How many food metaphors can I layer into this blog post about fat and society?
How many cupcakes can Hannah Horvath eat in the tub?
A lot. At least two.
Friends, I’ve been reading a gallon about fat and obesity lately. I was wondering if there was enough meat there to warrant a whole blog post, and if I’d have time to get the souffle just right, and where the rest of the 72% chocolate went. And then I read this thing by Saletan, William Saletan who took seriously the idea that race determines intelligence, William Saletan whose Slate column continues nonetheless, about the curiouser and curiouser inconsistencies in reporting about weight and health.
So it turns out that slightly overweight people are more likely to live longer than underweight people. Shocking, right? I mean, you can’t possibly be healthy unless your bones stick out.
Anyway, Saletan entertainingly snacks on all the possible explanations for how it could possibly be true that slightly obese people can live longer than thin people. Most of them, as he rightly notes, are empty calories at best, intellectual porkbutthash at worst.
But he does not then conclude that perhaps the premise binding it all, the premise that thin = healthy, is specious. In other words, he denies the law of Occam’s Razor.
If so many findings produce the same results suggesting that maybe being thin doesn’t help you live longer—on its own, notwithstanding other factors—than being fat—on its own, notwithstanding other factors—could it be that the findings are just true? That having a higher BMI isn’t a death sentence? That, in fact, you may live longer if you enjoy that cupcake in the bathtub?
NOPE! He says that we’ll just come up with more sophisticated ways to say that fat is bad for you.
The explanations offered today in defense of the fat-is-bad doctrine are actually modifications of it. They’re taking us beyond crude categories such as BMI, overweight, and fat. A decade from now, we’ll still believe fat is bad for you, but we’ll be far more sophisticated in what we mean by “bad” and “fat.”
Listen, if you can lose a lot of weight and keep it off over 5 years, you are awesome. You are an exception. But most people with a whole bunch of weight to lose are not going to succeed long term. And all the rhetoric about willpower and emotional strength and moral value won’t make a dent. It’ll only make you feel bad about yourself.
If it turns out that, in fact, you can be healthy ANYWAY? Even if you have dessert sometimes? That you can live a little longer?
I have run out of my daily serving of blog time. I’ll have to frost this post later. Suffice it to say that the reporting on health and weight is particularly fraught with inaccuracy, bias, and panic. Saletan is no exception, but I’m not surprised.