Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Go ahead, pack on the pounds (but in moderation)

It's been a long time since I last wrote something new, so now's as good a time as any to pass on something I just saw in the news.

Before I share the news item, I'd like to give a little historical background. Given that I'm a big history buff, that seems fitting, doesn't it? :-) Anyway, one of my greatest interests in history has to with how people of various stations and classes lived their everyday lives: how they worked, how they played, how they rested, what they ate and drank, what they wore, etc.. Along the way, I've noticed that society's idea of what's "normal" or "healthy" has evolved quite a bit. A custom or behavior that's considered to be perfectly ordinary in one generation might be thought of as disreputable in another, or visa versa.

In particular, the Western concept of a normal or healthy physical build has changed quite a lot in the last few hundred years. At some times, like today, a slender build has been considered to be "the norm", whereas at other times a more, er, voluptuous appearance was deemed desirable. As far as I can tell, the present-day cult of slenderness really got going in the 1920's. What with the skimpy knee-length flapper dress, it suddenly became desirable for the fashionable woman to cultivate a boy-like figure. Dieting became very popular during the 1920's. In my collection of vintage recordings, I have a number of songs from the 1920's that poke fun at the dieting craze. Of course, women of earlier generations also sought to have an attractive figure, but that figure tended to be more curvy, and it was usually enhanced artifically with such aids as the corset and girdle.

In contrast, our present generation has strived for a more "natural" appearance through diet and exercise and a minimum of artificial aids. However, many of us have enjoyed a lack of success in attaining the modern-day ideal. What's more, thanks to the imprimatur of medical science, we've been told with great precision what is our healthy weight/BMI/etc., and have been warned that if we allow our weight to exceed the scientifically set guidelines, that we run the risk of all sorts of maladies.

As I've been observing the recent "war against weight" that's being waged throughout the media and comparing it with history, I've come to suspect that maybe, just maybe, US society has become just a little too enamored with slenderness, and perhaps those normal weights might be a bit on the low side. Well, if a recent study is borne out, my suspicion may turn out to have been warranted.

Here's the full article from CNN:

CDC: Modestly overweight have lower risk of death

As I understand this article, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are thinking that the long-standing calculations for "normal" weight might need to be adjusted, because it seems that people who are modestly "overweight" have a lower risk of death than people of "normal" weight. One possible reason for this situation is that many of the modestly overweight are exercising and eating fairly healthy food. Of course, they're in no way saying that it's healthy to be obese, but rather that the large group of us who are a few pounds on the high side of "normal" aren't nearly as bad off as had been feared.

It could be interesting to see how this development unfolds. Who knows? Perhaps the chunkier look will become popular again. If so, I know someone who has some work to do: me. You see, my weight is well within the normal range, perhaps on the low end of normal. I think I better do something about this. I'll start tonight when I visit the snack food aisle of the supermarket. I'm sure that I'll find some potato chips or cookies that will help resolve my problem, or maybe even cause a new problem. :-)

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