Reader Mailbag #71

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Each Monday, The Simple Dollar opens up the reader mailbags and answers ten to twenty simple questions offered up by the readers on personal finance topics and many other things. Got a question? Ask it in the comments. You might also enjoy the archive of earlier reader mailbags.

Being fat is voluntary. People make a choice to eat unhealthy and not excercise. Therefore, it should never be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Lindsay

This was such an egregious comment that I felt the need to clearly respond to it.

Being fat is sometimes voluntary, but in many cases it is not. Many illnesses bring on unwanted and unwarranted weight gain – my uncle’s liver problems caused him to gain huge amounts of weight with basically no change in diet or activity, going from a formerly rail-thin person to someone who was very overweight. Many medications bring on unwanted weight gain – many thyroid medications, resulting from conditions present at birth, result in excessive weight that’s far beyond the choice of the person.

The problem with being overweight is that sometimes it is the result of personal choice and sometimes it is not – yet it is often assumed that it is due to poor choice, a trap that Lindsay falls directly into.

Yes, it’s true that an overweight person might result in a greater cost for a business that might hire that person – they’re statistically more likely to have heart disease, etc. However, one could make the same argument for a female – they’re statistically more likely to have children than men, thus they’re more likely to need maternal leave and incur replacement costs. Yet the former argument is accepted, while the latter argument is sexist?

Forms of discrimination that are clearly based on factors that are beyond a person’s choice – sex, skin coloration, ethnicity – are clearly frowned upon in modern society. Just because we went through revolutions throwing off racism and sexism doesn’t mean that there aren’t still big forms of discrimination out there.

The way I see it, a person is a person, and as Martin Luther King said, a person should be judged by the content of their character. Being overweight might mean that they have some personal issues – or it might just mean that they were born with a thyroid condition. Either way, what matters is how they treat others and what they produce with their time.

I live in Chile and i’m planning on getting a macbook laptop in my next trip to the states.
i was wandering, considering the vast world of choices available in the computer world, if it was really worth it.

- Ricardo Carrasco

I think it really comes down to how vital a computer is for the work you do.

If you’re just checking email or web surfing for convenience, there’s no reason not to just get a netbook and call it good enough. If you’re going to be doing Photoshop and intend to use it as your primary workstation, then a Macbook makes more sense.

For the work I do, which is slowly expanding into lots of videoconferencing, podcasting, video editing, image editing, and so on, I’m saving for a Macbook Pro for my next portable computer purchase. My desktop Mac is simply the best computer I’ve ever used – to have that portable would be invaluable.

You wrote an article some days ago: “Using Consumer Reports to Assemble Your Grocery List” which talks about Consumer Reports, but you have previously deleted your earlier content pointing to them. Your reason for doing so was “Consumer Reports has asked me to eliminate the content of my summaries and any other references to the content of Consumer Reports. I have complied.”

Now if they (Consumer Reports) do not want to be mentioned then why have you mentioned them again?
- Tordr

Over time, Consumer Reports is figuring out how the internet works.

When I first started blogging, they were pretty agreeable to most writing about their publication. In 2008, possibly because of online backlash about their child safety seat articles, they suddenly went through a very draconian phase, where they complained loudly about all “unofficial” mention of their work.

Since then, they’ve taken a more open turn, encouraging people to write and discuss CR information – a policy that’s much more reasonable.

For organizations rooted in old media, the transition to a world where people will quote and talk about your information freely is a hard one. CR is figuring it all out, one step at a time.

I’m a little puzzled about the Twitter goal. I can understand that increased blog subscriptions probably means increased traffic/profit (and I’m not knocking that). I don’t understand what benefit you derive from 25,000 Twitter followers, unless it’s mainly that it increases recognition of your work.
- bethh

The Twitter goal – frankly, all my goals – come back to one thing: reaching as many people as I can with ideas about managing their money a little better and perhaps putting their life on a new path.

The numbers themselves are mostly goals, to give me something clear and tangible to strive for. In both cases, it keeps me focused on writing and sharing good, worthwhile, valuable stuff that people can actually use and relate to. I use readership numbers because if I’m picking up new readers, I’m doing something right.

High targets – like 25,000 Twitter followers in a year and 100,000 site subscribers in a year – make me really think about what I can do to strongly appeal to people: make personal finance accessible, make it interesting, and make it applicable to real change in people’s lives.

Any income that I earn follows from that. The content leads everything else.

I am planning on starting a loan for my last year of college. I have been paying college with my own money through my Amex Blue Cash (to get cash back) but I pay it off monthly. My limit is just enough to pay for monthly tuition plus $100 for myself, but sometimes, this isn’t enough. I tried raising my limit but Amex denied me. Does it make sense to apply for a new CC before applying for a student loan? Will it hurt my credit score (because of the hard pull) or will it help it (because my overall limit will increase)? What is the smarter thing to do?
- Carlo

The hard pull’s effect is pretty small and pretty temporary. If you’re approved for a new card, the increase in your credit limit should be much more of a boon to your credit score than the short-term negative effect of the hard pull.

I’m not sure why Amex denied you, though. Unless you’re not disclosing some other aspect of your situation, you would seem like a good target for raising a credit limit. The fact that you were denied seems to indicate that your credit – for some unspecified reason – is worse than you’ve said.

If that’s the case, applying for a new card can be a risk. If you get denied for it, you get the negative ding of a hard pull without the benefit of an increase in credit limit.

Your best bet, then, would be to put the card aside for a while and just pay your monthly tuition directly. That way, you’ll be utilizing 0% of your credit limit, which should help your score.

Where would you recommend for buying larger sized shoes? My husband wears a 15 EE, and he could probably go a size up… It’s the largest we can find in a store. He needs waterproof boots that breath. I got him a pair at Sportsman’s Warehouse, and his feet are white and peeling from sweat after a day on the lake (he’s on the rescue squad and sometimes he’s out there for 12+ hours multiple days).
- Deborah

I wear a size 16/17 (depending on manufacturer). For my own shoe needs, I watch eBay carefully – that’s how I picked up a really good pair of running shoes for just a few dollars that fit me.

For dress shoes, I’ve had real problems. I found a mediocre pair through a “big and tall” website, but they’re massively uncomfortable and don’t look all that good, either. I’m stuck when it comes to this category – I may end up going to a shoemaker.

When I was younger (junior high) and my feet first grew to this size, my family used a catalog from Eastbay to buy my shoes. I’m pretty sure they still sell a lot of models going up to size 18.

I am currently a PhD English student, so while a lot of my assigned reading is in hard copy books, most of my reading is actually in PDF files culled from library databases. I should state now that I don’t have a lot of money, I am paying my tuition fees and living expenses while *not* working since I’m in school, and the campus has a pay-to-print policy. Because academic reading requires annotating, I print the PDFs, annotate them by hand, and type my notes to prepare for papers. Is there a way to put digital annotations on PDFs? I have already tried in Adobe, but unless the document author authorized the comment feature, I can’t figure out a way to do it. My other option is the Kindle, which supposedly can save annotations and export into a word document, but costs $450… can you help sort this out?
- Shevaun

Well, if you’re using a Mac, it’s easy – Preview allows you to annotate PDFs to your heart’s content. I use this feature myself sometimes.

If that doesn’t work (because of restrictions on the PDF), you could select all the text, copy it out to Microsoft Word, then add the notes yourself.

If that doesn’t work, you can try installing Ghostscript, which can often extract the text from PDFs – from there, you can get them into Microsoft Word.

However, if the pages are images (as is the case sometimes, particularly on older papers), you’re pretty much stuck printing them off.

My neighbor has a riding lawnmower, while I have an old beat-up pushmower. During the winter, though, I have an awesome snowblower and he has a scoop shovel. I’m thinking about suggesting some sort of sharing arrangement, where I can mow using his mower (saving time) and he can blow his snow with my snowblower (saving him time), but I don’t know how to propose it. Any suggestions?
- Charlie

Invite your neighbors over for a barbecue and simply make your proposal over a big hamburger. It’s that simple.

