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Just over 10 years ago, The Times of London reported mat the traditional picture of the "overweight, pot-bellied, cigar-smoking tycoon as a figure of success is about to become redundant"

Not only has that cautionary prophesy been fulfilled, but along with it other enduring images of a decade ago have also tumbled off their pedestals—wide, child-bearing hips as a premium asset in the marriage market; thrice-over mamas with ample bosoms and well-padded laps; thrice-over papas with gell-o bellies on which to jiggle the little ones. Indeed, even babies have not been spared the rod — when was the last time you heard of a Bonny Baby contest? The politically-correct bannerline today is a 'Healthy Baby' contest, and if your one-year-old'’s too comfortably cocooned in layers of fat, that won't give you the edge that it once' did—quite the opposite, in fact

In decades past, the pressures to chisel that middle and tight that cellulite were fuelled almost entirely by cosmetic considerations. One reason for the increase in contemporary pressures is that excess weight has now become a major health concern. In fact, a good chunk of the world's professionals — nutritionists, researchers, doctors, gym instructors, masseurs, gizmo hucksters — depend for their very raison d'etre on the continuing fight against fat

SO, WHY DO YOU FEEL SO CONFUSED?

What makes it difficult for those they aim to serve is that there is no unequivocal agreement among these various experts on what constitutes a healthy weight. Different height-weight charts are in circulation, multifarious formulas and methods are in use, all purporting to tell you whether you've crossed the healthy-weight limit: from the fatuous ruler-on-your-belly test to the calipers-pinch check to underwater weighing.

And just look at those experts poised at the two extreme ends of the Ideal-Weight spectrum. Ranged on one side: the heavyweight exponents of "underfeeding" as a means of increasing

lifespan.

Ranged on the other side — equally stalwart proponents of the "extra padding" school of thinking who insist that reserves of fat are necessary to stave off disease — and live longer. Among them: Dr. Reubin Andres, clinical director of the National Institute on Aging in the U.S.

Whom do you believe? Nobody could blame you if, based on the current flip-flop thinking about body weight, your answer to the question, "Are you (i) too fat? (ii) too thin? (iii) none of the above?" is (iii).

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