Nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults are overweight, including 78 million who are obese. So it’s no surprise that losing weight ranks as a perennial favorite among New Year’s resolutions — right up there with quitting smoking, managing debt, and getting a better job.
But if your resolve tends to fizzle before the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, a new study that shows that a few extra pounds could cut the risk of death might console you. Scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the lowest risk of mortality among Americans who are overweight but not obese.
Hold the chocolate sundae, though. In reporting the study, government scientists avoided drawing conclusions or making recommendations. The study, they noted, didn’t consider gender, age, fat distribution, fitness levels, or other variables that could affect the risk of disease and death.
A six-foot man is considered overweight at 185 pounds, mildly obese at 225 pounds, and severely obese at 260 pounds. A few extra pounds might not hurt you, but anecdotal and empirical evidence suggests that appearance and acceptance, not health, drive America’s obsession with thinness.
A recent poll found that more than three-fourths of 231 dieters said they would take a pill guaranteeing their desired weight — even if it would lower their life expectancy. On average, they were willing to give up 5.7 years of their life to stay slim.
Such attitudes ought to be expected in a populace that’s inundated with images of impossibly slim and attractive people, such as those who grace fashion magazines such as GQ and Vogue. Small wonder that fat people report weight-based discrimination and that advocacy groups, such as the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, have become more vocal.
Our minds ought to be as willing as our bodies to tolerate a few extra pounds — but not too many. Millions of obese Americans still need to keep their resolutions to try to lose weight.