Friday, January 04, 2013

Is Being Overweight Less Bad Than We Think?


I'm blessed with a freakish metabolism, so I've never had to wrestle with weight, but my mom did, and that made me pretty sensitive to the pervasive bullshit that overweight people have to put up with.

So that's one reason I'm kinda interested in this piece.

Another reason is associated with the following passage:
"How did we get into this absurd situation? That is a long and complex story. Over the past century, Americans have become increasingly obsessed with the supposed desirability of thinness, as thinness has become both a marker for upper-class status and a reflection of beauty ideals that bring a kind of privilege."
Jeez, people should know better than to confirm my paranoid hypotheses...

As I've mentioned, I have long suspected that much of what passes for nutrition science is actually driven by middle-brow and upper-middle-brow aesthetic preferences. Hence the jihad against soda--soda, as you know, is gauche--supported by only the lamest evidence. Consider also how hard the red-wine-is-good-for-you hypothesis got pushed. Red wine, incidentally. Though I predict that some "researchers" wanted to add: a nice oaky chardonnay... Anyway, about the time NYT-readin' crowd decides that something is icky, I expect to hear that it's bad for us. If they like it, I expect to hear about its unexpected health benefits. isn't going to surprise me all that much if the dangers of being overweight turn out to have been overblown. Being overweight is associated, by the crowd aforementioned, with being, well, common. Y'know...poor, Midwestern or Southern, probably shopping at th' Wal-Mark's..

Anyway, I don't know anything about this, so nothing I say here is to be taken all that seriously...I'm just saying...I will be just about the least-surprised person in America if this turns out to be true.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chardonnay is white wine, you ignorant hillbilly. It was shocking to read such a thing. Do you realize how long it took Palmer to fish my monocle out of the Vichyssoise?

I've noticed over the years that college freshmen who cannot bear calling something morally wrong are often the ones who reflexively moralize and medicalize their aesthetic preferences. Perhaps it's that the relativist commitment to suspending second order judgements about our preferences leaves our visceral first order judgements untouched.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


2. That's a damn interesting point about moralizing and medicalizing aesthetic preferences...

2:45 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Your sensitivity towards overweight people has always surprised me given your relative lack of sensitivity towards stupid or, let's say, intellectually irresponsible people. In my experience, the former are almost always entirely responsible for their own situations whereas the latter are usually at least subject to more more complex situations.

Basically, I've never met a fat person who didn't get there through laziness and gluttony. When I was doing the amateur bodybuilding thing and I was in the gym all the time, I encountered many people who were trying to get their weight under control. They ALL said the exact same thing: "I don't know how I'm possibly so overweight! I eat like 1000 calories a day! I just have a slow metabolism, I guess." Literally every single overweight person with whom I've discussed the issue has claimed to me that he or she eats almost nothing, and every single time this is readily demonstrated to be complete and utter BS. I have helped many people track their caloric intake and they have invariably (1) failed to correctly and responsibly track their food intake without my direct support and (2) been shocked to see the actual numbers once the food intake is tracked properly.

I've rarely, if ever, met a set of people suffering from an affliction who is less likely to acknowledge the affliction and more likely to be entirely responsible for it.

So it seems to me that if you're going to be all sensitive to fatties, you gotta start being more sensitive to dummies.

For example, I remember talking to you about your reluctance to make fun of Limbaugh for being fat, but you're VERY ready to belittle him for being an asshole. In that case, my guess is that he's equally responsible for both qualities.

I have little tolerance for overweight people. I mean, seriously, there are few more basal responsibilities in life than merely keeping oneself from becoming a heiffer, and it's rarely harder to meet that responsibility than simply denying oneself complete immersion in one's own gluttony and sloth.

As for your points about nutrition and societal preferences, I think you are, as you fear, probably being way too paranoid. Take soda, for example; I think you're overlooking the obvious point about its negative impact on health. Soda is basically water and simple sugar and it's very easy to consume in very large quantities. One 40oz Pepsi is about 500 calories of straight sugar (and I have an obese coworker who drinks about 4 of those daily). If you don't burn that off within an hour of consuming it, it's going to be largely stored as fat. Have two of those a day in addition to an otherwise normal meal intake, and you're up to 3000 calories a day. Every extra 3500 calories consumed creates about a pound of fat in the body, and if you're only able to maintain 2000 calories a day, a week of consuming 3000 will gain you 2 pounds each week. Do that for just six months and you are now almost 50 pounds heavier.

Soda is incredibly easy to acquire and drink, and its contribution to the maintenance of obesity is hard to match.

Anyway, I'm not saying controlling one's weight is so easy it's shocking to witness problems, but it's certainly easier than being intellectually and morally responsible in all the other ways whose transgressions earn your ire.

12:04 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I don't agree, dude.

My brother, for example, eats about what I eat--we often hang out for long periods of time, and eat almost exactly the same things the whole time. Yet he's overweight and I'm not. I exercise, sometimes a lot, but he exercises a little. Though even there, he's limited by bad knees and an old shoulder injury...which he's not responsible for. I mention that because it's a common kind of reason for exercising little.

You write as if the only relevant point is that it is *possible* to lose weight--e.g. by just not eating anymore. But it seems to me that the important point is that *it is a lot more difficult for some to lose weight than others.* It's easy for me. For many people, it's *possible,* but apparently prohibitively difficult.

7:53 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Right...just like it's a lot more difficult for some people to be intellectually responsible than others?

5:53 PM  

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