I Pity The Fools Who Base Their Eating Habits / Life On This Study

“Fool” might be a little strong – but I do so love to say “I pity the fool”;  I just couldn’t resist. Thank you Mr. T, for so much pleasure in my life, because I come up with excuses to say it a lot.

The text below is extracted from the article Healthy Fat? Higher BMI Linked to Lower Risk of Death which I recommend for a more realistic perspective than you will get by watching the news.

Researchers led by Dr. Katherine M. Flegel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed the link between Body Mass Index (BMI) and mortality in almost 100 studies from the PubMed and EMBASE databases. Combined, the studies included more than three million adults, and all studies adjusted for age, sex, and smoking habits.

People with a BMI between 18.5 and 25 were considered normal weight; those with BMIs over 25 were labeled overweight; a BMI between 30 and 35 meant grade 1 obesity; and anything higher than that meant grade 2 or 3 obesity. The results found that a little pudge had a protective effect: The overweight folks had a six percent lower risk of death, while those in the grade 1 obesity category had a five percent lower risk of death. But in this case, moderation really proved to be key: Anyone with higher than moderate obesity (i.e. the grades 2 and 3 obesity categories) had a 29 percent increased risk of death.

The study authors can’t say for sure that a higher BMI directly causes a longer lifespan, but they suggest there may actually be cardiovascular benefits and other positive health effects to a little extra body fat and higher metabolic reserves (energy the body has available to utilize).

Gloriosky!!! You can actually be fat and have a six percent better chance of not dying in the next five minutes than the slender person next to you … well, look around, there must be one around somewhere. And even better, for only a one percent loss from that six percent you can be sloppy fat, just not too sloppy. Wonderful news. I know how great I feel in the morning when I pig out the night before.  But it’s a fine line. If you are grade 1 obese you have a 5 percent decrease in your chance of dying. Go one pound over into grade 2 and your risk of death goes up to 29 percent, an increase of 34 percent from the 5 percent advantage you had one pound ago. What a crock!! Of course you may point out I’m lying with numbers … and your point is? I’m just being more obvious about it. Figures don’t lie, but liars do figure.

It seems so irresponsible that  the “researchers” who released this “study” did not take into account that people may not understand, and did not try to educate them as to what BMI really means. But hey, can’t get too “facty”; if a study doesn’t make it onto “The USA Today”, did it really happen? “Truthiness” that leads to telling people it’s not only ok to be fat, it’s downright healthy,  is much more likely to make the cover.  How about a subtitle of “If you don’t eat your triple-burger you’re practically killing yourself”. If you’re gonna mislead people, might as well go for it.

BMI doesn’t measure fat, it measures just what it says, Body Mass Index, so muscle counts just as much as fat. And muscle is heavier than fat in that one pound of fat occupies 2.5 times the voume of one pound of muscle. So the dense muscle in the bicep of a heavily-muscled person, like Mr. T, may weigh more than the blubbery fat in both upper arms of a fat person – but it gets counted exactly the same. What this means is that very fit, lean people with a lot of muscle are counted as overweight or even obese by BMI. So the “study” includes very healthy fit people in with the chubby people. I don’t know if Jack LaLanne would have measured as overweight by BMI, but extremely fit people who live to be extremely old would certainly have a disproportionate effect in skewing the results.

So the problems I have with this study:
1. Muscle is counted as fat
2. Fit people are more likely to participate in risky sports or professions, and in those professions, the fittest of the fit would most likely serve in the most dangerous roles, so death by accident seems much more likely for fit people during adolescence or their working life. This study measures the likelihood for all types of death during any given period. Who’s more likely to die in the next week, a 30 year old firefighter or a 30 year old librarian? Weighs just the same.
3. Overweight people see doctors more often for problems associated with being fat, so other conditions get treated.
4. Wealthy people, who have a lot of money to spend on medical care, also have a lot of money to spend on food. I bet Rush Limbaugh and Mike Huckabee have the best medical care in the world. They are fat again, right?
5. Fit people who have a congenitive health problem that is triggered by exercise are more likely to actually trigger it. I can’t quote my source off hand, but there is a slight increase in risk of death during exercise at any time. However it’s vastly outweighed by the decrease in risk of death overall.
6. Fat people have more padding in car wrecks or any other kind of accident and they float better. Kidding!! (sort of)

Personally I ignore BMI. Everything I need to know is right there in the mirror.  And on that note, I still have a way to go, but I’m much leaner than I’ve been in years, maybe ever. And it feels great. Just having my shirt tail stay in all the time is worth that hypothetical 6 percent.

