Lou Schuler

Author, Journalist, Presenter

Posted 06/27/2004

Ah, f**k it

Meanwhile, a whole new argument is gaining steam: Obesity isn’t a crisis at all.

The main proponent of this theory is a lawyer, Paul Campos. We had a chance to publish his book, The Obesity Myth, at Rodale, and I was among the editors who argued against it.

I understood the passion of his argument, but I wasn’t impressed by its logic. Of course being overweight causes health problems. Not in everybody, sure, but then again, smoking doesn’t kill every smoker, either.

I’m all in favor of re-examining this situation–clearly, with so much food in our world, all of us are going to be a little heavier than our parents and grandparents were. And sometimes I’ll read an argument, like this one, and wonder if we really are making too big a deal about our outward-bound waistlines.

Ah! But I mentioned waistlines. And there’s the crux of this whole thing. All obesity isn’t created equal. We know that a big belly (over 40 inches in men, over 36 in women) is an indicator of increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and dozens of other problems. Having fat thighs isn’t.

And, for all the noise about how the obesity epidemic is overblown, this story makes it clear that it may actually be worse than we’ve been told. If people are truly lying about their weight and girth in studies that include self-reported data, then we may face an even bigger problem.