Thursday, July 17, 2008
Fat or Fit
Over on Barnes's blog, the subject of health and fitness comes up now and again, and usually as a corollary, obesity. It tends to get handled somewhat delicately there.
My quick-and-dirty research indicates that about half of Americans are overweight, and a third of adults are overweight to the point of obesity. This is a medical term, and involves the percentage of lean mass to body fat, and simple obesity is not the same as morbid obesity, but they both mean "too fat."
A little too fat, could lose a few pounds; or, dangerously fat, blowing out joints, killing hearts and kidneys, blood-pressure working up to a stroke.
In discussions of avoirdupois, somebody always quickly hauls out the excuse, "Well, yeah, but some people do have hormone problems and all like that."
Yea, verily. A certain percentage of folks do have genuine medical reasons, physical, and even psychological, to the extent that dieting to lose -- or gain -- weight is difficult in the extreme. Give them that. They have hormone problems, skewed metabolic systems, hyper-efficient ways of using and storing food. Menopause; Thyroid is shot; medulla oblongata is haywire; certain drugs necessary to keep folks alive against killing diseases have awful side-effects vis a vis holding the pounds on -- there are legitimate reasons why some folks get a pass. It really isn't their fault.
Thing is, these legitimate folks, in re medical problems, number about three percent of the population. You could bump that up 1%, if you are being generous.
That leaves the other 96-97% of of us who bulk up without an excuse, save, in the end, we like eating more than exercising, and that our discipline is insufficient to overcome the inertia and set-point that wants to keep us tubby. What they used to call biscuit poisoning, down home. Too many biscuits ...
Easier to be a couch potato than to run six miles, or spend an hour at the aerobics class, dining on roots and twigs, instead of pork chops and rice and gravy, with a side of buttered French bread and bacon ...
In the olden times, fat was a survival characteristic and it is hardwired into the system -- bad days on the hunt, you needed the stored energy.
For centuries, being Reubenesque was considered attractive, and an instant measure of wealth -- fat folks must have money, else they'd be skinny, like the poor.
These days, morbid obesity -- note the word "morbid" -- is bad. The hunt down at the Safeway isn't so hard, so you don't need the storage. Save for rare cases, severe obesity almost always affects health adversely, everything from physical problems, to bad self-esteem, to being made invisible socially. A lot of folks out there won't even look at somebody who weighs four hundred pounds, they just won't.
Mostly, people who are fat aren't happy about it. Mostly, they aren't so unhappy about it that they will do what needs to be done to fix it. They try, but they give up. It's too hard, it takes too much work.
Ultimately, diet and exercise are the keys. Eat less, eat better, work out more. You will feel hungry and you have to sweat. If it took fifteen years to pack it on, you aren't going to get rid of it in a few weeks or months. Until you reset your burners, homeostasis will want to gain it back. It is a long slow process, and it requires a change in the way you do things for ever more.
I'm not the guy to tell you to lose weight, that's your choice. But for most of us, somewhere about 97% of us, it is a choice. Yes, obesity is a disease, but it's like alcoholism -- you have options. It's not like catching plague because a squirrel flea bit you while you were raking the leaves out in the back yard.
If you don't like being fat, (and you are not among the small percentage of folks who have a very high hill to climb due to an illness that truly wasn't your fault,) then it's up to you to own it. Nobody else can do it for you.