We've all heard the discouraging reports that Americans are heavier and fatter than ever before. The average man in the United States weighs 25 pounds more than the average man weighed in 1960, and the average woman is 24 pounds heavier. Despite all the warnings about the dangers of being overweight, as a country, we just keep getting bigger and bigger. Why do so many people ignore the sound advice to eat less and exercise more? One reason is because it's hard work.
I came up with my solution after learning about what's going on in the women's clothing industry. Curiously, as women have become bigger and heavier, they still wear the same dress sizes as they did before — or even smaller sizes. It's all because of something called "vanity sizing." Because of its success, I think this concept could soon be used to make all of our measurements and weight go down.
Here's how vanity sizing works: When a woman who knows she has put on a few pounds and expanded a few inches lately goes shopping, she may be pleasantly surprised that she still wears the same size she wore when she was in high school. She knows this is impossible, but she still makes her purchases with a smile.
Certain designers and stores have fudged the numbers. What used to be a size 12 is now a size 10 or an 8. They know that shoppers are more likely to buy clothes that don't say, "Wow, you've really gotten fat." And again, even if the consumer knows deep down that these numbers have been played with, she's still happier about buying clothes with a lower number.
I'm sure this will soon spread to men's clothing. Those guys who barely squeeze into an extra-large T-shirt will probably soon be squeezing into T-shirts labeled "medium." And I'll bet they'll buy an extra shirt or two just because the new sizing makes them feel good about themselves.
But what about men's clothing whose sizes are in inches? If a guy used to have a 32-inch waist, and now he has a 40-inch waist, how are they going to trick him into thinking that he hasn't really gained all that much weight so he'll buy a new pair of pants instead of just walking out of the store and getting something to eat?
That's simple. Vanity sizing for men. Clothing manufacturers will just come up with a new way of measuring. Instead of using traditional inches, maybe they'll use something called "new inches." Let's say the new inch is 1¼ times the length of a real inch. So, the guy with the 40-inch waist will wear a size 32 in new inches. Once this plan is adopted, just watch those pants fly off the racks. And soon the "new" will be dropped, and this measurement will just be called "inches."
Weight can be dealt with in the same way. A "new pound" could weigh 1¼ times as much as an old pound — or 20 ounces. So, if you weigh 200 today, under the new system, you'll be a svelte 160.
With these changes, imagine how much happier people in our country will be. Their self-esteem will grow, their productivity at work will increase, and their personal relationships will improve. Our country will no longer have the shameful label of the "fattest nation in the world." We'll be a happy and proud land once again.
For those of you who think that we will be reluctant to change the way we are weighed and measured, I have some words of encouragement. Some people thought there would be a great resistance to the Euro in countries that had their own currency for years and years. But quicker than anyone thought, the Lira, the Mark, and the Franc have become antiquated terms as Europe has embraced the Euro. Similarly, our old pound and old inch will join the ranks of quaint measuring terms like the dram, the digit, and the cubit. Just as with the new size 8, we'll throw all logic to the winds and embrace the new inches and pounds because they'll make us feel good.
Changing people's mindset about weight and size — not to mention completely revolutionizing the tape measure industry — may sound like a lot of hard work. But is it really any harder than the alternative — eating less and exercising more?
Lloyd Garver writes a weekly column for SportsLine.com. He has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver