SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Studies Are Hazardous To My Health
By Dave Kiffer


August 28, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - I read last week that being just a "little obese" can be hazardous to your health.

Never mind the fact that a "little" obese is somewhat of an oxymoron. Like "kinda" pregnant or "sorta" dead.

The Associated Press story noted that being a little obese - one to 29 pounds overweight - can be nearly as hazardous to your health as being truly obese - more than 30 pounds overweight.

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For those of you playing along at home, this concerns me because by all the well-regarded bench marks (the size of the mark your bottom makes on a bench) I am "slightly obese."

Slightly obese can be defined as somewhat more than a "little" obese but somewhat less than full-blown "grande" obese. It is an example of my cheerful worldview. When someone says something is "less than zero" I can always be counted on to cheerfully note that at least it is "greater than negative one!"

Therefore, I am "less" than obese, but - according to this study - it doesn't mean much to be even a pound greater than negative one.

On a good day, after hanging by my ankles from the shower rod, I am just about 5'10" tall. According to those same benchmarks, I should be around somewhere just under 150 pounds.

I haven't been "just under 150 pounds" since Jimmy Carter was keeping his weight - and Poll numbers - down by being chased around by killer rabbits.

But I have always justified my slightly overweight stature by saying "hey, I could be better, but I'm not killing myself with my few extra pounds."

Now a new study says that I am. Bummer.

Apparently folks who are even a pound overweight have a 20 to 40 percent higher risk for death than people who are normal weight (of course anyone at anytime is actually at a 100 percent "risk" for death, but I digress). That extra cola at lunch and that light midnight peanut butter cup snack are killing me. Double bummer.

Reading this information has already caused my blood pressure to rise. Triple bummer.

It is causing me some health-impacting emotional distress. Quadruple bummer.

It makes me want to head to the fridge for some comfort food right now. Quintuple bypass bummer!

And now we take a slight digression from our sponsor...

I have spent a lifetime battling logger plate specials and king salmon-sized portions to a generally recognized draw.

I was in Portland recently and saw some pancakes that were offered in "acre", "half acre" and "quarter acre" sizes. It would take two of the "acre" sized ones to equal the average Ketchikan "kiddie" portion.

This is Alaska after all. We don't cotton to no teeny-weenie, penny ante, Texas sized portions here. If the food isn't always super good, well at least we can say there is plenty of it. (ubiquitous college joke: the dorm food is soooo bad, and there is so little of it!).

Walk into any Ketchikan eatery and ask for the "weight watcher" special and you will get something akin to the amount of food necessary to feed the Seattle Seahawks for a week. And the waitress will look sadly at you because you are about to leave the table hungry.

So I have been trained since birth to - as my mother would say - have "eyes bigger than my stomach."

Case in point. I was looking at a restaurant guide recently and came across this "giant" burger listing. "One hamburger patty, bacon, another hamburger patty, cheese, a third hamburger patty, a slice of ham, a second slice of cheese, a fourth hamburger patty, lettuce, onions, pickles , special sauce etc on toasted hoagie." Yum, I remarked.

"That's disgusting," My wife Charlotte replied. She is from New Mexico, where they don't have food, they have cuisine. Cuisine means microscopic portions of actual food artfully displayed with large portions of garnish.

Charlotte, naturally, likes small portions of food with spectacularly carved garnish. I find that garnish takes up plate space that could be better put to use supporting more of the meat course.

She notes disdainfully that I "wolf" my food down. I try to explain that I have to eat fast because if I "savored" each mouthful, I'd still be eating dinner when it was time for breakfast. As usual, she is not amused.

So I come by my "little obesity" honestly. And judging by some of the other waistlines I see bellying up to the bar in our fair city, a little obesity is not in the minority.

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming...

There is some good news in the survey.

First, the survey only studied people 50 and older. I am not 50 yet. Of course I am much closer to being 50 than I am to being 150 pounds but why quibble?

Not being 50 is a good thing. There is still time. If I stop eating right now. I will probably be down to around 150 pounds by the time I turn 50.

Secondly, the information is still in its premature stages. I can expect a robust counter attack from the purveyors of cola and peanut butter cups. When the health Nazis say we can't be even a smidgen overweight, then it's just downright un-American.

In this country, it's always okay - nay, it's a birthright - to be able to fudge (pun intended) the line - any line - a bit. All our lines are "are drawn in the sand."

As a result, I can guarantee that the final results of the study will no doubt declare that a pound or 10 between friends is A-okay after all.

And finally, the survey was based on the habits of more than 500,000 members of AARP.

Granted, I've been getting offers to join that august institution for several years now, but I'm just plain not old enough.

And I don't much like liver and onions.

And the words "Senior Discount" do not cause to me immediately tromp on the brakes of my OmegaTrak 3000 electric scooter.

Therefore, although I could use to drop a few pounds here or there (mostly there) the real answer to this conundrum of facing an increased "risk" of death is: Don't join the AARP.

And stop reading about "studies" that can harm your health!



Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2006

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