When my husband asked me if I heard about the new study that claims obesity is a social disease, my first response was "I don't buy it."
I tend to do that a lot: I hear the summary of a thought and pass judgement immediately.
"No, really. It says here that once a person becomes obese for whatever reason, it may make it more socially acceptable for people close to him or her to gain weight, and that new social norms can proliferate quickly. Really, just think how many of our social gatherings revolve around food."
"Somebody actually PAID somebody to study this? That body size can be in fashion? That the 'birds of a feather adage,' may not be in play in weight? Whoa nellie. Back up the truck."
"OK, now you're just making fun of me," he said, miffed that I wasn't taking him seriously.
"No, your right. There's definitely something to this theory that obesity may have a social component. ... Like when everybody and their mothers were trying to get the 'pooch,' the little tubby potbelly everyone thought was sexy. And how all the models bulked up during the 80s when Reagan was in office, but then slimmed down again during the Clinton administration."
And the more I thought about it the more rational, even comforting, the thought became.
Is it possible that the BACK FAT I've recently acquired after incubating the Champ might actually be because all my friends are doing it and NOT merely a stunning lack of physical activity mixed with over indulging in copious amounts of junk food? Pass the Ho-Hos, where do I sign up?
I mean, really. ... I'm never going back to the days when my friends and I would get together and exercise. Long gone are the long walks after sunrise. Now the most I can manage on the rare occasion is to weed my sorry strip of garden alongside the house. I didn't even have the stamina to watch when a volleyball game broke out at a barbecue over the weekend. This study may just give me the impetus to ditch any and all remaining thin friends. stock up on Ben and Jerry's New York Superfudge Chunk and stay in the house all day watching back to back Law and Order reruns.
Turns out my friends are 57 percent as likely to gain weight after I do even if we only call each other friends but never actually see each other. Friends who move away might as well burn my address and stop sending Christmas cards because this study claims if they don't they'll still be trapped in my weight-gaining whirlwind. It doesn't matter if they move to Peru, they're still influenced by me and my back fat.
But what if my friends no longer find their back fat acceptable? What if they are successful in getting rid of the unsightly bulge? Not to worry, I, too, will miraculously shape myself accordingly. Then all I would have to do is dump all my non-back-fat shedding friends to keep the weight off.
Oh, and it's not just friends and neighbors I call friends (the neighbors we don't like are apparently safe from my back fat) it's also my husband, but to a lesser degree. Should I become obese, he's is only 37 percent more likely to become obese in just a few years. What a shocker! Perhaps we should divorce before it comes to that. It would NOT be pleasant to go through life with a husband sporting his pregnancy weight back fat.
But really, how ground breaking is it to realize we are keeping up with the Jones' on the bathroom scale as well as in the driveway and on the fashion runway?
What this study is seriously suggesting, and what scientists are all spinning their wheels about, is the idea that if there is a social component to weight gain there should be an equal and opposite social component to weight loss. And such a finding will make socially-driven programs and group weight loss endeavors more effective in fighting our battles with bulge. I wonder if the Weight Watcher's people know about this?