Obesity

01.04.13

Why Defend Being Overweight?

I recognize the oped editors' imperative need for #Slatepitch contrarianism, but this AM's New York Times editorial-page defense of overweight does not even have the virtue of perverse originality.

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.

In addition, baselessly categorizing at least 130 million Americans — and hundreds of millions in the rest of the world — as people in need of “treatment” for their “condition” serves the economic interests of, among others, the multibillion-dollar weight-loss industry and large pharmaceutical companies, which have invested a great deal of money in winning the good will of those who will determine the regulatory fate of the next generation of diet drugs.

My 77 year old mother-in-law today walked 5 miles over broken terrain, pausing in mid-walk to make a vertical climb and descent of 800 feet each way on the back of a recalcitrant donkey. Her payoff: a day spent touring one of the world's great archaeological treasures. The reason Americans should keep fit and maintain a normal weight is to enjoy life. It doesn't cost multibillion dollars a year to avoid eating too much, to drink alcohol in moderation, and to exercise regularly. It's all free.

I do one of my favorite workouts wearing a 40-pound weight vest. At the end of the exercise, I unbuckle the vest and dump it on the ground. Think of all the things you cannot do if you must wear that weight permanently, as tens of millions of Americans do. Why would anyone - even an oped editor seeking to fill some column inches - discourage those among those tens of millions who have made the laudable new year's resolution to live healthier?