Jewish World Review Dec. 9, 2004 / 26 Kislev, 5765

Issac J. Bailey

Issac J. Bailey
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Consumer Reports

A healthy view on weight | I wanted him to eat that oatmeal. He HAD to eat it. That morning I stood over my 2-year-old son after making him a bowl of oatmeal. He took two spoonfuls. And stopped.

And I got angry, lifted the spoon to his mouth ... and grew angrier when he rejected it.

He had to eat that oatmeal because in my mind, he was too small. That's all my wife and I had heard for more than two years.

When he was born, he barely tipped the lower end of the weight scale, coming in somewhere in the bottom 5 percentile. From the time we left the hospital, we heard about it daily. "He's so thin. Was he a preemie?"

For months, we had extra checkups with the pediatrician. And there were days I was happy to feed him an extra cookie, hoping snacks would fatten him up. But nothing worked. He continued to grow long and lean.

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That's part of the reason I almost exploded that morning. Because I desperately wanted him to reach that magic number, that magic size, when all the world would finally see what his doctor already knew.

He was healthy. Exceptionally so.

Yet in so many eyes, he was too small, too thin. But now he eats. Everything.

So maybe in a few years I'll have the opposite concern, like most of America. That he'll be too big, too fat, his body mass index out of range.

Because we all seem obsessed. Obsessed with forcing one another into tiny boxes, about what is and isn't the correct size. So obsessed we've allowed the myth of a runaway epidemic of obesity to go almost unchallenged, even after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was forced recently to admit it overestimated — by a wide margin — the growth in the number of deaths caused by too much weight.

We've grown lazy, seemed to have forgotten that size doesn't determine one's level of health, that an active "fat" man is often healthier than a "thin" inactive one.

We've ignored the fact that in 1998, almost 40 million people became overweight or obese overnight, without gaining a pound, because of the government's decision to shift slightly what it considered a healthy weight; a decision some scientists questioned then as they are now.

Maybe out of vanity we've trumpeted the warped message that says, "Lose weight," rather than, "Be healthy," while pretending the two are one and the same. A message we are sending loudly and clearly to our children.

Issac J. Bailey is a columnist for the Myrtle Beach, S.C., Sun News. Comment by clicking here.


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© The Sun News (Myrtle Beach, S.C.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.