Really, there’s no need to overthink it or be nervous about it at all. If it works out, great. If it doesn’t – you still have your own mower and you still have your snowblower – no harm done.

Just suggest it simply – “Hey, I’ve got an idea. I’ve noticed you’ve got that sweet riding lawnmower … and I’ve also seen you scooping snow in the winter. How about we make a little arrangement that helps us both? In the winter, you can borrow my snowblower to clear your sidewalk and driveway. In the summer, you’ll lend me your riding mower to mow my yard. I’ll keep the rider filled up with gas. What do you think?”

Another tip: don’t be insulted by a “no.” Your neighbor might be scooping snow by choice (as it is good exercise) and might not want a lot of extra miles on their rider – a completely understandable position. If you get a “no,” don’t sweat it – just say you thought you’d throw the idea out there and move on with life.

What do you listen to during the day when you write? Or do you write in silence?
- Frances

I listen to a handful of podcasts, usually first thing in the morning. Most of the podcasts I listen to are pretty short daily ones (a format I considered for The Simple Dollar podcast). For instance, this morning I’ve listened to PTI, Marketplace, Marketplace Morning Report, The B.S. Report, The Writer’s Almanac, and Fresh Air. I have a pile of weekly ones as well that I listen to throughout the week.

Honestly, I don’t pay full attention to most of them. They float in one ear and out the other, but they provide good background noise.

The interesting part is this: about four or five times a day, a point will stick into my head and worm its way up to my conscious thought, usually about a minute after the point is made on the podcast. I’ll back up the podcast, listen again, and usually wind up jotting down a note for later.

Once I get tired of podcasts, I listen to music. I usually fill my afternoons with solid music from one artist – Old Crow Medicine Show, Dave Matthews Band, Regina Spektor, Neko Case, and so on. I’ll say, “Today… is a U2 day” and just shuffle songs from that artist.

How come you never talk about investing in rental properties?
- Shiloh

Frankly, it usually seems like more of a hassle than it’s worth.

One of my best friends owned a rental property for two years. He hired a management company that he thought would take care of everything and just expected checks to roll in.

What he found, though, is that the property was a constant hassle. The renters figured out who actually owned the property and constantly complained directly to him. He’d then refer the complaint back to the management company.

Then, there were constant additional expenses – something needed repaired, something needed replaced.

In the end, he was only making a tiny trickle of income from the property and he was investing a ton of time in it. So he sold the property, only breaking slightly above even on it.

I’ve talked to several other readers who have rental properties and most of them share the same notes. The exceptions are people who own quite a few properties, deal with them themselves – effectively, they’re landlords and that’s their life. Those people love it, since all they have to do is deal with these little details.

Since it’s not something that seems like an exciting route to explore – and it’s an area I certainly won’t be writing about from my own experience – I’m letting this sleeping dog lie.

Got any questions? Ask them in the comments and I’ll use them in future mailbags.

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114 thoughts on “Reader Mailbag #71

  1. “However, if the pages are images (as is the case sometimes, particularly on older papers), you’re pretty much stuck printing them off.”

    For the Ph.D. student… http://www.free-ocr.com/

    It converts image-based pdfs to text, it’s not always exact so I’d recommend double-checking, but it’s been a godsend to me.

  2. Foxit PDF Reader lets you annotate for free. I use it instead of Adobe.

    Go Google it. I won’t link because Trent doesn’t approve posts with links for hours or days!

  3. I might suggest to the credit card user paying tuition to consider a student loan. Credit cards are great but if they’re maxing out the card each month they risk spilling over and needing more cash and having to pay high interest on it.

  4. “Just because we went through revolutions throwing off racism and sexism doesn’t mean that there aren’t still big forms of discrimination out there.”

    Racism and sexism are still “out there” too, you know.

  5. In response to Shevaun’s question there is actually a freeware pdf viewer application for windows which allows annotation directly onto the pdf files.

    It’s called PDF Xchange Viewer it’ll show up as the first result in a google search.

    The annotation tool in foxit has always been exclusively kept in the pro (paid) version unless things have changed in their most recent release.

    PDF Xchange Viewer. It also integrates into browsers nicely and I use it as my default pdf viewer now.

  6. I have to disagree. The percentage of people that are overweight because of a medical condition is pretty small. Nearly 80% of diseases are curable/treatable by a healthy diet and regular exercise. We as a country just do not understand how to eat. We watch everyone else eat crappy food or massive amounts of food all the time, and we think we deserve to do that too. Being overweight, obese, or morbidly obese is really bad for you. If was all understood just how bad it is, we would all work harder and make better decisions.

    At 31 I weighted 350 lbs and was told I had diabetes. Over the next 7 months I lost 115 lbs. All this by just following a meal plan and exercising regularly. Now I am trim and fit and very close to having a 6-pack. I probably would if the skin on my stomach hadn’t been so stretched out. The point is, I don’t take any medication and my blood sugar is normal and has been since the first 40-50 lbs came off.

    Do 30 minutes of exercise three times a week and follow the food pyramid (nutrition.gov) and all will be well for a huge percentage of the population. There is a difference between exercise and activity. Exercise requires a sustained increase of your heart rate.

    Another problem is everyone thinks they are somehow the exception. It is pretty likely you aren’t. Your body is the product of your diet and exercise. If you have just “always” had big hips, thighs, ankles, etc….. It is because you “always” haven’t eaten right, eat to much, or don’t exercise enough.

  7. For men’s shoes try Zappos or Sierra Trading Post – both of them have constantly updated inventories. My DH is a major mountain backcountry hiker/skier & has found he gets better results with leather boots that he waterproofs himself with some kind of gunk, over the man-made materials that have been developed to be waterproof. However, he’s finding it more & more difficult to find plain leather boots, not to mention ones that fit.

  8. There are _some_ people that are overweight as a result of a medical condition, the vast overwhelming majority of overweight people are overweight because of poor choices. The ‘average’ amount of television a person watches is something like 28 hours per week. Combine that with a diet of frequently eating out, sugary beverages, and lack of exercise and you will get a population of overweight people. It is as simple as that.

  9. Trent:

    Question for Reader Mailbag

    We currently have a propane-fueled water heater. I live in AZ which has fairly reasonable electricity rates. Since propane is pegged to the price of oil, if we ever have to replace the water heater, would it pay to convert to an electric water heater? If so, do you have any idea how much time it would take to recoup any differential costs for the switch?

    Thanks for your consideration.

  10. First of all, racism and sexism are not gone the way of the dodo bird, and the revolution ain’t over. To think so would be narrow minded. As to the wieght issue, theres a big misconception that thin is automatically “healthy”, and that people who are overweight are automatically “unhealthy”. In my case, overweight at 58, I have normal sugars, cholesterals, so on and so forht, and I do aerobic exercise five times a week. Lots of thin people the same age cannot say the same thing.

  11. Just wanted to comment on your last response regarding rental units… If you buy/have a home that is in really good shape and you don’t mind dealing with an occasional repair, then it can be worth it to rent it out. However, if there are several items that are old or nearing replacement, and you are not into performing maintenance yourself, then I would recommend staying away from being a landlord.

    I have been renting out my first house for about 3 1/2 years now and have been very happy with the results. I don’t make alot on the deal up front, but you have to remember that they are slowly paying for the house! Not to mention the tax write-offs.

    So, yes, if you do your homework, rentals can be a great source of income, but I will not deny that they can also cause a few headaches along the way.

  12. Great questions and even better answers. I would like to ask …what is your favorite thing about blogging?

  13. Microsoft OneNote allows you to “print” PDFs into it and then annotate them. If you’ve got a tablet PC you can even write on them. I’m almost completely paperless thanks to OneNote.

  14. Another potential shoe site is Endless.com. Both it and Zappos have free shipping both ways.

    For the PhD student, I wonder if it would ever pay off to invest in a printer. For me personally, I prefer physically writing my annotations and I don’t want to have to go to campus every time I need to print something. Some schools charge a lot for printing. 10 cents a page can really add up when you have hundreds of pages to read in a week for just one class.

