Gaining Weight
by Holly Varni
April 21, 2022

I was playing bridge with a group of ladies when one of them mentioned she was struggling to keep her weight up. Her doctor even told her she wasn’t allowed to lose any more weight and, if she could, to try to gain a few pounds. I about choked on my cookie. Gain weight? My doctor has never made that request. I always get the cholesterol, sodium, and fiber lecture. There is also the issue of the calculation error when I step onto the scale. I never seem to get the nurse who understands that clothing and shoes add ten pounds to my weight. I ask every time that she deduct that from the number written on my chart, but it doesn’t happen. Once the doctor walks in, it’s pretty much downhill from there.

I can’t even imagine a discussion centered around things I should be eating to put on some extra cushion on my frame. But when I thought about it, it made sense. Being skinny as an elderly person isn’t considered desirable but dangerous because you’re put into the “frail” category. You don’t appear as if you could handle a tumble and simply walk away with a bruise. Nope. If you’re too thin, people think about how a strong gust of wind might inflict a fracture, sending you straight to the nursing home.

This isn’t a new revelation. Our ancestors knew that carrying some extra weight was good for survival. It helped keep you warm over the winter and gave you some leeway if there wasn’t enough food to go around. I was also raised on the idea that grandmas should be a little pudgy. It not only adds to the warm and snuggly image, but my mother believed having more padding plumped out the lines in your face and made you look younger. She warned that the super-skinny age like prunes and appear as if they should be carrying coffins in the back of their cars to save time.

Extra chub also offers the illusion of strength and vitality. When a person is so slight in stature that you feel the skeletal structure in their back, you press lighter or barely at all. The loving exchange becomes as distant as an air kiss a couple inches away from the cheek with you leaning in for an embrace but not actually holding the person at all. It stands to reason that someone would rather wrap their arms around a meatball than a picked-at chicken bone. For the sake of emotional connection, good hugs require some stuffing. When you were a child and you squeezed your teddy bear, no one ever told you, “Not too hard—you might break it.” The same theory applies to humans. No one wants to hold a person they think can be easily crushed.

There is also the hypocrisy of never questioning the added flab on our furry friends. Who has ever heard of a sad fat cat? It’s the thin, emaciated-looking ones that make us cringe and go into rescue mode to save them from obvious starvation. We pamper and plump those we love. The sight of a portly pussy cat sleeping in the sun is the epitome of a good life.

I’m beginning to think there is a link between being heavy and happy.

As soon as I can find a pair of pants that I can button closed, I’m going to go to my doctor to ask why he hasn’t suggested I gain weight.