The great American poet Robert Allen Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan, wrote “The times they are a changin’” and how right he was. Hurricane Health is ripping and tearing away everything we every knew about good health and nutrition leaving no real clear picture of what we should be doing.
Although dieting has been practiced in some cultures throughout history the popular rendition of the term is relatively new. In fact up until about 100 years ago thinness was considered unhealthy and resulted in some interesting behaviors. Stories are told of young girls writing to publications such as the Ladies Home Journal seeking weight gain advice and of others padding their clothing to appear fuller figured. Men too reveled in the healthiness of portliness joining organizations such as the Fat Men’s Club of Connecticut to which men of great wealth, status and pant size belonged.
As decades wore on and the starlets of Hollywood became the standard by which we measure ourselves and the idea of a healthy heaviness faded. In their place was ensconced the eternal “truth” that skinny meant healthy and that anyone overweight was doomed to an early grave. Not only was thin the mantra of the Hollywood jet set it was fully embraced by the majority of the health care community. So much so it seems that anyone who has ever donned a white lab coat automatically has the authority to provide diet information, health advice and a condescending stare.
Interestingly what has happened in that short time span is that obesity has become a national crime and being thin is the new picture of health wealth and vitality. Being overweight which used to be the hallmark of the rich is now seen as typical of the poor. Too bad the obese poor of today didn’t live in the 1800’s at least they would have the image of wealth.
Furthermore research continues to demonstrate that the link between being thin, lowering risk factors and having good health is weak. For example a study was recently published indicating that less than 50% of patients admitted to the hospital for heart disease had high cholesterol by current measures. Another study published in the JAMA Journal of the American Medical Association found that after one year of intense lifestyle modifications of diet and exercise study participants showed no reduction in cholesterol or other cardiac risk factors. So in other words all the dieting and exercising in the world may not prevent heart disease or even add a year to you life!
Undoubtedly the times are changing but on what basis? Slim and trim as described by Hollywood is merely for image sake not for health. Truth be told many of the tinsel town A list do great damage to their health to keep their frames thin. Conversely many of the things we are told to do to be healthy may not be as beneficial as once thought. Nonetheless the desire for the perfect public image has become pervasive in our society. Imagine if you will a man such as William Howard Taft who at 350 pounds was elected as our nation’s 27th president? Today he would likely be deemed unfit and much too unhealthy for such high office. So Bob was right things are really changing.