A reader recently objected to a flippant remark in one of my columns.
Boy, there’s something new.
This particular objection was fascinating, though, because it raised a point well worth debating.
I had poked fun at a very public figure with a very large profile.
In writing about the demise of the Beacon Journal’s 50-year-old parking deck (which was torn down because it had become structurally unsound), I cracked:
“The entire pile of rubble weighed in at 6.6 million pounds. Which, believe it or not, is even more than New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.”
That prompted a reader to place his phalanges on his keyboard and knock out this email:
“If you were writing about something that is really dark, would you have written, ‘... is even darker than [fill in your favorite black person]’?
“It looks as if heavy people are still fair game.”
That comparison is invalid, and here’s why:
People can’t choose the color of their skin. They can choose, to a large degree, how wide they are.
I actually like a lot of things about Chris Christie. I think eventually he could be a formidable presidential candidate. But the man also is setting a rotten example.
Christie, 49, stands 5-foot-11 and weighs — well, he won’t say, but it’s a long way north of 215 pounds. That means he is, at the very least, classified as “obese” by the National Institutes of Health.
If he weighs more than 286 — which we can pretty much take to the bank — the NIH would label him “extremely obese.”
NIH uses these terms not to ridicule people but to reinforce the reality that excess weight can quite literally kill you.
Weighing too much vastly increases the odds you will suffer coronary heart disease, a stroke, half a dozen types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, fatty liver disease and pregnancy complications.
Christie has talked about his weight problem publicly. During an interview with CNN last year, he said, “I know that it would be better for my [four young] kids if I got it more under control, and so I do feel a sense of guilt at times about that.”
Being obese in most cases is a personal choice, just like smoking.
To be sure, genes play a role. But so does willpower.
You can probably buy 50,000 different books about dieting, but the entire equation is ridiculously simple:
To lose weight, you have to eat less and move more.
Eating less is a personal choice. Moving more is a personal choice. If you really want to do either, you can.
Obesity is not just a problem for Christie and others in his category. It hurts us all. A study in the journal Health Affairs showed that per-person health-care spending for obese adults is 56 percent higher than for those of normal weight.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the medical costs incurred by third-party payers for people who are obese are $1,429 higher than for others.
And things are getting worse by the year. Fully one-third of American adults are classified as obese.
If you need an encouraging word, try this: You don’t have to transform yourself from Santa Claus into Natalie Portman to make a difference. Says the NIH:
“Losing 5 to 10 percent of your weight can lower your chances for developing coronary heart disease or having a stroke. If you weigh 200 pounds, this means losing as little as 10 pounds.”
Compared to the temporary gratification of tossing down a pack of Twinkies, cutting your risk of heart attack, stroke and cancer seems like the ultimate no-brainer.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com.