MCCULLOUGH: Trapped miners and a weighty problem

Nate McCullough

Nate McCullough

Don’t get too fat to be rescued — that was one of the most important messages delivered this week to the Chilean miners trapped a half mile underground.

Officials aren’t telling the men how long it will take to rescue them (up to four months), but it can’t be hard for the miners to figure out that it will be awhile. After all, why else would you tell previously starving men not to get fat unless you knew rescue wasn’t imminent?

When rescue does come, the men can’t have a waist circumference of more than 35 inches to be able to fit in the basket that will pull them through the tunnel to safety.

The first thing I thought when I heard that was, “I’d be dead.”

In fact, the Associated Press reported that according to the Centers for Disease Control, most Americans would be dead, the average waist of both sexes exceeding that number by two to four inches. That gives a new perspective on how deadly being overweight can be.

About four years ago I wrote a column about the obesity epidemic, how I was part of it and I didn’t want to be anymore. Then I promptly did what most of us fat people do: Nothing.

Well, that’s not quite true. I played at it for awhile and lost a few pounds, but I never made the grand effort I’d intended to make and eventually gave up again. Then, in March of 2008 — on my birthday — weighing the most I’d ever weighed, the doctor hit me with a triple-whammy: High blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes.

Happy birthday to me.

That motivated me a bit. I started shedding pounds slowly — very slowly. For two years the number on the scale has dropped in incredibly tiny increments. But I moved on at my snail’s pace and this week hit a milestone — 50 pounds lost.

Don’t go showering me with confetti just yet though. I could’ve done a lot better. My goal should’ve been within reach by now instead of still a pinpoint in the distance.

And now here comes yet another motivation to get the lead out. We think of all the health-related problems that go along with obesity — the increased risks of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and pretty much any other ailment you care to name. But I daresay not many overweight people have ever given much thought to the idea of being too fat to be rescued.

In fact, even those other ailments are usually a million miles away to the average obese person. It takes years for the silent killer to sneak up on you. But what about if it’s something that’s right now, urgent, today?

We overweight people are great at accommodating ourselves to avoid discomfort or embarrassment. We know which restaurants have the biggest booths and we’re experts at turning down invitations to pool parties. But what happens when the day comes when it’s beyond control and its not just discomfort but life-threatening? What happens when your life or someone else’s depends on you running fast or fitting into something?

I’ll tell you what happens. Darwinism takes over and it literally becomes survival of the fittest.

Time to start working on that next 50.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.