Those Wily Skinny-Folk

6 Apr

This being an introductory post and me being tired, I figure I’d better go with something light, so let’s start with a headline that made me chuckle:

“8 Sneaky ways to burn calories without sweating.”

This delightful piece of health reporting comes to us through Yahoo news, from the editors of “Prevention.” Should one ever be stuck in a situation where burning extra calories is against the rules, these are the people you turn to for help.

The opening paragraph emphasizes sitting less and standing more, based on mounting evidence that excessive time spent sitting or sedentary is harmful to health (hear, hear!).

The first of our sneaky remedies, following this principle, is “Limit yourself to one TV show,” going on to note that “when it comes to the tube, there’s such a thing as too much downtime” and further that watching TV burns barely more calories than sleeping. I have no reason to doubt this, but it seems to me that they may be missing something…

But they’ve got the big guns backing their one-show recommendation: ¬†“Harvard researchers have found that every 2 hours spent watching television increases the likelihood of obesity by 23% and raises your risk of developing diabetes by 14%.” Surely, this must indicate a direct causative link between obesity and television-watching. Perhaps the light patterns from the screen stimulate our nervous system to ramp up fat storage, and if you were to simply sit on the couch and stare at the wall for three hours every day instead you’d stay fit as a fiddle. This being understood, sticking to one show is a good compromise, right?

Eventually, we might hope to design new TV screens that avoid this effect, allowing people to watch as much as six hours a day with no risk of obesity. I can hear the detractors now, shouting “that study misconstrued correlation as causation, the sitting aspect was entirely responsible for the outcomes and TV itself had nothing to do with it!” These typical, rabid protesters always come writhing out of the woodwork whenever progress is made. They suggest silly things like standing or working out while watching television (as much as you want, they claim), while ignoring the vital obesity-causing factor that’s clearly inherent to television itself.

Tip 2 amounts to “take the stairs.”

Damn straight. Of course, they’ve got backup here as well: “exercise scientists calculated that by taking just two more flights of stairs (up and down) each day, you could burn off 6 pounds in a year.” I’m not sure what an “exercise scientist” is supposed to be, but I’m sure this weight-loss thing is exactly as simple as they make it out to be.

Next one:  Walk the halls at work

Alright, well, I’ve never really worked in a place that had halls. But I’m sure everyone else who reads that article does.

Number Four: Stand at your desk

Now, I’m already familiar with a whole host of research showing that standing at a desk, rather than sitting, has a number of health benefits. I’m standing as I type this, having raised my rickety desk with an old lobster trap. But I’m glad to know, thanks to this article, that every hour I do so I’ll be burning a whole quarter of a McDonald’s Sausage McMuffin rather than just an eighth.

The article goes on to discuss sitting on balls (of the swiss variety), doing your own darn housework (it makes sense, but I just can’t bear the idea of firing my team of maids and little old gardener) rather than hiring someone like I’m sure we all do, cooking your own food (burns twice as many calories as the strenuous act of making a phone call!), and purchasing a subtly-endorsed piece of exercise equipment as additional Sneaky Ways to Burn Calories Without Sweating. All very well supported, like the first four.

And this brings us to my objection: How are these stealthy, and who says you aren’t going to sweat?

Clomping up the stairs is noisy. Most offices require you to ask permission to use a standing desk. Walking around your workplace is actively as possible is pretty conspicuous; just exactly how are these actions sneaky, and just exactly who is being snuk upon?

It’s also pretty easy to get sweaty digging a garden on a reasonably warm day, and you’d better hope none of these staircases are more than a few flights if you want to avoid damp pits.

I find a solution to my puzzlement in the headline of another health-reporting article:

“7 Secrets of Slim People.”

Starting off with drinking green tea, not a single one of their recommendations is anything I haven’t already seen in a hundred similar articles. It just seems like filler, which gets me to thinking…

“Sneakiness” is here being associated with leanness. Slim people are full of “secrets.” It’s as if these titles are all oriented towards instilling a subconscious distrust of the svelte.

Personally, I feel attacked.

More important than that, I’m convinced that I have just uncovered a conspiratorial plot by the conservative media to ensure that Obama loses in 2012. After years of bombardment with these subliminal messages, who’s gonna vote for that skinny bastard?

Mr. President, if you want to have even a fleeting chance in the next election, I recommend you take a seat in that nice comfy oval office chair in front of the brightest TV screen you can find, and don’t go anywhere. And hire some more housekeepers while you’re at it. That should fill you out a bit.