Better bigger? Weight gain has dire implications
Class reunions are awesome. It's a time to remember what we were like during a more innocent time. (I’m from the age of no cell phones, no Internet, and no high fructose corn syrup.) It's amazing to catch up with old friends. (“What? You’re a rocket scientist? I remember when you couldn’t figure out the multiplication table!”) It's great to see classmates succeed and live productive, happy lives.
Class reunions can also be rather awkward. Unfortunately, the older we get, the more we look alike: thinning hair, no hair, toupees or comb-overs; wrinkles, saggy skin, and shorter statures. Larger bellies and hips are often the norm for us “older folks.” However, in all honesty, I think the younger folks are larger than the older folks.
Have our youth become the heaviest people?
I remember in the '80s seeing people struggle with anorexia nervosa. Today, I rarely see a person with anorexia in my medical practice or witness it in the everyday world. Don’t misunderstand me. I'm not yearning to see a person with anorexia nervosa, because it is a devastating disease.
But I think our society has gone completely in the other direction. Most Americans will label people at ideal body weight “too thin.” (If I had a dime for every time someone has criticized me for being too thin, I'd be able to pay off the national debt.)
A 2010 survey pointed out that more Americans than in the past are admitting they're too heavy– but they don’t care. They don’t want to go down to ideal body weight. I give every patient a printed information sheet at each office visit with their target weight based on percent body fat, and most of my patients just laugh.
It's odd also that as a 44-year-old man, I weigh less than most of my fellow figure skaters, runners, and tennis players. Why is this?
For fellow athletes, it's not due to lack of exercise. I’m pretty pathetic at aerobic activities and feel I should wear an iron lung when I'm really active. Therefore, I suspect it's our food and eating habits. As I've written many times, there's an over-abundance of high-calorie drinks within everyone's reach. We can chug-a-lug 500 to 1000 calories faster than we can burp.
Restaurants serve plates a big as Texas. In restaurants, everything is smothered in enough oil and butter to make customers look like victims of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Who eats home-cooked food anymore? When I go to the grocery store, my shopping cart always looks like a UNICEF ad with the paucity of frozen food boxes, potato chip bags, and two-liter bottles of soda that fill most people’s carts. And wouldn't you know it? When people try to eat fresh veggies, E. coli strikes and kills them (Germany, June 2011).
Since 50 percent of Americans born after the year 2000 are anticipated to develop diabetes, it will be a sad class reunion when the majority of alumni swap stories: they'll be about which glucose meter and insulin needle they like best instead of memories of homecoming and proms.
Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a respected physician with an interesting website, drjohnhong.com.