  15. I have recently lost my job and am collecting unemployment. My former employer sent me paperwork about my 401k. What should I do with that money? I don’t need to take it out but don’t want to leave it with the company if I have other options. Thanks.

  16. One more thing about the ovreweight thing…

    If we agree with Lindsay’s premise that overweight people should not be covered because they are overweight by choice (which I already have a problem with – discrimination by religion is illegal, and religion is ostensibly a choice), knowing that not everyone who is overweight is overweight by choice, who makes that determination? A non-profit commission? A government agency? Let’s let these sleeping dogs lie.

  17. I don’t care if you have a thyroid condition or anything else- your body can’t gain fat unless you’re eating excess calories. Genetics, liver problems, thyroids don’t cause weight gain- eating excess food does. The former issues may change the limit on what “excess” means, but there’s no disease on earth that will just force someone to spontaneously gain weight without eating.

    I’m tired of people blaming Darwin when Doritos and drumsticks are 99% of the problem.

  18. Well, John, I’m tired of people who think that what one weighs is anything other than a personal matter. Seriously. Of all the things you could choose to judge a person by, their weight has got to be among the most stupid, arbitrary choices there is. Frankly, if I felt the need to do that, I’d be asking myself what nasty thing in myself needed to chase around looking for some childish basis to put other people down.

    Trent is right when he says that “what matters is how [people] treat others and what they produce with their time.” Anything else is superficiality.

  19. While many individuals do suffer from weight issues that they cannot control because of medical means, that cannot account for the fact that 2/3 of all Americans are overweight and nearly a third are obese. While I disagree with John’s postulation that only excess calories will produce weight gain, I knew a college swimmer that had to take medication that resulted in him gaining 15-20 lbs during in season, he is certainly right in saying that for the vast majority of Americans, the problem is self inflicted. And like it or not, people will judge you based on your appearance when they first meet you.

  20. I’m not talking about judging people or whether they should be covered by the ADA- that’s an entirely separate discussion. People can be as overweight as they want to be- I could care less. But I think it’s disingenuous and potentially irresponsible to say that something other than eating excess calories causes the body to store fat- many (but not all) people remain overweight because they use something else as a scapegoat (health, medications, genetics) for their condition. It’s not useful to feed (pardon the pun) that myth. I have no problem with people being overweight, but they have a right to know why they’re overweight.

    My argument is that excess eating is always the reason people gain weight. Fat is simply excess stored calories- period. If you don’t eat excess calories, you won’t gain weight. That’s true if you’re completely healthy, have a medical condition, or you’re on prescription medication.

  21. Shevaun-

    If you have a mac, I highly recommend Skim. I am a student in a similar situation, and I find Skim to be excellent for reading and annotating PDFs. I really like that they offer both in-text annotation, as well as linked notes so you don’t have to squeeze everything into the margins. (Check out the screenshot on the website to see what I mean.)

  22. Another thought on Charlie’s question: If your proposal is “off the cuff” then you won’t have much invested if the answer is no. I can think of a half dozen situations that became issues because we agonized over the approach.

    @Shevaun
    With the PDFs, there’s a number of programs that let you print as PDFs, which you then should be able to annotate in an editor like Adobe or Foxit. I think the one I’m using currently is PrimoPDF, but I’ve used a few others with no problem. Basically it installs as a new printer. I save all my online bills this way to avoid worrying about web page images and all that nonsense.

  23. How can being fat *not* be voluntary? Are fat people *forced* to eat enough to become fat?

    Zig Ziglar once said something like: “For 20 years, I was by choice overweight. The reason that I say by choice is because I have never *accidentally* eaten anything.”

    So true.

  24. Dear Trent,

    I’m in the market for a car.

    I think the amount of time I save by driving instead of taking transit is quite significant. (30+ min savings in per travel sessions, at least two travel sessions per day)

    But I’m not sure whether to buy a car or lease a car.

    I need more advice on if I were to buy a used car, what things should I look for as well as what things should I look for if I am leasing.

  25. I have an Amex Blue student card, and good credit, but they have a policy not to even consider raising your credit limit for 5 years. Maybe they use similar rules for the cash back card, and she is already at the maximum credit limit. Just a thought.

    “There’s no disease on earth that will just force someone to spontaneously gain weight without eating.”

    In response to John- I think Trent used the example of a thyroid disease because if I remember correctly he suffers from one. Personally, Crohn’s disease runs in my family. My cousins alternate between hospital stays, on an IV because their intestines literally won’t filter the nutrients out of food for them, and living at home where the only medication allowing them to eat at all is a steroid that causes them to puff up so much that they barely look like the same person.

    Seriously, if you don’t know what you’re talking about then don’t make blanket claims and spread your ignorance. I don’t think that obesity should be considered a disability, but neither should it be over vilified just because it is a very visible form of unhealthiness. I’ll take a fat person over a thin smoker any day.

  26. John,

    Agreed… It’s exactly like personal finance: “Spend less money than you earn”. It’s quite simple.

    Of the obese population, only 1-2% is caused by medical conditions. What else besides over eating and lack of exercise would cause the remaining 98%?

  27. Thanks for the great response to the overweight remark, Trent and Barbara.

    As for rental property question, I totally agree that it can be more hassle than it’s worth. I help my dad with managing his, and it’s usually a part time job for us both. And things are going well right now! Building is fully occupied and our tenants are great, a few minor repairs here and there and make sure the plants in the back yard get watered and they’re happy and pay the rent on time. But having dealt with a tenant who forever complained about us being around a lot maintaining the building and never raising her rent, and then another tenant who turned out to be a drug dealer and prostitute whose gun totting manager moved in with her, I know we’re very lucky with this group we have now.

    Tenants are great, wish I could say the same about the flooding issue we’re having… Let’s just say we’re suing some people for screwing up big time and causing the back yard and basement of the apartment to flood. The lawsuits are a full time job for us both…

    But hey, right now the tenants are great, when one moves out we have a line of their friends wanting to move in (I just had one move out and her friend signed a lease with us before the unit was even vacant. I thought rental vacancies were up?), the mortgage is paid off, and thanks to being in CA with prop 13 the property taxes are low. I have no issue with my dad keeping this property and maybe someday inheriting it myself, assuming we get the flooding issues cleared up and we continue to screen our tenants well it can be quite profitable.

    But I have no intention of buying a rental property for myself. If I want to invest more in rental property, Vanguard has a great REIT mutual fund, or so I’ve heard…

  28. For Deborah (and Trent): As another commenter suggested, Zappos.com is your best bet for finding those shoes. There’s even a simple search right on the front page for narrowing their selection down to the exact size and width you specified. I’ve used them and their customer service is every bit as good as you may have heard. They offer free shipping both ways, meaning if they don’t fit, you just slap the enclosed return label on the box and drop it off at a shipping store.

    For Shevaun: Get a PDF “printer” like CutePDF, which allows you to “print” anything as a PDF file (it shows up as a printer you can select) which has many uses besides what you need it for right now. Use Foxit Reader as others suggested to annotate, and then print to the PDF printer, and you’ll have annotated PDF copies. You won’t be able to go back and change your annotations, but it’s better than paying for expensive software. Your other option is to buy Foxit or another low cost alternative to expensive, full-feature Adobe software.

  29. John said “If you don’t eat excess calories, you won’t gain weight. That’s true if you’re completely healthy, have a medical condition, or you’re on prescription medication.”

    For some people, if you don’t eat “excess” calories then you won’t get enough nutrients for your body to survive. So thanks for the pedantic explanation what fat is, but you oversimplifying to the point that your statements are the “disingenuous and potentially irresponsible” ones.

