Those who study and/or write about overweight and health are reeling from the news that it seems to be a wee bit healthier to be a wee bit overweight.
They’re spinning it for all they’re worth, trying to explain the results away. But the results are not isolated; many other large studies have found similar trends.
Being grossly obese is not healthy. But being thin appears to be not all that good for a person, either—at least, if you take the group as a whole.
The thing is, we are individuals, and therefore these results don’t really tell us much about our own situation. I know I tend to feel better at a slightly lower weight, and when I don’t eat tons of heavy, rich food. I also feel better when I do some exercise on a daily basis. So I try to go by that, knowing there are no guarantees of anything.
It seems to me that the biggest besetting sin of medical researchers, doctors, and diet gurus on the topic of weight is that they pretend to know much more than they do. People are so different in this regard there are no universal (and certainly no easy) answers, although we’re always searching for them.
Another thing to remember is that a lot of people have become invested in the idea that we must counter an epidemic of obesity, preferably through the mechanism of governmental intervention (they’re the same people who think the government should intervene in almost everything). But how many people are involved in this “epidemic”?:
Whatever factors explain these mortality rates, it is increasingly clear that the definition of obesity as problem, let alone an “epidemic” requiring government intervention, hinges on official standards with little basis in reality. If the share of American adults whose weight poses a life-threatening danger is closer to 6 percent (the share classified as extremely obese) than to 69 percent (the share deemed “overweight”), that makes a huge difference, whether or not you think trying to move those numbers is an appropriate function of government.
And then, of course, there’s vanity. Don’t sell vanity short. Unless we go back to some older (and more zaftig) standard of beauty, most people will want to be thinner because they think it makes them look better.