When a man like me who has been skinny his entire life, suddenly finds himself fat you are likely to see some serious work on him explaining why his new hefty size is really a great thing. Now I want to point out — I’m really only David Mitchell fat, not Chris Christie fat. And most people outside of Southern California don’t actually consider Mitchell fat. But the NIH thinks I’m just on the line of “overweight”; and at all times before, I was right on the line of “underweight.” You just can’t win with these people. Or more to the point, I just can’t win.
Truth be told, however, we probably shouldn’t consider people like me overweight. Or at least we shouldn’t when it comes to health. When it comes to nude extras on Game of Thrones, there is a different scale. But I’m afraid that such criteria have blinded our thinking in terms of health. Two years ago, a major synthesis of research involving three million people over decades found that overweight people (with a BMI between 25 and 30) were actually 6% less likely to die during the average period of the studies looked at. That isn’t that big a deal — it could be noise, although the result is statistically significant. What’s more, the effect could be due to better medical care.
What I find far more interesting is that much of the reporting on the study was dismissive. The focus was generally put on the finding that it was still bad to be obese. And indeed it is. And maybe it is good to focus on that in a country where over a third of the population is obese. But if the only finding of the study was that obese people had a higher mortality rate than thinner people, it wouldn’t have been reported in The New York Times. And it doesn’t even seem worth mentioning regarding a study that contradicts the linchpin of what most everyone thinks is required for good health.
I think it is all to do with what we find beautiful. We fetishize youth and thinness. And as a result, we try to justify claiming that being young and thin is healthy. It must be; it’s what is attractive! And this results in almost all advertisements that I see involving young and thin people. That’s even true when the ads are explicitly portraying “old” and “fat” people. According to Plus Model Magazine, ten years ago, plus size models ranged in sizes from 12 to 18; today, they are between 6 (!) and 14. The average American woman is a size 14.
Overall, the main thing is that people should just get on with their lives and accept who they are. The thing about me is that I like eating. And I cook far better than I ever did when I was my old skinny self. And I just can’t imagine starving myself in the name of living a bit longer — especially if those years (Months? Weeks? Hours?) were spent without the joy of my many signature dishes. And this leads me to my main point.
I cook with butter. Butter is wonderful. Butter tastes good. In fact, there are few things as wonderfully delicious as Basmati rice with just a little bit of butter. I could easily live on that. And I really don’t care about the health consequences of my love of fat. As I see it, what is considered “good nutrition” changes every couple of years anyway. And people running around desperately trying to avoid death has always struck me as a criminal act against the gift of life.
It just so happens that today, the good nutrition fad seems to line up with what I do, Pretty Much Everything We’ve Been Taught About Dangers of Eating Fat Is Wrong. I won’t go into all the details of the recent research because I don’t care. I’m going to eat the way I want. Yes, it would be bad to have an all-butter diet. But you wanna know a secret: an all butter diet would taste terrible. My advice: have a diverse and delicious diet, so even if it does kill you, you will have a good time along the way.
Oh, that reminds me: moderate alcohol consumption is good for you too. But again: I don’t actually care. Alcohol is a great drug in that it tells you very clearly how much you should consume. All this information — ideal body weight, fatty foods, alcohol — is the best argument I’ve ever heard in favor of a loving god.
Update 3 February 2015 3:27 pm
I just watched last night’s The Nightly Show and they were doing the episode about obesity. It isn’t much of a discussion, but it does seem that the issue is in the air.