  30. Hi Trent,
    I’ve got a question for the next edition of Reader Mailbag.
    How is it possible that you get paid to blog? Is it from like, page views, advertisements or something? Do you get paid per blog post?
    Just curious, I’ve never heard of anyone being paid to do something that sounds as fun as that :P
    Regards,
    Steve

  31. One of the funnier anectdotes in Outliers is about how the Jewish law firms became tops after corporate litigation became popular. Joe Flom, one of the Skadden partners, was very good at proxies because he was fat and thus intimidating. He had to do that work because the attractive partners at the WASP firms didn’t want him or that work. But suddenly his obesity became an advantage in retrospect because it made him good at unpopular work that would become lucrative.

    All that rambling to say: fatties, don’t complain because you’re being marginalized. Your second-rate job could be the dream job of the future. You should pity thin people who do what’s popular now, because they’ve peaked!

  32. “female(s) [are] statistically more likely to have children than men”

    Actually, approximately the same number of women as men have children. I think what you meant was that women are statistically more likely to want to take time off after having a child than men.

  33. And some people plain want to stay fat! I was a member of weightwatcherz. There were grossly obese people who lost a little weight THEN got doctors notes saying they were at a good weight and didn’t need to lose anymore. They only do themselves a disservice. Emotional overeating is rampant and so hard to stop. So they don’t try.

    Yes, and there are people who gain weight thru medication. they need to tell their doctors and can probably be switched to another medication and/or need more frequent monitoring. Lexapro was/is famous for weight gain.

  34. “something needed repaired, something needed replaced.”

    Trent, your writing is usually so good that I just had to point this out. The trend of leaving out “to be” in verb constructions like this is really grating. I realize that I’m being pedantic, but I just can’t read text that uses this construction, and I hope that you’re not latching on to this kind of sloppy grammar.

  35. And let’s not forget the continuing stream of medical studies showing that the health issues between somone who is five pounds overweight vs someone who is five pounds underweight are no contest: the thinner person is far more likely to suffer from heart problems and other issues. Heart problems also crop up when supposedly overweight people diet constantly trying to achieve an ideal that doesn’t exist. I know plenty of overweight people who are actually in good shape, but because they don’t fit the body shape that people consider “acceptably thin,” people seeing them assume they eat too much and don’t exercise enough, when in reality, this is how their bodies are shaped and how they naturally go when they are properly (not excessively) fed.

    That said, the problem with the weight gain in America is an issue, but it’s not one that will be solved by pointing fingers at people you think are fat. Making fresh and nutritious foods available to people with less money instead of letting the unhealthy options the best value would be a great first step. It saves the taxpayers money to feed low-nutrition chicken nuggets to kids at school, but if you start feeding them grilled chicken breasts instead, you get people whining about how much their taxes are. Giving incentives for WIC recipients (or anyone else, for that matter) to buy fresh veggies instead of easy-to-serve junk food wins for everyone, but again, people complain about the cost. (Shorter: I can feed my kids an entire meal with a 50 cent box of mac and cheese. Or I can buy one tomato. A case of cheap soda will go further than the gallon of orange juice that costs the same. You can tell me all day about health costs later on, but they’re hungry right now and it’s really no contest.)

    So yeah. You can complain about obesity and point fingers, but until you’re ready to look at the stories behind the numbers and work on solutions, you’re only picking on people to make yourself feel better about your own weight. And that’s not cool.

  36. I agree with the Zappos comment.

    There’s no reason to buy any shoes in a catalog anymore. Welcome to 2002! You can buy shoes in all sizes (big or small or narrow or wide) online!

    This also works for women with hard sizes, or if you need a particular color or style or anything.

  37. Carlo- Amex may have denied you because they are being more careful in general. Have you ever been late on a payment or gone over the credit limit? This may be a reason to deny your line of credit increase request.

    They may send you a generic letter explaining that your credit is not up to par. Try calling them and you might get a more specific answer.

  38. On the overweight issue, whether there are or are not legitimate medical reasons for being overweight is entirely beside the point. The fact is, being overweight is one of life’s problems that people struggle with. If everyone had to wear their problems on the outside for everyone in the world to see there would be a lot less discussion about who was or was not overweight. A person might be in perfect health physically, but the chances are almost 100% that there is a problem in some other area of their life. If that person had to display the problem for the world to see everytime they were in public, they might not be so smug about their ability to keep their weight in check, they would have to be judged every second just like an overweight person.
    A second point, there are plenty of other health concerns that are directly caused by people’s actions. I work with several middle age runners who are developing serious joint problems directly related to their “healthy” hobby. If one of them becomes disabled should thay be refused care because they chose to participate in a healthy hobby that caused a premature degeneration of their joints? After all, it was their choice to run, was it not?

    I think many of you are operating under a double standard about this “choice” thing. I am entirely certain that none of you are perfect, and after all isn’t it your choice not to be “perfect”?

  39. I totally understand the background “noise” of music / talk radio. For music I am currently using blip.fm for variety after using Pandora for a fairly long time.

  40. I was reading an article at womenfitness.net last night that made a lot of sense to me. It said there was a list of foods that have negative calorie properties. You can eat them to lose extra fat and become slim naturally. They used broccoli as an example. “A 25 calorie piece of broccoli requires 80 calories to digest, resulting in a net loss of 55 calories. The more you eat, the more you lose weight!” This really makes sense to me. I knew this was true for celery, but didn’t realize that to be true for all the other foods that were on the list. You can eat these raw, stir-fry some, roast some, etc. – use your imagination. I’m back from the grocery store, after having stocked up on many. I have 10 pounds that I want to lose, so I’m going to focus heavily on these foods to help me get there. If anyone is interested, here’s the list:

    Papayas, oranges, grapefruit, apples, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, boysenberries, mangoes, pineapples, lettuce, beets, cucumbers, spinach, celery, lemons, asparagus, carrots, zucchini, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, chili peppers, onions, and garlic.

  41. About obesity – Go to the grocery store and notice what people are putting in their carts and (I can’t believe they do this) eating while shopping. Every person there has a choice to buy healthy/not healthy items. Very frequently you will see obese people buying loads of junk. They are choosing obesity and bad health. Unfortunately we all pay for this sooner or later through group insurance rates/medicare/medicaid. Friday I was in Target, a very large woman was there with her kids, they each had a bag of chips they were eating as they browsed for more food. Then the woman tore open a 12 pack of coke she had in her cart and handed each kid a can and opened one for herself too. I’m not saying all large people are like that, they’re not. But too many people ARE making poor choices. I was overweight several years ago and have since lost the baggage and embraced a healthy lifestyle with healthy choices. It’s about priorities and choices.

  42. For many people with weight problems, their excess weight is tied to other issues which are not so obvious. For example, there may be mental illness involved. I gained a lot of weight when I was depressed (even before I was taking meds). Binge eating disorder is a mental illness in and of itself. For many overweight people (and some who are not so overweight, eating is a coping mechanism, a form of self-medication, though not a healthy one. It helps them deal (temporarily) with the pain of the sexual abuse in their past, or whatever. The weight is a symptom, not the cause.

  43. I would phrase your response to Lindsay differently. Being overweight is SOMETIMES due to unchosen health problems, but often it is not. Not the other way around. Not that it should be discriminated against regardless, but… It seems disingenuous to say otherwise.

    To Carlo — I’m not even sure exactly what his question is asking, but I do not think you answered it. But maybe you did, it seems unclear. Is he getting the student loan no matter what, then paying his tuition with the CC to get cash back? If so, he probably could charge most of the tuition in one transaction, go online, pay his balance to $0 then make the second charge in the same month. But getting a 2nd CC is not a bad idea long term. Amex may deny him because of the current situation or simply because his history is short and limited. Is he actually considering charging the tuition on a credit card and leaving it there, as a balance? If so that is a horrible idea and the loan is likely better

    Tip for charlie — suggest it in the winter when you are the one with something to offer. :)

  44. Obesity rates in the US have doubled in the past 20-30 years. That kind of drastic increase in such a short term is not due to genetics or medical illness. The majority of overweight people in the US are that way because of their diet and exercise. Of course I understand that losing weight is not easy. But quitting smoking isn’t easy either and theres no protection for smokers against discrimination.

