Jewish World Review Dec. 2, 2002 / 27 Kislev, 5763

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

Don't worry, be fat, unfit and really happy | In yet another victory for self-delusion, nearly one in five U.S. workers claims to be in excellent health despite being overweight, smoking, drinking too much and/or never exercising.

In a nationwide study released by Oxford Health Plans Inc., 17 percent of workers described their health as excellent. Of those 17 percent, 55 percent said they were at least 25 pounds overweight, 31 percent smoked, 21 percent drank at least three alcoholic drinks a day, 29 percent drank at least four cups of coffee or tea and 36 percent never exercised.

Of the 83 percent of workers who described their health as less than excellent, 63 percent exist on tofu and bran chaff and whine constantly about how hungry they are, 15 percent are former smokers who now make life miserable for those who still do, 38 percent have suffered some sort of gastric disorder from drinking tainted mineral water and 82 percent are those sad, wan joggers that you throw your sausage McMuffin wrapper at while you're driving to work.

Actually, I made that last paragraph up (I think), but the point is that a lot of people who treat their bodies like toxic waste dumps actually feel good. This, in my opinion (if not most doctors'), represents a tremendous step forward for gluttonous, out-of-shape Americans who have been persecuted too long by the ab-crunching, latté-swilling, 12-portions-of-fruits-and-vegetables-a-day set. Sure, these people have bodies as hard as golf balls and they have limitless energy and they'll probably all live to be 150, but they feel like crud.


Because they're consumed with living a healthy life. It's all they think about. If they put a teaspoon of dressing on their salad, they feel fat for a week. If they pass by a bar and a waft of cigarette smoke drifts out, they're convinced that a tumor the size of a grapefruit will instantly appear on their lung. If they miss their morning jog for some silly reason like a tornado or their daughter's wedding, they'll convince themselves that they can actually hear their arteries snapping shut.

People with unhealthy lifestyles worry about none of that stuff. What worries they do have are more practical, like whether they're too drunk to drive to the convenience store for more cigarettes and Slim Jims.

If you read the Oxford Health Plans report in a certain way (upside down in a darkened room), you could come to the conclusion that people who abuse their bodies make the best employees. According to the report, of those people with the most bad habits, 37 percent sit at their desk all day, 41 percent take no breaks from work and 18 percent lose sleep over work. It seems to me that these are exactly the qualities corporate management is looking for in employees these days: People who not only work ceaselessly while they're at work, but actually sit up at night worrying about the work they'll have to do the next day.

The report gives no indication what the people with the fewest bad habits are doing while their fat, nicotine-addicted colleagues are shouldering the entire load. If I had to guess, I'd say they were out in the parking lot doing some jumping jacks or maybe busy peeling a grape for their lunch.

Clearly, we Americans have turned a corner. (Probably without bothering to use our turn signal.) The unfit have finally thrown off the shackles of tyranny of the fit, even if we did have to pause to catch our breath while we were doing it. We may be dead before we turn 40 but by G-d we think we're healthy.

And that's more than a lot of other people can say.

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2002, Sarasota Herald Tribune