What should we believe?

One study suggests overweight people may live longer, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Like many people in the world, I made several resolutions for the new year, one of which is to lose weight. (The “goal gurus” suggest that placing a specific target number is a guaranteed way to fail, but my stomach and I have agreed on 15 pounds.) My orthopedist has told me that my knees and my back would thank me if I could drop a few pounds.

Of course, there are other, well-documented reasons why maintaining a healthy weight is beneficial, so it’s hard to find a reason why an overweight person would not aspire to a more svelte figure. So imagine my surprise the other night when, on the TV news, I heard a report from a scientist from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that posits that being a few pounds overweight might actually help you live longer.

In the report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Katherine Flegal of the CDC says overweight people have a 6% decreased “risk of death” compared with people who have a normal weight. (I always thought the risk of death was the same for every person—100%. What Flegal is trying to suggest is that overweight people have a 6% chance of living longer.)

It wasn’t long before the skeptics descended upon Flegal’s report, decried it as “rubbish.” One of the most vocal has been Dr. Walter Willett, an epidemiologist with the Harvard School of Public Health. In an article published on National Public Radio’s website, Willett said that the Flegal’s research is simplistic, since it relied primarily on measuring people’s Body Mass Index and doesn’t take into account a wide variety of other factors regarding people in the study, such as the fact that some thin people might be so because they suffer from illnesses that could cut short their lives

"We have a huge amount of other literature showing that people who gain weight or are overweight, have increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, many cancers and many other conditions," Willett was quoted in the article.

Reports like this always remind me of a book I read when I was in college, for a communications course called, aptly, “Persuasion.” Called How To Lie With Statistics, the tome demonstrated various ways in which people can bend and twist information to “prove” whatever point they are trying to make—and not always for nefarious reasons. Often, the problem is simply one of perception: you believe a certain thing; therefore, you tend either to see more data or give more weight to data that appear to validate your perception.

The bottom line is that humans are complex creatures, with no single type of measurement able to adequately capture them, and yet scientists continue to try. But I think it’s up to us as individuals to be honest with ourselves and have the courage and the discipline to do what’s right for us.

Despite how right Katherine Flegal may believe she is about those extra few pounds, I know that my current weight makes me less mobile and more prone to pain in my knees and back. So I think I’ll just go ahead and lose a few pounds. If I can accomplish that, I might die sooner, but my joints will die happy.

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
shaking hands graphic

Anyone who has moseyed down the self-help section of the local bookstore, probably has picked up on the mantra that positive relationships are built on trust. Employer-employee bonds are no different, according to research published in the January-February issue of Harvard Business Review. The study reports that employees at high-trust companies experience 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days and 76% more engagement. Here’s how operators can start putting those numbers on the board.

Putting in the effort

At the University of...

Ideas and Innovation
bowling ball pins

We patterned our chef culinary competition after the one pioneered by the University of Massachusetts. This year, 11 teams of college chefs registered. Each team gets the same market basket and has two hours to prepare three dishes. The starting times have to be staggered and nobody wants the 6 a.m. slot, so instead of randomly assigning times, this year we took the teams bowling and used their scores to determine starting times. The two teams with the highest combined bowling score got to pick their time slot first. Going bowling built camaraderie and team spirit before the teams even got...

Managing Your Business
performance review anxiety

For all the most obvious reasons, managers and staff don’t always agree. But both sides can get behind retiring annual performance reviews, according to a January survey from software company Adobe, which quit the practice in 2012. There, 64% of surveyed workers and 62% of supervisors consider yearly evaluations outdated.

“My philosophy is if I have to wait a year to tell you where you stand, it’s a little too late,” says Al Ferrone, senior director of dining services at the University of California at Los Angeles. Ferrone and other operators are reforming the meetings to add real...

Ideas and Innovation
woman sick phone bed

Our employees have paid time off, but if they don’t call in at least one hour before their scheduled shift, their PTO will be docked for the day. We also assign points for unapproved absences. Everyone starts with a freebie, and when they get to 4, then we start the disciplinary action process. When a staff member gets to 10 points, that is grounds for termination.

FSD Resources