    I don’t think people should discriminate against people due to their weight. But the ADA act does more than simply talk about discrimination. It also forces businesses to make their property accessible to disabled people.

  45. People who are overweight because of a medical condition are far and away the exception, not the rule. 2/3rds of Americans, and nearly as many in most other Western countries are overweight or obese. And yes, the vast vast vast majority of these people are doing this to themselves because they are too ignorant or lazy to change their diet or lifestyle.

    And to them, I have no sympathy when it comes to extra costs incurred for medical or clothing or transportation. As its something they have control over, then if they feel slighted against by “society” for being fat they should work to fix it because they can. That’s my attitude anyway, I try to fix my problems when I have the ability to do so.

    But for the very few that are obese or overweight due to something like a thyroid condition or other medical problem, its definitely not fair to be lumped in that category and I feel for them.

  46. I would say the better reason to not invest in rental properties is that I don’t think people should have a right to own the land that they’re not using. Now, if you bought land/property and did a “rent to own” where people actually get equity in their property as they live there, then that would be a moral investment. Otherwise, to me, rent is theft.

  47. Hey Trent, have you heard about companies that offer health insurance incentives to people who meet healthy lifestyle criteria (stop smoking, join a gym, be under a certain weight, etc.) I’ve heard that such programs end up saving the company alot of money and often results in a fitter workforce. One possible objection is that these policies discriminate against people who are genetically predisposed to obesity. What are your thoughts?

  48. I’m always amazed that you can write while listening to something with words. I have a hard time writing even while listening to instrumental music. Dead quiet is where it’s at for me!

  49. People are quick to judge those who do not meet their standards…whether weight or appearance, behavior, educational level or how they speak. Yea, prejudice is alive and well in this country.
    Writers such as the woman who wrote to Trent are numerous.

    It’s pathetic, though, at how much is directed towards the overweight and obese, many of whom try daily, via exercise and healthy eating, to rectify the situation (which, by the way, does NOT always come from eating crap; I’ve seen skinny people eat junk food and never exercise and have family members who eat very healthily and because of medical conditions, have weight gains that will not budge despite daily exercise. I’m sick of how people treat them and others.)

    If we’re going to start pointing fingers and judging (which I do not advocate!), let’s talk about all the anorexic folks out there, who also “cost” society. And wait, please, let’s not forget all you drunks and alcoholics and drug (prescription and recreational) abusers. There are sooo many of them, too, but hey, that’s OK.

    Yea. It’s not always easy to “see” you, but you, too, cost the healthcare system. Yet because you are not so easily seen by strangers, you don’t get the judging and stigma. Even smokers, who really cost the healthcare system, don’t receive the same condemnation as the overweight. Especially now that smokers can say, “well, it’s an addiction.” Yea. One you literally chose at some point. No one held a gun to your head. Yet even you are not discriminated to the point of being unwelcome in jobs, groups, etc. Even when your secondhand smoke puts others in jeopardy.

    People literally starve themselves to death, yet few are repulsed by that as they are by weight. (I live in NYC, so maybe it’s different elsewhere. But I doubt it.)

    People are killing themselves with booze and alcohol.

    Instead of pointing fingers, mind your own business and your own life. Cause I’m pretty sure if we looked closely at all those criticizers, we’d find plenty to judge YOU about.

    Weight gain is an extremely complicated issue that even scientists are still learning about. And the techniques for loss that apply to one individual, do not always work for others. Most of you who write here and criticize have highly limited understanding of the science.

    If we’re going to discriminate against weight, as is done (the presumption being that not only do the overweight not exercise, eat crap, but are also lazy and stupid and undisciplined)in business and life, then let’s discriminate against everything. Oh, wait? You’d have a problem with that, wouldn’t you?

    Judge not, lest ye be judged. Old fashioned and still a valuable reminder.

    I don’t care about people’s weight, appearance, etc. I care about how they treat others and how they act as citizens. The rest…that’s up to them.

    and as for the “costs” that those who are not overweight pay for in medical care? Wake up. We’re paying for everybody else. Alcoholics, drug addicts, etc. Don’t single out one group for condemnation when in fact, we’re humans and we’re all going to be less than perfect and require help.

    It’s sad that the world has come to this. Evaluating others as if their lives “cost” us. Very sick and sad.

  50. question for the mailbag:
    Two years ago my wife and I bought a bigger apartment and moved out of a co-op I had owned since 2001. We didn’t need to sell it right away and the idea was to rent it out for a few years and sell it before we would have to pay capital gains tax on the profit (need to have lived there for 2 of the past 5 years). But now the market is really soft and I’m not sure if it’s worth it to sell now or to wait until prices are up and pay capital gains.
    We are making money each month on the apartment, have a good tenant, and the co-op allows rentals. But we stand to make money on the sale even if we sell it now – it just might take a while.

    Should we keep it and continue renting or sell now?

  51. Thank you to all of you who took the time to make well-reasoned and rational comments with regard to issues of overweight. Being overweight, and losing weight, are incredibly complicated issues. If it were as simple as “John” and some others make it sound, then we would see a LOT fewer people with weight problems.

    It’s interesting to note that there has been a significant change in the numbers of overweight and obese Americans in the last 20 – 30 years. Especially as it coincides with the big changes in agribusiness, the way foods are produced, the spread of cheap fast food and so on. I don’t believe for a moment that all these Americans are ignorant/selfish/lazy or lack motivation. There are factors at work here that we don’t entirely understand. Many of them have to do with the way our body’s process sugars and simple carbohydrates and what that does to the production of insulin (which makes people feel hungry).

    Just take a look at other countries. As their diets become more and more Westernized/Americanized, their levels of overweight/obesity and related health issues increase substantially.

    Cost is a factor, too. Stuff that’s not good for you delivers a lot of bang for the buck. Potatoes, pasta, cereal, and white rice make the budget go a long way. Lean meats, fish, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables are good for you but much more expensive. When I’ve got $75 to buy 2 weeks worth of groceries for 2 people, we’re not going to be eating a whole lot of fish and fresh vegetables, are we?

    I am overweight and I have fought it MY ENTIRE LIFE. People like “John” see nothing about me except that I’m overweight and then make all kinds of negative and untrue assumption about me and my character. That’s shameful. I’m so glad I’ve raised my (not overweight) child to be not just tolerant but to embrace and accept all people.

  52. Trent, I noticed that the simple dollar is now available as a kindle blog. You may want to put your books in Kindle format as well;)

  53. Damester-
    Being on drugs and being an alcoholic can get you kicked off of your medical coverage. Smokers typically have higher premiums. Thus, we are obviously not “ok” with it. Drug abuse is illegal, more and more cities are banning smoking in public places. You can’t even, legally, be drunk outside. So your observation that society is letting people with these issues slide is erroneous. I don’t think Adam, John or even Lindsay said everyone needs to be a size 2. They just said being “overweight” was a poor choice. Yes, being underweight is a poor choice, but it is a choice relatively few are making.
    John’s statement about gaining weight was really just a version of conservation of matter, fat cannot simply “appear from nowhere”. The exception would be water weight, but I doubt millions of American’s are overly hydrated (actually, quite the opposite) and they would still have to have put the water in at some point. The moral if the story is everything that goes in has to come out, be changed to energy or stored as fat. If you have to eat more to get the nutrients you need, you are still putting more in.
    I understand this discussion has become heated, and no one deserves to be marginalized. But simply pointing out that obesity is an epidemic of choice and ignorance about nutrition is not mean, it is honest.

  54. I find it noble that people find discrimination “unholy.” However if I have to continue to pay more for airplane seats, and health insurance just because obese Americans are too lazy to get on a treadmill 20 minutes a day, I am of course going to be offended.

