Weight study sends confusing message

Alert the media and stop the presses!

Just in case you missed this, a study about to be published in the Journal of American Medicine notes that being overweight may not be as bad for your health as has long been believed.

In fact, the study concluded that people who were considered "overweight" by the existing standard actually had a decreased death risk than that of those who were considered obese or underweight.

This is not suggesting that obesity is not a health hazard but rather that what has long been considered the appropriate weight may, in fact, be in error.

It may be that a certain amount of weight on a certain size frame that was once considered "overweight" may actually be completely appropriate for that person given a variety of factors.

The study concludes with the idea that if you feel good, get a decent amount of exercise and your doctor doesn't find any real problems then there may not be any real compelling reason to lose weight.

Naturally, the study will be under a lot of attack because the medical community and a lot of people depending on making a living from offering diet drugs can't afford to let people think they are healthy. And the study still indicates people who are obese or have other health problems related to weight should consider reducing their girth.

But while this study may be the ultimate bait and switch, people in taverns all across the country cheered the news. They can now justify going ahead and gobbling down the chicken wings with a cold beverage and tell everyone they are watching their weight by not eating an order of potato skins.

Weight, of course, is tied to clothing size, and that is the giveaway for most people. Even if you want to justify your size, when it comes to buying clothes you are confronted - and confronted is the right word - with reality.

I've told people for years that I can still wear pants with a 32-inch waist. The key is to wear them low enough, like around my knees.

What happens is you go from 36, to 36 with elastic, to 38, to 38 with elastic, to the dreaded 40. When you hit anything more than 40 with elastic in the waist band, you either have to acknowledge size does matter or be playing tackle in the NFL. And you can forget about going back to the 32.

There is also a period of time when a man can get away with a change in physique by saying you need to wear the "athletic cut." This allows for larger neck, arms and various other places while giving you the illusion you have not wadded up.

You lose the athletic cut option when you go to buy clothes and the salesperson says, "I believe we will find your size in the portly section."

When it comes to clothes, women have known about the bait and switch size game for years. In her prime, Marilyn Monroe was reported to bounce between a size 14 and 16, and observation has convinced me that Marilyn was a very healthy gal.

There are some women now who wear a size 6 and they appear to be close to the same size as Marilyn, and while the overall product may not look the same, I doubt anyone would call them overweight.

The new study will probably not make much difference in the long run. People who need to lose weight, and even those who maybe need to gain weight, do so because it is a healthy thing to do and it is something that will make them feel better.

The benefit of this study is that maybe the medical community will start examining weight as a part of overall health and stop looking at some chart and telling you because you are so old and so tall you should weight so much.

For this to really work, of course, you have to be honest with yourself and acknowledge when the time comes to drop a few pounds. In the real world, you don't need a doctor or study in the America Medical Journal to determine this. You really just need a mirror.

Overweight is a little bit like pornography and Potter Stewart's great description: It's hard to define, but you know it when you see it.

That's why they make elastic.