Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A skinny guy views the obesity hysteria

I'm avoiding the usual content of this blog--commentaries on world affairs and personal memoirs of the past--to voice a complaint about a very personal matter.....

I've been favorably described by people who know me as being lean, slender, slim or even trim. But the truth is that I'm just a skinny guy--maybe scrawny would be more accurate--who has devoted much of his life struggling to gain weight. I'm probably one of the few men who ever lost weight during his first year of marriage. I've barely gained a pound since my discharge from the Army six decades ago.

I am thus unable to relate very well to the current hysteria about obesity. Media horror stories about the danger of being over weight and the growing reports of a national obesity "epidemic" do not register with me. I wince at all the ads and promotions trying to peddle weight loss programs to me while I fight valiantly to gain weight or to just preserve what I have.

For most of my adult life, I've been about 5'10", have rarely weighed more than 150 lbs., and have been as low as 135 lbs. (In old age, I've shrunk about an inch.) I recognize that doctors probably consider most people like me healthier than very overweight folks. Just because we're thin, the doctors claim that we're not vulnerable to the ailments of very fat people.

That may very well be true, but my own medical experience has shown the virtue of carrying some extra poundage in reserve. Over the years, e.g., when I've been hospitalized or seriously ill, I invariably lost valuable pounds and wound up looking emaciated. And then began a battle to regain the lost weight.

The effort was never easy. My wife and my late mother would testify--complain would be more accurate--that I'm not a big eater. Even when I am seduced by some high-calorie delicacies, such foods never put weight on me. Weight-conscious friends are stunned and envious to learn, e.g., that before going to bed at night, I regularly consume a generous dish of Haagen-Dazs ice cream, followed shortly by a large chocolate bar and a glass of milk. It's become a ritual that I observe faithfully, but with no effect on my weight.

Considering the current obsession over obesity, my view about body weight is undoubtedly sacrilegious. But people should acknowledge that those of us who are skinny and who constantly fight to gain or preserve pounds also have a weight problem, but obviously of a different dimension. I'm irritated that the current hysteria over obesity obscures the travails of skinny folks like me even though we're suddenly regarded as having a fashionable look in certain circles.


Blogger joared said...

Interesting commentary about a group of whom we hear little, as you say. I wonder what the metabolic differences are between people such as yourself and those whose intake more readily creates extra poundage on their bodies?

I had a friend who could eat foods much as you describe and never gain an ounce. If I had eaten what she ate, I would have added many ounces.

I can certainly see that illness could complicate recovery for you. Some attention should be paid by the medical community to resolving the issues for you and others with low weight issues.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007 12:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, dear Mort, perhaps your literary calling could be put to use on behalf of all of those who share your fortunate capability to remain "skinny" all your lives. Maybe what your physiological group needs is a spokesman who can alert the medical community to the various ailments that are peculiar to those of the human race whose fortune (or misfortune) it has been to not have an obesity problem of a personal nature! Why not do some research on the WEB to discover all the special ailments that seem to have a special affinity to persons who cannot even force a weight gain? If, for example, that characteristic could be found to be the result of a specific gene (is that the right word?) in the DNA, and if that discovery could result in someone making the further discovery of a way to eradicate that gene from an individual's system, then you could have been (can be) the one to award the boon of obesity to your many fellow sufferers! Of course, that would also place on your shoulders the responsibility to discover all the possibly very special ways in which such persons could more effectively combat the obesity problems attendant to the removal of the gene from their identity bank! I guess that one problem solved simply leads to another that needs solving!

Friday, August 10, 2007 3:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Alice said...

Gosh, I'm happy to say I'm another of your group of "not-obese." I started out skinny as a rail and reach a full height as an adult of 5'5" and struggled to keep in 110 pounds. The only time I came close to gaining unsightly amounts of pounds was when I first went to India and was fed full of ghee and highly sugared desserts (everyone wanted to feed me and be the first to introduce me to their favorites)... When I came back I went on my first "diet", essentially just ate right, low fat, no sugar, and lost so much weight I could stand under a clothes line and stay dry! From then on I decided to let my genes decide my weight for me. I don't eat a lot, but when I want to I eat a lot (like when I have something special I haven't had in awhile). I'm not complaining, but I wish I could explain it to my daughter and husband who gain weight so easily. Just dumb luck and the right combination of genes I guess.

Thursday, September 06, 2007 2:37:00 PM  
Blogger masdevallia said...

During a nutrition class in college I was told that people stop producing fat cells by the age of 19. If you have been lean and athletic to that point, the most that you can do later in life is expand the few fat cells you already have.

However, those people that are pudgy, or even obese as children have a struggle for the rest of their lives. Their bodies have reacted appropriately to their eating habits and have given them a larger supply of fat cells. The most they can do is shrink them - so many of them - which is difficult to do.

I am infuriated by the ads as you are. My irritation stems from the fact that we are adding colors, preservatives, dyes, and HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP to almost everything. You can't buy Progresso bread crumbs without ingesting some of this molecularly dense stuff.

Instead of going back to the basics and reminding people that health comes from food (not products) they are touting medical procedures and diet pills - even for kids. It's despicable.

The world would be a better place if parents still cooked, if children weren't stuffed with neon green yogurt, and if the government wasn't subsidizing corn.

Monday, November 19, 2007 3:01:00 PM  
Blogger rich said...

Not to discount the health risks and social difficulties faced by the obese, but it's remarkable the amount of attention that segment of the population gets, and how much noise their advocates make.

If anything, it reeks of ingratitude and/or sheer ignorance.

I mean, look at that the sheer amount of support they have in the world. Zillions of weight loss products, programs, centers. Mountains of advice. An unrelenting media barrage. Entire clothing lines and stores. Hell, fetishists.

You're spot on when it comes to chronically skinny folks, and the complete lack of attention and information concerning the phenomenon. This is from someone who's 5'10" and has never weighed over 120 in his life - and not for lack of trying.

Friday, April 25, 2008 2:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am 16 years old and way 90 pounds. Doctors say I will never be ove4r 110, so I appreciate your perspective. In my opinion I feel it is easier for people to lose weight then to gain it. I eat almost non-stop and never manage to gain a pound. A lot of the time I actually lose weight. So I think there should be more attention on our plight as well as the obese.

Sunday, August 30, 2009 8:09:00 PM  

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