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Silver Threads: Coming out on the obesity list

Last fall, my husband and I at different times visited our primary care physician for updates on our physical well-being — or not. You know the drill — weighing in, a height check, being pinched and patted and probed here and there, a mammogram and PAP smear for me, pulse rate and blood pressure readings and then being sent to the lab to part with vials of that stuff to which Dracula was so addicted.

When my husband’s lab report came back, we were surprised to learn that he is obese. Granted, he doesn’t have the 30-inch waistline or flat stomach that he had when we met 54 years ago, but still — he’s in good shape for a man of 82 and most people wouldn’t even call him fat. He’s certainly no John Goodman, who has made a ton of money — no pun intended — displaying some hefty acting skills. (I was going to use Sidney Greenstreet or Sebastian Cabot here, but who under age 65 would remember those sizeable thespians?)

Anyhow, my own lab report came in about a month later, and — ta dah! — I, too, am obese.

Now, I am of a build on which everything has pretty much settled in the middle — back and front — and I flatter or perhaps delude myself that when I wear a coat or long jacket it goes unnoticed by most people except those overly critical. I doubt the casual observer would judge me obese.

That got me to thinking about the many newspaper stories I read last year imparting the information that dwindling numbers of skinny, thin and other Americans who weigh just what they should are being surrounded by ever-increasing numbers of the fat, too-fat, and genuinely obese. Fast food outlets were given a share of the blame for this situation, and for several weeks, it seemed, we received dire warnings about this crisis.

Let it be said that I don’t doubt we are too fat, getting fatter, and getting fatter earlier. Who among us of a certain age ever had more than one really fat kid in his or her class? Personally, I blame childhood blubber on a lack of exercise during an era when youngsters can’t roam as widely or freely as they once did, teachers impose homework that requires them to sit down again to do it after they get home from school, and the apps on pads and pods that keep them sitting down, etc.

But back to my own problem. A few months after I was adjudged obese by the laboratory of the medical institution that I visit, I began getting emails from senders wishing to help me address my problem.

The first purported to be from my husband. It bore his name, but an unfamiliar web mail address. It suggested that I might consider purchasing “green coffee beans,” which would be on sale for only a limited time, and would miraculously divest me of those shameful pounds.

The second email, touting the same product, came under the name of one of my step-grandsons and also had an unfamiliar address. Then when more emails arrived, I found that whoever sent them had dropped the gambit of posing as a concerned loved one, and also sometimes varied the fat-reducing products offered.

I’m used to getting messages aimed at older folks — for motorized chairs, health insurance policies, products for folks with certain age-related ailments, cosmetic treatments for wrinkles, etc., even though I’ve never looked at any of those things on the Internet and thus left a “cookie” at a site. Somebody up on that cloud knows how old I am, and makes pitches accordingly.

But I’d rather my obesity be a private matter, concealed under a long jacket for as many years as possible.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at



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