In a world that seems overran with bad
news, on both personal and national levels, it was a small moment of
good news that seemed designed to calm us down and let us catch our
Well, a certain segment of us anyway.
The story, which I saw on The New York Times website, said research
had shown that those who are "pleasingly plump" have a good
chance of living longer than those who are obese and, surprisingly,
those who have a "normal" body weight.
It was a government study that made
this claim, stating that 100 years ago, a woman who stood 5'7 and
weighed 171 pounds would have been considered the perfect woman. By
today's standards that body mass index (BMI) thing would classify
her as overweight, but not quiet put her into being obese.
The study, which is already coming
under fire, studied 3 million people and found those whose BMI index
ranged between 25-29 (overweight) had a longer life expectancy than
those whose BMI fell under 25 (normal weight).
It also showed that those who were in
the early stages of being obese (BMI of 30-34) didn't really appear
to die any earlier than those with a normal body weight.
The main criticism being leveled at the
study is it only looked at BMI and didn't take other health factors
into account. There was nothing about exactly what kind of shape the
pleasingly plump are in, family history, how active a person is and
Some nutrition expert appeared on one
of the Knoxville TV stations and basically went into hysterics while
declaring the study a fraud. She had some valid points, mainly the
old horse about how somebody like a 6'2 250 pound NFL linebacker
would be declared obese by the BMI scale even though he's covered
in muscles and his body fat percentage is 5.
Having spent most of my life being
overweight, but nowhere near obese, I'm a little heartened by this
study. I have no idea how long I'm going to live (and hopefully
never will as that would mean either a terminal diagnosis or somebody
has told me they're going to kill me and proceeds to do just that),
but I'd like to think I'll get to somewhere around the average of
The study said fat isn't as bad as
we've always thought, though it mainly depends on where it's at.
Belly fat is always bad, but fat around the thighs and butt area has
come to be considered basically harmless, which should make Sir Mix A
There are even claims that fat can be
protective in some cases, but that is not a universal belief and some
researchers are ready to fight over such a claim.
A lot depends on how physically active
a person is. A 5'10 person who weighs 210 but walks 30 minutes a
day along with other activities that don't involve sitting at a
desk, is better off than a 5'10 person who weighs 190 but never
moves except to walk from the house to the car and vice versa.
And enough can't be said about the
family history thing. Take a look at the people around you. It
doesn't have to be your ancient ancestors. How is the health of
your parents? Grandparents? Heck, look at your siblings, if you have
any, and aunts, uncles, cousins, whatever else you might find under
the family tree.
Are they all in pretty good shape or do
they have an undertaker following them around, saying, "Any minute
now!" And if you have those relatives who claim they always feel
bad, but never really seem to have anything wrong (you know who I'm
talking about), you can put them on the healthy side.
And what about that perfect woman from
a hundred years ago? Well, since she didn't have of the technology
we have to make our lives easier, nor all the processed fast food,
she probably would have been involved in some kind of farm work, ate
lots of homegrown food and she would have been thought of as "stout."
And like that NFL linebacker, her body
fat percentage was probably somewhere between 5-10 percent. You don't
want to know what yours is. Trust me.
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