Even if it were true, I spent enough of my life looking like the Pillsbury dough boy. I’m not going back to that on the off chance that statistically I’m more likely to die in the next 5 minutes than Pudgy Pudgerson.

I already said in another post that I hope I die before I get old. If you’re willing to carry around extra weight because there’s a slight statistical chance you might live a little longer – you’re old, no matter what your age.  Or at least that’s how I feel about it.

The extra weight I carry around is because I’m a weak person.


I'm 67 years old and never expected to be in this kind of shape or have this kind of stamina, at any age. Then I discovered JumpRock at 55 and HoopRock at 66. Both are so much fun it's actually easy to get fit and stay that way; this blog is to encourage you to follow my example and be in great shape yourself going into old age - that's all I can promise for now - we'll see how actual old age goes. I'm highly optimistic.
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6 Responses to I Pity The Fools Who Base Their Eating Habits / Life On This Study

  1. Grandma Kc says:

    I absolutely agree! It is all about the mirror not the number on the scale. I knew muscle was heavier by volume than fat I sure didn’t know it was that much heavier! Good post.

  2. n. robinson says:

    Good post! You tell it like it is! Thanks and keep up the good work!

    • Richard says:

      Thanks. I’ve been so lucky on how my life worked out, because if I’d followed my natural inclinations I’d be a physical disaster at 65. Circumstances in my life worked together to make me want that exuberant feeling that comes after exercise. Nothing to do with fitness or stamina – those are just lucky side effects.

      So I’m hoping I can be the circumstance to get other people to try my technique of just starting a workout every day when they are at their lowest energy level – just start, no other commitment. There has to be a good faith effort to do some exercise of course, but if you keep it up you’ll develop the same “appetite” I have. And in my opinion, appetite in one way or another is the only true motivator.

      And, also in my opinion, if you can jump safely and love music, JumpRock is the perfect exercise. Unless you can already jump your workouts will be extremely short in the beginning. Mine weren’t over 5 minutes, if that long. But just do a little every day without worrying about whether you’re progressing fast enough. Eventually you’ll actually be able to jump to the beat and then it starts to become fun. It’s even more fun now after ten years.

  3. Sandy says:

    Well said, Rich! I’ve put on at least 10 pounds again over the past 6 months or so that I haven’t been exercising. I honestly don’t feel healthier at this weight, and I don’t feel like my chances of living longer are increased. I feel weaker and more sluggish and older than when I did when I was exercising regularly. It’s time to get back to it again!!

    • Rich says:

      Thanks Sandy, To me how you feel is pretty much the motivator. I know you know all this, but I’ll use this as a soapbox opportunity.

      Years ago, even before I started jumping rope I was talking to some guy about how I rode a stationary bike every day after work to feel good. He looked thoughtful and said “Oh yeah, back when I exercised more I felt better”. He knew the connection but he didn’t really feel it. On the other hand I had started with that express goal in mind and had a routine of riding every day, by which I mean every day. If I came home from work and didn’t ride the bike I wouldn’t know what to do with myself because I’d be out of sorts.

      Even now there are times when I don’t intend to exercise, but I don’t want to put up with having little or no energy by comparison with how I could feel, so I exercise anyway. It’s the regular daily routine that eventually intertwines exercise and how you feel in your mind. You’ve created a new appetite that needs to be satisfied.

      As you know, my theory, based on my own experience, is if someone just starts a workout every day when their energy is lowest, typically after work, with no pressure on how hard or long to workout and stick with it eventually they will develop that appetite. As that famous fitness expert Woody Allen said, more or less “Eighty percent of success is just showing up”. So the more often one doesn’t “show up” by missing a day, the less likely one will be successful in developing an appetite for feeling good.

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