Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tell us something we didn't already know

I guess I shouldn't be so cynical, but it's Oprah, so I can't help it. I was just tipped off to this short article that appeared in the February issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. It reports on the CDC study that showed that "overweight" people have the longest lifespan of all BMI groups (including, notably, people of "normal" [sic] weight). The thing is, we already heard about this study three years ago. So, like, why did it take so long for Oprah to find out about it?

I guess I should be glad that this study is getting some attention, but it's just kind of annoying when, three years after the fact, it gets reported on as if it's the News of the Weird. The first sentence of the article begins, "As if America's weight problem weren't already complicated enough..." and already I'm thinking, "Is it, really?" Argh. But I do have to admit that the rest of the article does a better job. Now, if we could just get Oprah to pass this along to her pal Barack Obama, who claimed that "if we could go back to the obesity rates of 1980, we could save the Medicare system a trillion dollars." Gee, Barack, where'd you get that nice, round trillion dollar figure? Maybe straight out of your (skinny) ass? (See a good reaction to Obama's remarks here.)


Ms. Pants said...

Two things, completely unrelated to this post and I'm sorry. But I have to link you to them because if I keep writing about stuff like this, my head will explode like the movie Scanners.

this infuriates me.

but check this one out. i'd love your 2 pennies. (Here, though. Not in my stupid comments. Please.)

Mary said...

Thanks for the links, Ms. Pants!

That t-shirt is beyond obnoxious. If I ever see someone wearing that, I'm going to go up to them with a crazed look on my face and pretend that I think it's a real piece of pie and lunge at their chest with my mouth open making snorting noises and gnashing my teeth like I'm going to try and eat it off of them.

As for the BMI project, I think that is very cool because (to the extent that people who aren't already convinced actually go and check it out) it really shows how pointless the BMI measure is. It also shows that lots of people labeled "overweight" and "obese" are pretty darn attractive.

On the other hand, I also think there is a bigger picture that isn't addressed by the BMI project. The BMI project certainly tells us that BMI is a poor measure of fatness. But imagine if the result were to get the public and the medical community to abandon BMI in favor of a more accurate calculation of body fat percentage. If you posted people's pictures with their body fat percentages, there'd be a closer match between the category labels applied to people and how fat they looked. A woman with 40% body fat labeled "fat" would almost certainly look fat. But my reaction to that would be "so what"? It's great to point out that a lot of people are incorrectly labeled "obese" and "overweight", but I think it is even more important to make the point that while plenty of people really are fat, they still deserve to be treated with the same dignity and to have the same rights as everybody else.