Stop the burpees, put down the kettlebell, spit out that paleo-approved bison jerky —s cience is here to piss you off with contrary news yes again. Research published by scientists tackling issues surrounding weight gain have come to the irritating possibility that having a little extra padding might actually protect your health, and that eating too much on a date might actually help you look a little more attractive to your would-be lover. While obviously morbid obesity is horrific, occaisionally pigging out on pizza might be just fine, and even good for you to boot.
Let's look a little closer at these possibly contradictory turns of science:
The possibility that fat can protect health is, as you might expect, called the "obesity paradox." Writing for Quartz, Harriet Brown explains that "dozens of studies" have verified the paradox is real, and apparently broadly beneficial. "Being overweight," Brown wrote, "is now believed to help protect patients with an increasingly long list of medical problems, including pneumonia, burns, stroke, cancer, hypertension, and heart disease." Of course many have also tried to poke holes in the research supporting the existence of the paradox, but cardiologist Gregg Fonarow told Quartz that the paradox has "been shown consistently enough in different disease states."
How does that even work? One explanation offered by Brown indicates that maybe we've been fed skewed data about the health of normal weight people all along by the medical and fitness sectors—Brown cites the fact that unhealthy smokers sometimes have a perfect or even low Body Mass Index (BMI). Perhaps some slightly heftier folks are unexpectedly healthy because society's expectations about "what constitutes normal weight" is fundamentally flawed.
Maybe healthy guys with guts acquire them by hanging out and eating pizza to impress. Again, it's university research, so it must be right. The Cornell University Chronicle recently published a report about a university study done that "shows men eat significantly more food when in the company of women." Researchers stated they believed men pig out for evolutionary reasons. Basically, guys are programmed to prove our power by devouring:
For the study, Cornell researchers from the Food and Brand Lab observed adults lunching at an all-you-can-eat Italian buffet. They found men who dined with at least one woman ate 93 percent more pizza compared with those who ate exclusively with other men. That tendency to overeat extended to healthier options as well: Men ate 86 percent more salad in the company of women.
So healthy or not, that spare tire might just be it's own twisted feat of strength. Unfortunately, while guys are peacocking via copious pizza ingestion, Cornell's study found "women eating with men reported feeling rushed during the meal and perceived that they overate despite researchers finding no evidence that they did so." This means it's probably a good idea to really think about her the next time you're chowing down together and find another way to puff out your feathers.
Not that we're going back on the case for eating that pizza. No way—we already reported in September on the fact that a study done by Chapman University revealed that men who are at a normal or above normal weight report having more sex partners than underweight men. Add this to the Obesity Paradox and you have a good case for deleting that calorie tracking app and just winging it.
Or do you? Responsible note of caution time: Even if extra baggage isn't as dangerous as we've been told by doctors, coaches and that one really annoying ex who always ate kale, it might stand between you and the perfect job. A joint study conducted by Rice University and the University of North Carolina in Charlotte sent normal weight men out for job interviews or to shop in various retail situations. Then they sent the same guys out wearing fat suits, a.k.a. "overweight prosthetics."
They discovered something pretty depressing—the "overweight" men "did experience greater amounts of interpersonal discrimination or subtle negative behavior" when they interacted with others. The study, which was published in The Journal of Applied Psychology, hinted that overweight guys could have a tougher time getting new jobs and more difficulty getting good service when they were shopping.
The takeaway seems more positive than negative overall, though. So the next time it's the weekend and time for a little Netflix and chill, consider sizing up the takeout pizza and saying to hell with the light beer as well. Go ahead and treat yourself — after all, you've earned it.
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