Politics & Other Mistakes: Fat city

6 mins read

You wouldn’t buy a suit from a tailor who wears ill-fitting clothes. You wouldn’t take suggestions for summer-reading from somebody who’s illiterate. You wouldn’t cast your ballot for a candidate who’s completely clueless.

Although, come to think of it, your gut hangs over your pants, your entire library consists of “The Big Papi Diet and Coloring Book,” and your state is run by fatheads. (Does that last sentence look like heavy foreshadowing? I believe it does.)

Al Diamon

Maybe you’re not following the above-mentioned sensible suggestions as assiduously as you should. But regardless of how slovenly, ignorant and poorly governed you are, there’s one rule you should always observe:

Never eat in a restaurant where the employees are really skinny.

I’m not saying you have to limit your dining options to places where the wait staff look like tattooed Teletubbies. I’m just pointing out the wisdom of avoiding those tony bistros where the servers could be mistaken for recently liberated death-camp survivors. Except with cooler piercings.

If the food there was any good, those poor souls would have plumped up.

I mention this because our society has an unhealthy obsession with being thin. I’m not just talking about the impossibly svelte images of anorexic models and hollow-cheeked movie stars, sprinkled like splinters throughout the media. I mean the weighty experts and chubby-cheeked bureaucrats engaged in a campaign to make sure we’ll never again feel the slightest pleasure in eating anything that actually tastes good.

Each year, a non-profit group called the Trust for America’s Health releases a report called “F as in Fat,” which details the evidence to bolster its bloated contention that we buy too many Quarter-Pounders and run too few half marathons.

If you can put down that doughnut long enough to peruse news accounts of this year’s edition, you’ll discover that the percentage of adult Mainers classified as obese edged up in the past 12 months from 23.7 percent to 24.7. But if you can forgo an extra helping of ice cream, you’ll have time to check out the actual report online (www.healthyamericans.org), where you’ll discover that when the margin of error is factored in, we haven’t really expanded at all. In fact, our obesity rate has been relatively stable for at least three years, during which time we’ve improved from the 33rd fattest state in the nation to the 35th.

If the current trend continues, we’ll claim the title of the skinniest place in America by the year 2024.

Let’s get the double order of ribs and an extra pitcher of beer. We’ve got something to celebrate.

Maine officials remain oblivious. Never mind that the state is well below the national average for overweight residents. All the bulging bureaucracy cares about is that we have a higher percentage of fat people than New Hampshire. In spite of the lack of evidence that our waistlines are expanding at anything close to the rate of the state budget shortfall, they insist on cranking up the hysteria. 

In 2004, Dr. Dora Anne Mills, the director of the Maine Bureau of Health, told the Portland Press Herald that we were suffering from “a very alarming epidemic” of blubberitis. Mills claimed the corpulent consequences were costing the state $1 billion a year, due in part to increased medical expenses, but mostly because of a vaguely defined category called lost productivity. By 2007, that productivity problem had sucked up the calories and stood at over $2.5 billion. This year, it’s estimated to be $3.9 billion.

Somehow it keeps growing, even though our obesity rate hasn’t increased.

Mills and Gov. John Baldacci are also fond of proclaiming that 60 percent of Maine adults and 30 percent of the state’s children are overweight or obese. Trouble is, they’ve been tossing around those same fat figures for at least five years, while also blathering on about how our plump percentages are on the rise. Both things can’t be true.

As for exercise, in April 2006, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield released a report stating that 47 percent of the state’s adults were physically inactive. That same month, a state study put the number at 21.6 percent.

Pass the potatoes, please, but I’ll pass on the bull.

If you check out the Trust for America’s Health Web site, you’ll find that Maine earns high marks in almost every measure of good health from incidences of AIDS to cases of West Nile Virus to the relatively small number of people without medical insurance. The United Health Foundation rates the state as the 8th healthiest in the country. A survey this year by Martek Biosciences placed us ninth nationally for being “brain smart,” by which they mean we eat a lot of fish, which are filled with stuff that’s good for you, such as… er… fish guts.

But whether we’re talking sushi or suet, it’s time we stopped swallowing what the food police keep dishing up.

Waiter, if you could waddle over here, we’re ready to order dessert.

Inflate my ego by e-mailing me at aldiamon@herniahill.net.

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