Try it. Who knows, you may even like it.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The fine line between overweight and obese

By Dick Hirsch

I don’t think I ever heard the word obese until I was in high school. Today, hardly a day goes by that there isn’t some feature story on TV or an item in the paper focusing on obesity. It wasn’t like that years ago; obesity wasn’t discussed, along with such other maladies as dandruff or halitosis. Obesity just was never an issue. Was that because most people were thin? No. It was because it wasn’t considered very newsworthy.

Obesity gets more than its share of exposure today as we keep being reminded that there are so many potentially serious consequences. You are surely able to recite those that dominate the list; diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. There are many life threatening results linked to obesity.

After I became aware of its meaning, I developed a continuing interest in obesity, primarily based on my concern about the placement of the dividing line between overweight and obese. I was curious about who should be designated with a different terminology, say heavy, big boned or husky. Those were all euphemisms for fat. No kid wanted to be fat and I couldn’t help but wonder whether fat kids grew to be obese.

My interest was based on my own condition. I was the fourth fattest kid in the neighborhood. The fattest kid was Billy and he was very, very large. He wore bib overalls and didn’t play much in the school yard games of baseball or touch football. He enjoyed playing with small trucks and airplanes. Then there was Jack, who in later years was tagged with the nickname “Gordo,” after some scholar discovered that was Spanish for “fat.” Next in line was a younger boy, Daniel, who wore glasses and whose pants were always very tight, and who was suspected of being a victim of some unknown glandular ailment that motivated him to eat multiple peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I was next in line and scrapbook photos reveal me with pudgy cheeks and a stomach that was very obvious. I was last in any race and a dismal failure when it came to climbing those damn ropes in the gym.

The rest of the kids in the neighborhood---Corky, Joe, Art, the twins---Don and Bob---Jim, Tom and others---were all of what could be described as normal size. So it was clear that the majority of the kids were thin.

I recount that dreary bit of history after conducting a brief inspection at two of Buffalo’s most anticipated summer events. The Taste of Buffalo attracted several hundred thousand visitors to downtown Buffalo one weekend, and the Italian Festival, held on Hertel Avenue, lured countless eaters the following weekend.

I shudder to think of the number of carbohydrates and calories from fat that were ingested during those two civic events, highlights of the season for that growing number of aficionados whose favorite pastime is eating.

I prowled around briefly, feeling like an undercover operative representing some agency like the Food & Drug Administration or similar government health bureau. I know this sounds harsh and judgmental, but it was a sorry sight; heavy individuals, portly people, corpulent or paunchy men accompanied by their plump or fleshy wives or girlfriends, padding around in flip-flops and Bermuda shorts. One weekend it’s beef barbecue, macaroni and cheese or gourmet desserts, and the next weekend some of the same attendees are eating their fried dough while waiting in line for a cheese stuffed cannoli or an order of ravioli or beans and greens.

As I write this, I realize I am exposing the puritanical side of my personality. I’m not fat anymore, but I’m not thin, either, and I worry that at sometime in the future my fat alter ego will suddenly seize control of my appetite. I guard against it every day. But I worry about my friends and neighbors. They obviously pay little or no attention to all the obesity stories in the media. They must notice the TV specials and see the headlines, all issuing warnings about overindulgence. Still they prefer to pursue their own perceived delights.

Interest in fitness continues as health club membership rises and more people can be seen jogging or bicycling around the park. Still the statistics as well as anecdotal evidence such as this seem to indicate we are becoming a nation facing an obesity epidemic. Look around. Does that appear to be true? Are we intent on digging our graves with our teeth?



Post a Comment

<< Home