    Weight discrimination is NOT discrimination. I am tired of this argument in this country. Go to Iran and try to find someone overweight. They can’t AFFORD to be obese. Maybe we should tax fatty foods 8000% and we will see how often this discussion happens.

  55. “Even smokers, who really cost the healthcare system, don’t receive the same condemnation as the overweight … Yet even you are not discriminated to the point of being unwelcome in jobs, groups, etc.”

    Smokers are absolutely openly discriminated against and condemned in US society. Smokers are almost vilified nowadays (at least around here). I can legally bar a smoker from living in my rental but I can not bar an obese person. Smokers are indeed “unwelcome” in “groups”. Have you heard the words “filthy habit”? Its not about taking a 2nd helping of cake. Smokers are frequently discriminated against in the workplace even for off-work smoking and there isn’t explicit legal protection for smoking. Smokers have no protection against workplace harassment (at least in my state). There are numerous laws restricting smoking and they pass more all the time.

    The cost of obesity on the healthcare system is now meeting or exceeding the the cost of smoking. Smokers pay taxes which offset the costs.

  56. @ Jim RE: “The cost of obesity on the healthcare system is now meeting or exceeding the the cost of smoking. Smokers pay taxes which offset the costs.”

    Fat people pay taxes too.

    Also I am glad that smokers are openly and often discriminated against. An overweight person does not negatively affect the health of another individual. Second hand smoke is a very real danger that I want to avoid.

  57. re: marking up PDFs, there are also other programs like Endnote that allow you to mark up PDFs on the computer. I suggest your PhD student ask around to other people in programs at his/her uni — I didn’t use any when I was in grad school, but the vast majority of my friends did all their paper reading on the computer.

  58. “This was such an egregious comment that I felt the need to clearly respond to it.

    Being fat is sometimes voluntary, but in many cases it is not”

    Egregious???? Defined as being conspicious or flagrant???

    I think your response was more egregious than her comments.

    Sometimes???

    less than 10% of overweight or obese are due to medical conditions. Granted, many medical conditions are associated with being overwieght, but less than 10% of all obesity cases are CAUSED me medical issues.

    So she said 90%+. You say sometimes. Like 90% sometimes. OR most of the time, or virtually all of the time, or 9 out of 10 times.

    Sorry, I agree with her. Defending those who 90% of the time have the ability to defend themselves is egregious

  59. Comment #20 wrote:
    ———————————————
    “something needed repaired, something needed replaced.”

    Trent, your writing is usually so good that I just had to point this out. The trend of leaving out “to be” in verb constructions like this is really grating. I realize that I’m being pedantic, but I just can’t read text that uses this construction, and I hope that you’re not latching on to this kind of sloppy grammar.
    ———————————————-

    This is not sloppy grammar, this is a regional thing. You’ll hear this construction quite often in parts of Ohio and PA and other places. I didn’t know people from Iowa spoke this way until I started reading this blog. Trent, maybe you should do a post about this- most people have never heard of this way of speaking, and to them it really does sound like sloppy grammar.

  60. I agree that it’s disingenuous to imply that obesity isn’t a choice except in very rare exceptions. It’s also naive to suggest that obese is just some people’s natural body type. It’s no coincidence that as the industrialization of our food supply grows, so does our waistline. It is the same all around the world. The US is the leader in the consumption of industrialized food, and not suprisingly we are the leader in obesity.

    When people choose soda over juice, our some chemical concoction that resembles cheese over a tomato they are choosing obesity in the name of saving a buck. Of course, in the end the medical costs as a consequence of this behavior outweigh any savings, but often times that cost is paid by society as a whole rather than the individual responsible for the decision.

    However, I’m not implying this is something most people conciously do. Industrial food is in the same place tobacco was decades ago. Some folks with common sense might look and see that everyone who was smoking was getting sick and dying young (much the same as people subsiting entirely on industrialized food), but most folks simply trust that if something is on the shelf, it must be safe. On top of that, we have studies done that tell us the food is safe. The only catch is that these studies are funded by the food companies just like the tobacco companies funded studies that said their product was safe. Hence you have the poeple out there who think that “low fat” oreos or “low carb” potato chips are somehow good for you. They are not insidious, just ignorant.

  61. @ Kristin

    Obese people sometimes do impact the health of other individuals, specifically their children. Kids eat the same way their parents eat. Adults who are obese because of their horrendous dietary habits have kids who fall into the same bad habits because so much of the food that is kept in the house is unfit to be eaten.

  62. Shoes–If you have unusually sized feet and are travelling to the Far East (eg, Korea) budget some extra money and have shoes made for you. It is a wonderful thing…
    YOu may also be able to do this in large cities in the US…

  63. I am a believer in making your posts short and sweet. get right to the point and provide links to more info.

    Just look at the Nielsen Net ratings for how much time a person spends on a web page

  64. Yes, an unbelievable number of Americans are obese or morbidly obese and the vast majority of them eat unhealthily, get little exercise and are directly responsible for their situation. This is because they have the ability to make different decisions and, for whatever reason, don’t.

    But both Lindsay and John sound extremely intolerant. There are people who really don’t have control over what happens with their weight.

    For example, people with Prader-Willi syndrome have very low muscle tone, tend to be very sedentary and when they ingest even a normal number of calories their bodies lay down a much higher proportion of fat vs. muscle than the average person.

    In and of itself, that would make any person tend to gain weight. The bigger problem with this syndrome is that people with it constantly feel like they are starving and no amount of food gives them the feeling of satiety. Add the intellectual problems they generally have as well and you have a recipe for disaster.

    Yes, persons with Prader-Willi can eat themselves to death if they aren’t carefully watched. They get up in the night, eat everything in the kitchen, steal money to buy food, steal food, eat rotten food from the garbage, go to a neighbour’s house and eat all the food there, etc.

    But they are not responsible for their actions. It’s not like someone who munches their way through a bag of Doritos sitting in front of the TV every night. They don’t have the ability to understand what they are doing. And once they gain weight, it is extremely difficult to get it back off due to their very specific genetic condition.

    They also need a lot of medical care, including shots of human growth hormone to help them develop properly. Surely Lindsay and John are not so cruel that they would deny these people the care they need simply because they are overweight!

    Yes, this is a rare genetic condition. It can be inherited or it can occur as a result of a random mutation and only occurs about once in 15,000 live births. But that means that there are still a lot of people with this condition, or other real medical conditions that cause people to gain weight more easily than average.

    Pigeon-holing people based solely on their weight is really not useful.

  65. I invite you to become more informed on the issue of weight and the studies that show that 1) dieting doesn’t work (even if you call it a lifestyle change) 2) statistically, fat people do not eat more than thin people 3) fat is not a good determination of health 4) the “obesity crisis” is being overinflated by people and institutions with a financial incentive to scare people into dieting. Here is a good summary of some resources on the issue:

    http://kateharding.net/but-dont-you-realize-fat-is-unhealthy/

  66. For big shoes, if you are near a Nordstrom Rack, they have excellent deals on large shoes.

    For all the people quoting stats on America being made of 98% by choice fat people, where are your SOURCES? Ignorance breeds ignorance. YES you can gain weight while not overeating. That phenomenon is called a medical condition.
    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003084.htm

    @Amy, #36 – Really!?! There are some serious things being discussed on this blog that are far more important than perfect grammar.

  67. “something needed repaired, something needed replaced.”

    Regional or not, this is wrong and looks sloppy to the majority of people reading this blog.

  68. As a dietitian it is very disheartening to see this discussion in the comments. Yes, some people make bad choices when it comes to food. But, these bad choices belong to both skinny and overweight people. Just because you are not outwardly heavy does not mean you are not doing significant damage to yourself. Also, I would say that a very large percentage of overweight people are so because of a medical condition. We categorize obesity as an eating disorder, which is a medical and psychological disease. I think what Trent was saying about the racist/sexist comment, is that in general public opinion it is considered in bad taste to still discriminate in these ways, not that it does not still happen, we all know it does. However, it seems to be openly accepted to think negatively about heavy people. There is a lot of misinformation out there clearly. I would recommend going to http://www.eatright.org and learning about weight and nutrition issues there.

