Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Word for the Horizontally Challenged

A study of 104 adults (a rather small sample: the researcher must have had a good press agent) showed that only 15% of those who are defined by the government as obese believe that they are described by that term.

The Associated Press report explains the reason for the disconnect: the government has defined obesity down to a level that doesn't make sense to most people. A 5'10 male who weighs 210 pounds is considered obese under the federal standards.

Please note that this does not apply to someone who lifts weights or otherwise has built a lot of muscle.

Most people would consider men of that size to be overweight; some of the less kind would even call them "fat." But obese?

When the government began using body mass indices as measures for identifying those with weight problems, they chose an emotionally charged word (obese) to describe those they thought were large enough to have potential health problems. They perhaps thought that use of that term would drive people to take action. The problem is that linguistic gamesmanship can only go so far. The pejorative word "obese" is simply not appropriate for people of that size.

Those studies also allege that a man of that height weighing 185 pounds or more is overweight. That is simply not a reasonable standard. The blogger at The Monroe Doctrine dieted and got his weight down to 174 a few years ago, and his wife, who does NOT find overweight men attractive, told him he looked (this is a quote) "horrible." He quickly gained weight up to the 185 level. Unfortunately, he has since moved well beyond it -- a problem that is currently being addressed.

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