Lose Weight or Die
It's no secret that Americans are super-sizing themselves. Overweight and obesity are at epidemic proportions. Experts estimate that at least two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. And then there's the children. Once extremely rare, obesity among children is becoming alarmingly common. Of course, plenty of health advocates have railed against this trend, urging people to eat better and exercise more.
For a lot of women, especially, being thin is about attaining some ideal of beauty. But, to my mind, maintaining a healthy body weight is not about looks. It's not about fitting into more flattering clothes, or even about feeling sexier, although maintaining a healthy body weight can certainly help with both of those goals.
There's been plenty of push-back from women who'd prefer to embrace their "plus-sized" beauty. Big is just who they are, say these women, and the rest of us need to get over ourselves. These larger women are proud of their looks, and they're courageously throwing off the shackles of society's expectations that they fulfill some womanly ideal of stick-thin beauty. I get it. And I even agree, to an extent. I've often said it's better to be real, than ideal. But I draw the line at embracing, and even glorifying, excess body fat.
It's not about looks. For me, it's really about staying healthy. And alive.
That may sound harsh, but consider this: A recent report by the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute concluded that extreme obesity is on the rise. And it's killing people. After reviewing 20 different studies of people from three different countries, experts concluded that extreme obesity is linked to a shocking reduction in lifespan, compared to normal body weight. At worst, morbidly obese people can expect to die 14 years sooner than their normal-weight counterparts.
Study participants were classified according to their body mass index (BMI) and assigned to one of five classes. At one end of the scale were normal weight people. At the other extreme was extreme (Class III) obesity, characterized by a BMI of 40 or more. For a person of average height, this would mean being about 100 pounds heavier than ideal weight.
Even after excluding anyone who had ever smoked, investigators determined that people classified as extremely obese were far more likely to die of cancer, heart disease or diabetes than normal weight individuals. Shockingly, being this obese is more deadly than being a normal-weight current smoker, researchers discovered. "Given our findings, it appears that class III obesity is increasing and may soon emerge as a major cause of early death in this and other countries worldwide," said Patricia Hartge, Sc.D., Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, and senior author of the study.
Kitahara CM, et al. Association between Class III Obesity (BMI of 40-59 kg/m) and Mortality: A Pooled Analysis of 20 Prospective Studies. PLOS Medicine, July 2014 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001673.