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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Are all the NFL running backs obese?

So the American Medical Association now thinks that obesity is a disease. That's probably good in some ways -- it might make it easier for people to get their insurance companies to pay for treatments that are actually helpful. But really: Most normal "obesity" treatments (short of surgical interventions) fail. What works, of course, is prevention -- education, healthy eating, starting in school, etc.

Maybe this means more money for healthy lunches at school. Maybe it means more resources for "food deserts" where large populations lack access to fresh vegetables. That's all good.

I worry, though, that it turns "fat" into "sick" in a way that's really bad for a lot of young people. Middle school and high school is already brutal; add in body-image issues ("you're fat! You're sick! Go to the doctor! Loser!") and it becomes seriously traumatic.

Particularly since "obese" is such a loose term.

I was listening to Forum this morning, and one of the doctors said that the definition of "obese" is a Body Mass Index of greater than 30, which means, for example, that a six-foot tall man who weighs 225 pounds is clinically "obese."

What that means is that most of the running backs in the NFL are obese. Frank Gore? He's 5-9, 217. Marshawn Lynch? 5-11, 215. Are these people really "fat?"

No. There are a lot of healthy people who weigh more than that "obese" level, and there are a lot of skinny people who are radically unhealthy.

I'm big into exercise. I've got 25 years of martial arts training to remind me that health comes from the mind and the body, and the connection between the two, and eating well and working out and a whole lot of other things. But I worry about this medical definition. Particularly for kids. Can you imagine going to the doctor at age 15 and being told that you're "sick" because your BMI is too high?

Am I wrong here?

1 comment:

  1. Maybe all this excess weight, for all its adverse health impact, conveys a competitive advantage on the field in terms of affording greater striking and blocking ability.

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