  69. Being overweight is very similar to being in debt. It is a choice…and life can sometimes cause major set backs. Things happen, life happens. Do I care if people live pay check to pay check? No. Do I care if people are overweight? No. But lets not lie to ourselves, both situations in MOST cases are a choice. Could there be better education on both subjects? YES! Should that give those who choose to live there life a certain way a scapegoat? Absolutely not. Things are not always “fun”…it is not always fun to be financially responsible and it is not always as fun to make healthy choices. You are overweight because you eat more than you burn off. You did not get that way by eating vegetables, fruit, low fat protein and everything else in moderation and working out a little. Just like you did not get in debt by living within your means…it just doesn’t happen. Money doesn’t magically disappear just like pounds don’t magically appear…It is your choice. I don’t care if you are in debt or if you are overweight. PLEASE just take ownership for your life and your choices! And remember that all choices have consequences…

  70. god bless you, jenn

    jenn wrote in comment #40:

    “A person might be in perfect health physically, but the chances are almost 100% that there is a problem in some other area of their life. If that person had to display the problem for the world to see everytime they were in public, they might not be so smug about their ability to keep their weight in check, they would have to be judged every second just like an overweight person.”

    you’re a very kind and wise person

    and to the presumably thin people who are judging fat people right now, thinking you’re thin because you know what you’re doing and other people are fat because they’re not as smart or as disciplined or as good as you, just know this- god don’t like ugly. and you all are acting ugly right now.

  71. @Josh, you can start a rollover IRA with the 401K money. Contact a brokerage and they will contact your 401k administrator and initiate the transfer. Do not let your plan send you a check as this would count as an early withdrawal and you will pay a penalty. You can use any brokerage but it is best to use a low cost one such as Vanguard, Fidelity or T. Rowe Price. Depending on the plan, if you have $5000 or more, you can leave the money where it is. Be careful, some companies charge additional fees if you keep your money after leaving your job. I believe that you have 60 days after leaving your job to move your money, if your balance is below $5000.

  72. Before my comments,

    My response is largely prompted by a recent tour of our local Hospital’s new wing – all rooms are equipped with a 500lb hoist, each floor has 1-2 bariatric rooms – twice the size of a normal room with a 1,000 lb hoist for obese patients. The staff said they average two 600+ lb patients a week, one generally over 800 lb – this is a small city of 150,000 people. They indicated these obese patients generally do not work or have insurance, they have multiple health issues and require longer, more intensive, very expensive care and the vast majority do not have a medical cause for their weight.

    Disclosure – I’ve always been average weight or slightly under. My wife has always been on the high end of average or overweight. She works at being healthy and generally eats a better diet than I do and exercises 4+ times a week. But, she also consumes more calories. We see both sides of the issue but agree there is no incentive or discouragement (carrot or cake), other than societal views, to encourage healthier lifestyles – no bad food tax, no higher insurance premium, like smoking – other than on life insurance. We are also concerned that this could be a bigger issue with universal health care – if there is no ability to encourage or discourage habits, because there are no premiums, why not be a fat, drinker and smoker.

    True:
    It can be tied to many personal factors.
    It is not easy to change those patterns.
    Not all thin people eat well or exercise.
    There are good choices on almost all menus – just skip the super-sized option to stop yourself from supersizing.

    False:
    It’s always much cheaper to eat poorly.

    Possible:
    Heavy people can do the same jobs as anyone else -
    sorry, but even minimally physical jobs can be difficult depending on the level of obesity.
    There needs to be a better way to encourage healthier lifestyles for everyone, without a public shaming.

    Shevy – 1 in 15,000 = 20,333 out of 305 million US population or 0.0067%, less than 1% when over 34% are obese and another 33% overweight.

    A lot of info for a small percentage – very similar to the number of heavy people who say its due to a medical condition, but have never had any evidence backing that.

  73. Jenny,
    Honey, a blog designed to support the self image of bigger people is not necessarily the most vetted scientific reference. It is about as helpful as those diet drug funded studies on obesity and the article condemns.
    Sandy E. -
    Snopes dear, negative calories are about as real as bonsai kittens.

  74. Dear Trent:

    I have a suggestion —

    I was by earlier, and read what I recall to be the first 40 comments. Came back now, with beer and popcorn in hand, to watch the “fat” debate. Scrolled down to #41. It’s a comment I’ve already. As is 42, 43 … etc. I imagine that there are comments now in the first 40 that were not available earlier, awaiting moderation for whatever reason.

    Assuming I can count, would there be any way to put newly-released comments at the end of the list? It’s not just all about my reading pleasure — whoever those writers were, their words may be getting lost.

    And since I’m here, on the fat thing: Per calorie, per mouthful, apples are way more expensive than donuts.

    And I don’t think your grammar needs changed.

  75. Amanda B.,

    If you read the article that I posted to, you would note that it links to other sources for its information – some of which very articulately and carefully examine the studies and data that lead to news stories about weight and health.

  76. That blog Jenny linked to is one of the biggies (no pun intended) in the “Fat Acceptance” movement. These people say that it’s impossible to lose weight successfully, so don’t even bother trying- you should be happy being fat, and it’s not even unhealthy!

    I have real issues with these people. First of all, they ignore the many, many people that DO lose weight and keep it off. I mean, we can put a man on the moon, yet it’s IMPOSSIBLE to successfully lose weight? It CAN’T be done? Sorry, I don’t buy that. I lost 60 pounds through eating better (no crazy diets) and moderate exercise, and I’ve kept the weight off for 3 years.

    Second, I don’t like the fact that they encourage other fat people to stay fat by telling them that it’s really not unhealthy to be fat. This is simply ridiculous. Medical science has shown very strong links between obesity and heart disease, cancer, and many other health problems such as sleep apnea (potentially dangerous), asthma, and more. Many of these Fat Acceptance bloggers swap remedies for chafing, sore muscles, and other problems caused by their weight yet ignore the fact that these problems could be better solved by losing weight!

    I don’t think fat people should be discriminated against, and if you’ve decided you want to stay fat- fine. You have a right to live your life the way you choose. But they pretend that being fat is an ideal way to live, and it’s NOT. It is irresponsible for them to encourage others to stay fat rather than “betray the cause” by doing something good for their health.

  77. One more thing: I’ve noticed that many of these Fat Acceptance bloggers are relatively young. Sure, being 300 pounds might not be too much of a hardship when you’re only 30. But I’d like to see what these bloggers have to say in a few years when the health problems caused by all that extra weight really start kicking in.

  78. @Sandy E: ““A 25 calorie piece of broccoli requires 80 calories to digest, resulting in a net loss of 55 calories. The more you eat, the more you lose weight!” This really makes sense to me.”

    It might make sense, but it’s just plain wrong. There are absolutely no studies about how many calories it takes to digest broccoli or any of the other food you listed. Sites that make these claims never list any proof for that, which should tell you something.

    Eating broccoli isn’t bad. Eating 3,000 calories of broccoli a day, however, will still make you gain weight, not lose it.

  79. @John

    Most overweight people are fat because of their own poor choices.

    But the food industry is guilty too, it does everything it can to make people eat more.

    Don’t underestimate the influence of health problems and drugs.
    A thin and attractive friend put on 16kg and lost a lot of hair IN ONE MONTH when on Depakine (sodium valproate). Believe me, she didn’t want to gain all that weight (nor lose her hair).

