2010-02-25 / This Week's Attitude

This Week's Attitude

Here’s The Skinny On Some Weighty Matters
By Neil S. Friedman

As a perennially “weight-challenged” individual, I was drawn to a few recent stories about a few weighty issues.

I’m accustomed to being overweight. When my mother took me shopping for clothes before the start of the school year, we went straight to the boys’ husky department. Back then that word was the politically correct way of describing a pudgy kid like me.

My mother often compared my thinner younger brother’s eating habits with mine and noted: He ate to live, while I lived to eat.

By the way, I still do.

Incidentally, several generations ago in some places, corpulence was considered an indication of affluence long before trendy diet fads existed or nutritional awareness was acknowledged.

Today, we know that cigarette smoking is harmful and responsible adults realize that excess weight and poor nourishment may also shorten one’s life.

The nation’s First Lady, Michelle Obama, and New York’s First Lady, Michelle Paige Paterson, have undertaken separate campaigns to combat childhood obesity, which some health experts believe has become a national epidemic in the last 30 years. The government estimates that more than 30 percent of children between ages two to 19 are either overweight or obese.

Concern for overweight children is nothing new, but it has received scarce interest in recent decades. Physical fitness for the nation’s youth was revived during the Kennedy administration after it was practically ignored when President Eisenhower established the President’s Council on Youth Fitness in 1956.

With the rapid growth of computer games and the World Wide Web, too many of today’s youth prefer activities that lack much movement. Rather than go outdoors to play games and engage in sports, they join friends indoors and get wrapped up in video games or surfing the Internet. In Connecticut, there’s a program called “No Child Left Inside” that encourages outdoor family activities such as biking and walking. Some communities across the country have started public health programs that promote healthy diets, including the removal of junk foods from school menus and physical exercise. Other efforts are underway to re-educate the masses about diet, exercise and how to make nutritious meals on a limited budget.

Part of the problem for the increase of overweight youngsters may also be that nutritional foods tend to be pricier than economical fast food. Working families don’t have the time to prepare healthy meals and in this bleak economy they often resort to convenient, cheaper junk foods high in salt, sugar and calories, but low in nutritional value.

In contrast, it was reported during the recent Fashion Week in Manhattan that some fashion industry honchos deemed a gorgeous, 21-year-old, size 4 model, FAT. She is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs as much as 110 pounds. Two years ago, when she weighed two pounds less, someone suggested she lose weight. She did, became ill after using an excess of diuretics and subsequently vowed never to do it again.

Today, designers opt for models in their teens who risk their health by using appetite suppressants to maintain ultra-slim appearances preferred by top fashion designers.

Something really needs to be done about the fashion industry’s obsession with women who look emaciated and anorexic. Few people look like that and even fewer ever wear the outlandish fashions displayed at those shows in public — or, I suspect, in private.

Not too long ago there was a popular fashion style referred to as “heroin chic” when ultra-thin women on the fashion catwalks resembled addicts characterized by pale skin, dark circles underneath the eyes and jutting bones. Some of last week’s models still looked closer to that than the average sized women you see on the street.

Even when you look at the celebrities the media regularly gossips about, few resemble stick-figured models. Remember, real men don’t eat quiche, but they prefer women with curves. Perhaps the only part of a woman’s anatomy most men prefer flat is the tummy — except of course when there’s a bun in the oven.

Most Sports Illustrated swimsuit models and Victoria’s Secret models are voluptuous and much more appealing than the slender models who tread the boards at high fashion shows.

It’s time for the fashion industry to literally shape up — and out!

In another recent report involving an individual’s size, Hollywood director Kevin Smith was asked by a Southwest Airlines pilot to exit an aircraft because he was overweight and didn’t fit in a single seat. Essentially, the pilot told him he was too fat to fly!

Smith admitted that he originally bought two seats as required by the airline’s “customer of size” policy, but on this occasion he switched to an earlier flight and was forced to travel in the only seat available. The airline put him on a later flight, issued an apology and gave him a $100 voucher.

It’s no secret that seating in the coach section of airplanes is tighter than your typical movie theater seat because it’s a cost-saving measure that allows aircraft manufacturers to install more seats, which allows airlines to cram more passengers onto every flight, thereby making more money. Except for first class, which the average person can’t afford, seating on commercial jetliners is a bit snug, especially for the overweight and the tall. I’m over 5’8” and find legroom to be deficient. My girth also fills a seat, but not enough to disturb an average-sized person sitting next to me.

Writing this has made me conscious of what I eat. No chocolate candy, no donuts, no Drake’s Coffee Cakes. Instead, I’ll munch on some pretzels or microwave a bag of light popcorn. But I’ll scream if anyone suggests I eat a couple of rice cakes — unless they’re coated with a thick layer of peanut butter and jelly.

Bon appetite!

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