Tuesday, July 31, 2007
by Wayne Besen
A weighty new study released last week suggested that if you can't make your podgy friends purge, you might have to purge your podgy friends. Harvard Medical School's Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that having a portly pal increased a person's chances of becoming obese by a whopping 57-percent. That's right, the weight of your friend Jim matters more than how much weight you lift in the gym.
The most amazing part of the research revealed that having a best friend who became obese increased your risk 171 percent, even if your chum lives hundreds of miles away. Who would have guessed that Twinkies were telepathic?
As you can imagine, the effects of this study reverberated as tons of people were kicked off "buddies lists" on My Space if they took up too much space. Some people even went further, having a "maximum friend weight capacity," like an elevator. Even Ronald MacDonald reportedly told Grimace he had to switch from shakes to salads.
The consequences rapidly filtered their way into the political arena giving an edge to the campaigns of Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrat Barak Obama. Huckabee, who lost more than 100 pounds while Governor of Arkansas, unveiled his new campaign slogan: "Cutting Taxes and Tushes." Meanwhile, Obama's campaign revealed its motto: "Obama - More than Just a Thin Resume."
Meanwhile, the new study jeopardized Al Gore's ballooning presidential chances with a high priced consultant having been overheard telling the former Vice President, "Forget carbon neutral, people want a president who is carb neutral."
Of course, with George W. Bush we can all see the benefits of having a Commander in Chief who is physically fit. Not only is he a role model for our chubby children, but he actually looked like a model when he squeezed his svelte bod into that flight suit announcing our victory in Iraq on that aircraft carrier.
The timing could also not have been better for Bush's ideologue Surgeon General nominee James Holsinger. Holsinger is in a bruising Senate confirmation hearing and came under withering criticism by GLBT advocates for starting a Kentucky church with an "ex-gay" ministry. This new study helps him shift the message to his non-gay obsession, reducing childhood obesity, and lets him focus on the less controversial and more medically sound practice of praying away the pounds.
While I try not to use this column to be judgmental, (Well, maybe sometimes)the truth is, this epidemic had to start with one person before it spread like a virus. Personally, I blame the late Rev. Jerry Falwell for making America fatter and think he is Patient "Zero Bar."
Think about it. In 1980, he burst onto the scene with his Moral Majority and as his influence expanded, so did his (and our) waistlines. For those old enough, just ask yourself, weren't you thinner before you heard of Falwell? See, the proof is in the pudding, so to speak.
What is depressing about this obesity study is that the same principles don't apply to other areas in life. Why can't hanging out with wealthy friends make us rich, for example? Or, why can't going to karaoke with talented friends make us better singers?
Unfortunately, this study can't easily be replicated because the data was mined from a prior Massachusetts heart study that consisted of 12,067 people and took over three decades to complete. The only realistic way to confirm the results is to stick Paris Hilton in a jail cell with Perez Hilton for six months and see if she covers him in whipped cream and eats him.
In the end, I'm not really sure what to do with such research other than ignore it or be paranoid my good buddies are consuming Nutty Buddies without having the decency to tell me that I won't fit into my new blue jeans by September.
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