False hopes for a fat nation

Within the fat guy community, there’s always more bad news. First, of course, we’re pariahs. It doesn’t matter how many “fat guy with hot wife” sitcoms come about, we fat guys know we’re ultimately pretty low on the FHM totem. It doesn’t matter how awesome you are, being overweight puts you at a disadvantage socially.

It doesn’t help that weight is all we hear about. Every other news program talks about how we can lose unwanted pounds, and how if we don’t we’ll be dead before you can say “super size it.” U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher tells us 300,000 premature deaths a year are caused by obesity. So we panic. Loneliness is one thing, but to die before the next EverQuest convention – that would be terrible.

So we find Atkins and eat nothing but meat and cheese all day long, which is heaven at first but begins to lose its appeal when climbing a flight of stairs results in a trip to the defibrillator. We kill ourselves to understand the new food pyramid while our co-workers discuss living it up in khaki. We try staples, stitches, lypo, pills, soups, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, L.A. Weight Loss centers, Slim-Fast and anorexia. Nothing helps. Of course that skinny bastard in the next cubicle thinks he is so funny to ask, “Why not just exercise?” Like he ever has.

But now there’s hope. A recent study shows that overweight people have a lower risk of premature death than normal and skinny people. At last we are vindicated.

To so many people this means they can forget the exhausting restraints of carb-free living. It means they can roll out the red carpet at Izzy’s pizza bar and embrace that corner hot dog vendor. It means “Screw the treadmill! I’ll watch ‘The View’ from now on with a midmorning treat of popcorn fried shrimp.” To the 60 percent of people in the U.S. that are clinically overweight, this new study represents an all access ticket to gastronomic excess. It’s too bad the authors of this survey never took into account how stupid we can be.

How ludicrous is it to the think that the results of a single study should serve as a green light for complete fitness decay among the overweight? Studies like this are an every day phenomena and statistics can be manipulated to serve any purpose. The fervor surrounding it is simply a symptom of the populous’ inability to come to grips with any semblance of personal responsibility when it comes to issues of health.

When it comes to health, people in the U.S. just don’t think. I wish to God I could say we over think our physicality. If all of this Atkins, Weight Watchers nonsense were the result of a hyper-consciousness then I would feel OK. I’m sure that of the 40 million obese people in the nation recorded in 2001 at least a handful of them read and understood “Gravity’s Rainbow.” But, fat or thin, most people are unwilling to look at themselves and consciously determine if they’re doing the right thing for their body.

Weight and weight loss should not hinge on the issue of looks. It should be a matter of health. A fat guy who bikes five miles to work everyday is inevitably in better health than that skinny guy with front door parking. But when it comes down to it, by U.S. social standards the fat guy is coming up short. He’s the one who needs to do something about his appearance. And he’s the one more likely to stoop to unhealthy standards to achieve it.

He’ll suffer and starve, and pay exorbitant amounts of money for flavorless versions of popular junk foods simply to avoid deciding for himself if that maple bar is worth taking the long route home – again.

Dylan Tanner can be reached at [email protected]