In some ways, I’m glad to see that the hysteria of “an epidemic of obesity” being deflated by scientific inquiry into the actual health effects of moderate “excess” weight. The reasons for the apparent benefits of a few extra pounds aren’t yet clear, but the possibilities suggested by some of the doctors interviewed in the article do seem reasonable on common sense grounds. Some extra weight in old age could serve a protective function against death, in that the body would have internal food resources upon which to draw in cases of acute illness. Also, people are now better able to manage the usual bad effects of their excess weight, particularly high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, with advances in both detection and treatment of these secondary conditions. So the primary danger of excess weight in youth or middle age then might well be just the danger of slipping into obesity.
However, I must admit that I’m not completely thrilled with the news, as I suspect that it will encourage people to pay less attention to the pounds that are all-too-easy to accumulate over the years. Such excess pounds do extract a cost from a person over the course of his life, in that they slow a person down in myriad ways.
Certainly, I’m not going to be packing on the pounds any time soon. In fact, I still have about ten pounds of excess weight to lose. Although I’ve always been well-within the bounds of “normal weight” for my height, I was carrying way too much fat at my peak weight last winter. I’m much happier with my appearance now, as I’ve lost 15 pounds, even while gaining substantial muscle mass. Just to do that required a massive restriction on my daily intake of food, combined with at least 4 miles / 40 minutes of running or rowing every day. At least it is paying off, albeit very slowly.