By Mordechai Schmutter
Today, I have great news for people who are a little overweight. (Actually, most of us overweight people, if you ask us, are “a little overweight.”)
But get this: According to a study published by the American Medical Association, people who are a little overweight actually live longer than people who are “normal” weight.
This is very exciting news that doesn’t come up very often. We should have a party! With food!
And this isn’t some fly-by-night study. Apparently, according to press materials, “They collected data from nearly 100 studies around the world, with health information from more than 2.8 million adults.” Also, “Among the sample population, there were around 270,000 deaths within the study period.”
“Oh my goodness! Stop studying!”
A lot of you might be skeptical of this study anyway, because you think it conflicts with a lot of the things you’ve heard. Like you might have heard that being overweight isn’t healthy. But it doesn’t conflict. It’s still not healthy. You just live longer.
“Yeah,” you say, “but I thought I was being healthy so I can live longer.”
I don’t know why you thought that. The two aren’t necessarily linked. For example, while we overweight people are sitting around reading studies, skinny people are going outside more. There is only a finite number of ways to die in a chair. But, for example, overweight people are far less likely to have a mountain-climbing accident.
The study doesn’t actually give any causes, so we can only speculate.
For example, some experts say that it could be because fatter people get more medical attention. I’m not sure what this means. I guess it could mean that we need more medical professionals to lift us onto the stretcher, and then once they’re all there anyway, you figure that two heads are better than one. (Or, in our case, two chins are better than one.)
Or it could mean that if you’re slightly less healthy—so long as it’s not killing you—you go to the doctor more often, and he’s catching other things. The doctor doesn’t just look at our stomachs; he looks at everything. He gives us a whole tune-up. And he can catch things that skinny people won’t catch for years.
But that’s an important thing to notice about the study—it doesn’t show causes for anything. For example, maybe the skinny people aren’t dying off; they’re becoming fat. So if you look around and ask, “Who’s still alive? Show of hands,” it’s all fat people.
This is something that critics of the study keep pointing out—that the study only shows association—that fat people live longer. It doesn’t mean that being fat makes you live longer. For all we know, living longer makes you fat. I mean, who has more of a weight problem—adults or kids?
Also, you have to realize that there are other statistics that this study isn’t taking into account. For example, as time goes on, (a) more of the population is becoming overweight, and (b) people are living longer. Those two numbers are growing together. Hence, overweight people are living longer.
Basically, every article that I’ve read says the doctors are not sure what the results mean, they’re not sure what the causes are, they’re not sure what the connection is, and all they know is that they conducted a major study—270,000 people died—and this is what they found. But it made all the papers.
And no one’s sure what to do with it.
“Does it mean we should eat?”
Well, no. Obesity is still dangerous.
“So we shouldn’t eat?”
No. We have a study.
“So what does it mean? Can we eat, or not?”
I don’t know how long it’s going to take scientists to figure this out, but I can tell you a few things in the meantime:
Yes, you can eat. But don’t eat too much. How much is too much?
Tip #1: Don’t eat enough to be considered newsworthy.
Take the Wisconsin article titled “Firefighters Free Man’s Hand from Gas Tank – Tried to Retrieve Candy Bar.” (If you don’t know what this story is doing in an article about obesity, let me spell it out for you: There was chocolate in his gas tank. He wanted it anyway. His hand got stuck.)
Tip #2: When your hand gets stuck reaching for a candy bar, maybe you should let go of the candy bar.
On the other hand, he didn’t necessarily want to eat it. It could be he just wanted it out. You would too. It’s not like he can just tilt the car and shake it. Or stick a vacuum hose in there. But how did he even know it was in there? Did he drop it in himself? He can’t stop eating for two seconds to pump gas?
Then there was a case of a guy who got his wife an $800 necklace for her birthday, and rather than just handing it to her, he hid it in a muffin. And then he watched in horror as she ate the muffin, necklace and all.
Really? When I have a tiny piece of eggshell in my omelet, I go crazy. This is a whole necklace. Did she just inhale the muffin? Did she eat the paper too?
Tip #3: Chew your food!
Or take the case of a woman in Israel who went to a hospital and told the staff that she had accidentally swallowed her toothbrush. The doctors took an X‑ray, and they didn’t see it, so they told her to go home. They didn’t believe her. Like she misplaced it.
“Are you sure you swallowed it? Maybe it just fell next to the sink or something. Do you have a wastebasket?”
So she came back in the next day (“It’s not in the wastebasket. I checked.”) and got a CT scan, and they finally found it.
The good news is that they were able to get the toothbrush out without surgery. They just started at her feet and rolled her up until it popped out. Nah, I’m just kidding. They stuck more foreign objects in through her mouth, and then called the fire department.
There was also a case of a man in China who had to have chopsticks removed from his stomach. Yes, you caught that. Chopsticks. Plural.
So did he swallow both at the same time? Or did he swallow one, and then continue spearing his food with the other until he swallowed that one too, and then, having no other recourse, go to the hospital? Or did he stick the second one in to get the first one out? Or did he stick both down there in the first place because he was trying to pull something else out, such as his toothbrush?
We can also learn a lesson from a Ukrainian story titled “Man Wins Dumpling-Eating Contest, Then Dies.” He won the grand prize, which was a 1-liter jar of sour cream, but he never got to eat it.
Tip #4: Maybe, just for now, don’t enter any eating contests.
Is this really what you want people to say at your funeral? “He was very good at eating things. He won a contest.”
And it’s not just if you win. Take the news story about a hot-dog-bun-eating contest in Coney Island that pitted three people against three circus elephants.
Who’s entering this contest? Who is saying, “Elephants? The kind that eat 600 pounds of food every day? Yeah, I think I can beat them.” v
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of four books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.