Praise diets and pass the chips

June 03, 1994|By KEVIN COWHERD

People like me don't cruise the information superhighway, on account of people like me can barely work a shower curtain and see no need to humiliate themselves any further on the Internet.

So when people like me go looking for information, it's usually in a newspaper, which is what I was reading the other day when I came across this intriguing headline: "It's OK To Be Fat! As Long As You're Not, Like, Real, Real Fat!"

Maybe that wasn't exactly the headline, but it was something along those lines.

The gist of the story was this: studies now indicate "that people who put on pounds over the years live longest while those who lose weight die sooner." Plus dieters aren't necessarily healthier before they croak, either.

Look at President Clinton, the article said. The guy runs three miles a day and still looks like he spends most of his time elbowing up to the buffet table.

But, the article went on to say, the president's blood pressure and cholesterol levels are OK and he shows no signs of heart disease.

The point being that just because he's a little chunky and you might not want to see those meaty thighs coming at you in a pair of running shorts, it doesn't mean the prez isn't healthy. In other words, excess pounds shouldn't be considered the evil they were once made out to be.

The whole thing reminds me of the about-face the health community did on coffee. I remember picking up the paper a few years ago and seeing a screaming front-page headline that said something like: "Coffee Drinkers: You Will All Die Soon!" The accompanying article was about some new study reported in the New England Journal of Whatever that showed coffee was bad for your heart.

The way they went on about coffee, you figured it should come with a skull and crossbones on the label.

At the time, I was slamming back, I don't know, six or seven cups a day.

I felt fine, but according to the study, I could soon wind up on an autopsy table, with some guy in a white lab coat standing over me and murmuring into a microphone: "Subject was said to be sipping Folgers when he keeled over . . . "

So I stopped drinking coffee and instantly felt miserable.

And I stayed miserable until about six months later, when another headline about coffee appeared in the paper.

Only this one said: "Coffee Drinkers: Don't Be Such Worrywarts!"

This article said that a new study by the University of Whatever proved coffee really wasn't so bad for you after all.

The new study indicated that those pinheads who had conducted the earlier study had jumped to the wrong conclusions. According to this new study, you could drink all the coffee you wanted with no ill effects.

The new study made coffee sound no more dangerous than Yoo-Hoo. It sounded like you could probably mainline it and it wouldn't even keep you up at night.

So I went back to drinking coffee and felt terrific again, although after the seventh cup or so I do tend to get a little, um, restless, to the point where I might rush out to the parking lot and wash 50 or 60 cars on my lunch hour.

Anyway, this new evidence suggesting people can be overweight and still be healthy might finally help us deal with our national preoccupation over dieting.

Let's face it, dieters are the most miserable people on the planet, and with good reason: They're starving.

Not long ago, I happened to attend a diet seminar with a friend. This was sort of like taking in a zoning board meeting, only not as lively.

The seminar consisted of 20 people sitting listlessly on folding chairs in a church basement, listening to a lecture on reducing the fat in one's daily meals.

The instructor was a gaunt, blond-haired woman with feverish eyes named Tammy, who kept speeding around the room like a fox terrier on amphetamines and chirping things like: "Now let's talk about our unconscious eating habits!"

Oh, geez, it was horrible. People were staring up at the ceiling or looking at their watches or watching the flies land on the window screens.

At one point, after Tammy squealed something about "the importance of fiber!" I must have actually dozed off. Because the next thing I knew my head had slammed against the chair of the woman in front of me.

Afterward, a few of us went out for beers, which was sort of defeating the purpose, I guess.

But you had to understand what we'd been through.

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