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Mike Redmond Column

Please refer to the Mike Redmond Column main page for columns published in other issues.
Mike can be contacted via e-mail at




 Is Obesity Contagious? Fat Chance!

OK, let me see if I get this straight: Obesity is now a socially contagious disease.

Wow. Things certainly have changed since Mr. Rostenkowski showed that movie about socially contagious diseases to the seventh grade boys. It was an Army training film and it was so scary that Alan Kruglak wet his pants. But I digress.

The obesity thing was all over the news recently, about how researchers have found a social component – in other words, if your friends and family are chunky, chances are you will be, too.

Now, by no means do I want you to think I am making light of the obesity epidemic. Far from it. One look at me would indicate that this would be a SERIOUS case of a pot belly calling someone else a kettle butt. Just wanted to make that clear.

The federally-funded study found a person's chances of becoming obese went up 57 percent if a friend did, 40 percent if a sibling did and 37 percent if a spouse did. In the closest friendships, the risk almost tripled. In same-sex friendships, a person's obesity risk increased by 71 percent if a friend gained weight. Between brothers, the risk was up by 44 percent, but it was 67 percent between sisters. I can already hear my sisters complaining.

I am thrilled, just THRILLED, to learn that my personal poundage isn’t just because I find it difficult to stop at the customary four servings of chicken and noodles, with mashed potatoes underneath and bread and butter on the side. Nope, I’m a pie butt because I have overweight friends and relatives. And the same, of course, is true for them because they have me.

Now to this corpulent influence of friends and relatives we must apply certain mathematical, sociological and anthropological concepts in order to gain context, or something. Therefore, by adding the theory of six degrees of separation, by which everyone pretty much knows everyone else in the world give or take six people, plus the tradition of hospitality (“Water for my horses and hot fudge sundaes for my men!”), times The Clean Plate Rule, The Take All You Want But Eat All You Take Rule, The Share With Your Sister Rule, Robert’s Rules Of Order, and the Order Of The Flaming Shish Kebab First Class, we can determine as follows:

Everyone who is overweight can blame it on one guy who lives in Pittsburgh.

Either that or it’s the fault of everyone you know, and everyone they know, and every one THEY know, and so on, until the entire population of the Earth is implicated.

Either THAT or we’re all responsible for everyone else’s weight in addition to our own. Frankly, I don’t need that kind of pressure. I feel enough guilt as it is.

Actually, it seems to me that no matter what the percentages say, ultimately we’re still all responsible for our own individual shapes. Our friends and relatives may have influence, but the responsibility still rests – and dines – with us.

Which, come to think of it, was kind of what Mr. Rostenkowski was trying to tell me when he said I was running with a bad crowd. All of whom, I now remember, were not only little hoodlums, but doughnut lovers as well. Especially Alan. Or, as he was also known, Ol’ Soggy Britches.




© 2007 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.