbit. Plus I tend to bumble cheerfully through life happy as an idiot.
And yet this afternoon I was diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. There just aren't any guarantees; no matter what you do, mortality happens.
But I'm with TCO: I wouldn't trade the quality I have for any amount of quantity without it.
As they said, the devil is in the details... As someone who a little over two years ago weighed in excess of 520 pounds, I feel healthier than I can remember in my entire life at 275. Being 6'4", I am still "obese", but hopefully have added years to my life.
I truly believe that there are far worse things to do to your body than being overweight. The sad fact is that each of us has our own genetic makeup. One person may grow old smoking and drinking in excess daily; most won't... Likewise, excess weight will probably shorten my life... Hopefully, I've extended it somewhat...