  80. Being fat is the CHOICE of 90%+ of people who are fat. They eat more calories than they burn. They get fat. I RESENT 1. fat people who get so fat they get ADA status and a card so they can park next to the door at a store and not have to walk as far as I do, 2. having social security pay for fat people to live without working, 3. fat people getting food stamps so they can continue to be fat, 4. having to sit next to a fat person on an airplane while their gross flesh expands over into my seat space for which I have paid. Can’t fit between the arm rests on a plane? BUY TWO SEATS! Want proof? Look at photos of World War II concentration camp victims. They lived on a diet of watery soup and a hunk of bread a day, about 600 calories, THEY WERE THIN AS RAILS, BAGS OF BONES. Nowhere in these photos are there FAT prisoners in the camps. Eat less calories than you burn, you get thinner. Eat more calories than you need and get fat. I have fought (and won) the battle of the bulge all my adult life and it is boring work but easy, I EAT LESS THAN I WANT! 90%+ of the time it is lack of self discipline, which is one reason people do not want to hire the fat.

  81. I am pretty sure that jenn’s comment, #40, is one of those that was added later because it had to be screened. If you haven’t read it, scroll up the page and read it now. It’s important.

  82. For the Ph.D. student: buy Adobe Acrobat professional and one can add comments and annotate to one’s heart content.

    Was worth the money! Cost over the years — pretty neglible and worth it.

    PhD professor

  83. I have a question, maybe for the mailbag?!

    I am 36 years old and have been spinning my wheels career-wise for the past 7-8 years. Five years ago, I got two useless licenses and last year, I got another one.
    I’m at a point in my life that I would be able to try to go back to school, but I wonder what the pay-off would be.
    If I go to a “trade school”, I can go full-time for as little as 4 months for $4500 or I can get my masters for $40K and up (and everything in between). Obviously, I would be without an income during this time.
    What would be a better investment for me at this stage in my life? Keep in mind that I have less than 30-years to “get my money back”. I’m open to just about anything: my personal choice would be to continue working and go to school part time, but I’m curious if anyone knows what the “pay back” for higher education really is. When does it start becoming profitable?
    Oh and I currently make about $18K as an “entry level” clerical position.

  84. Really can’t believe somebody brought Prader-Willi syndrome into the debate on weight. As you said yourself, only 1 in 15 THOUSAND births suffer from this syndrome. Not really all that relevant.

    I am a medical student and have been trained over and over again on obesity. It seems that every single one of the hundreds of lectures I attended regarding diseases from the head to the toe had a special section for obese patients. The problem is that just simply having a larger body does not constitute the health problems. Shaquille O’Neil is a very large man…but proportionate and healthy. Someone who is 5’6″ and weighs 300 pounds is not healthy. The problem lies within the type of weight one is gaining. When you’re obese because of excess food (and generally unhealthy foods at that) you do much more damage because of what goes on inside of your body. Fat infiltrates organs, arteries become clogged, nerves begin to shutdown, and inactive muscle begins to atrophy. A few people have already commented on this, but again it is the TYPE of weight one is gaining that is negative for your health. Now, back to the Prader-Willi syndrome. Should this syndrome be considered a disability? Most certainly! A child is born with this condition. We consider Down syndrome a disability! Should the obesity itself be considered a disability? Not necessarily, no.

    Regarding those who are claiming liver and thyroid problems as causes of obesity, please consider the events leading to these problems. Thyroid problems can result from a variety of etiologies, and many of them are legit and place no fault on the patient. Disability? Perhaps, assuming the physician is unable to control his or her patient’s thyroid replacement hormone dosing. However, I often tell my patients that while there are reasons for weight gain, there are never excuses.

    As far as liver problems are concerned, this day and age the majority of the liver problems we see are not occurring because a healthy man or woman woke up and suddenly had liver problems. Alcohol use, smoking, diet, unsafe sex habits, drug abuse, medication abuse, and even travel–all play a role in liver disease. Additionally, liver disease will cause a different kind of weight gain, mainly a weight gain of fluid. Essentially all of the blood in your stomach must go through your liver. Once the liver gets diseased, this flow can become obstructed, causing what is called portal hypertension. When this occurs, you force water from your blood into your body, causing a weight gain. Is this bad? Certainly. However, just please realize it is not the same type of obesity when arguing.

    I don’t think there really is a good answer as to whether or not obesity in itself should be a recognized disability. Almost all of my patients in house are overweight if not obese, and it’s rare that I will take a medical history and receive a legitimate medical cause of obesity. I acknowledge their struggle, but in most cases it can get better. I lost 45 pounds when in college and turned my life around. It CAN be done with willpower (which brings up another debate: if you can get rid of your obesity as a disability and choose not to, should it still be recognized?)

    Regarding diet on a budget…I have very little money every month as I rack up a large amount of medical education debt. Mac and cheese is fine…just eat the serving. Pop is fine…limit it to one can a day and drink water (although there’s nothing wrong with diet soda sir…same price no calories, and don’t tell me it causes cancer as no research proves that it does). And as far as kids are concerned, feed them mac and cheese and a pop, but send them outside for exercise every day.

    My final point, however (and this will probably gain the most criticism), is that regardless of the status of obesity as a disability, if you take up two seats on an airline, then you should pay for two seats. Or, let’s use the parking lot example: a certain amount of seats need to be suitable for obese passengers. If my elected officials decide that I need to use my tax dollars to fund disability coverage for obesity, then I accept that as a citizen of this country. However, my own dollar given to a company for a service should not require me to accept that I get less than what I pay for.

  85. Being overweight is not a disability. If you have a medical condition that causes you to be overweight, then that medical condition is a disability and should be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you are checked out by a doctor and found to have no medical problems, then you don’t have a disability, you are just overweight. And uncontrollable french fry and ice cream cravings don’t count as a medical condition, although they sometimes feel like one…

  86. @ Jim

    Being obese does not physically hurt anyone but the obese person.

    Smokers hurt everyone who breathe their smoke. Growing up in a smoker’s household, having bronchitis every winter because I was shut up in a house full of smoke, and having repeated sinus infections until I moved into my own smoke free home and work in a smoke free enviroment(I now have very few health problems), I can tell you that second-hand smoke physically effects those around you who choose not to smoke, yet are forced to breathe in your “filty habit”. Even now if I spend any time around a smoker I cough for hours afterward.

    Do I have health issues after spending time with an obese person? NO.

  87. In support of Consumer Reports: another vital concern of theirs is that they be perceived as 100% objective, so accepting advertising, or agreeing to articles in magazines (and now blogs) can be perceived as comprimsing their objectivity. Some companies use the CU rating in their advertisments and CU always makes the company remove the claim since it comprimised their objectivity. They are rightly concerned about 3rd parties gaining from mentioning CU.

  88. ONENOTE ONENOTE ONENOTE!!!! This is the best program I have EVER USED!!! I am in law school and use it to “print” all my documents. It allows you to place a pdf into a “notebook” and then you can highlight, annotate, link to the original file it came from, arrange it however you like, type all over it, edit it in real time with multiple people (I use it in class to compile notes from LOTS of other students) and pretty much do whatever you want. If you haven’t used OneNote, you are really missing something great. (I even use it at work to keep track of all my clients and their progress etc.) Cheap too!

  89. Josh–I agree with ML (comment #73). Roll over your 401k into an IRA. You’ll have way more choices, probably at much lower cost, and you don’t have to worry about whether your old company stays in business. Plus you’ll get to keep this retirement money working for you.

    Grammar whiners–please get over it. The reason for good grammar is so that people understand what you’re saying, which is especially important in writing where you can’t adjust what you’re saying based on how you see your audience responding. It sounds like you know what he’s saying. And now you know it’s proper grammar in some parts of the country. Please just consider yourself a little more cosmopolitan now.

  90. “Being fat is sometimes voluntary, but in many cases it is not.”

    Based on the research literature, “sometimes” and “in many cases” should switch from the clause they’re in to the other. Ergo, being fat is in many cases voluntary, but sometimes it is not.

    While obesity is multi-causal to be sure, *in many cases* the causes reduce to personal lifestyle choices (e.g., lack of physical activity, sedentary behaviors, poor eating habits). *Sometimes* obesity is due to uncontrollable factors. But these are the exceptions that prove the rule.

    From an evidence-based perspective, there was nothing egregious about Lindsay’s comment. Was it too universal in scope? Yes. Was it egregious? No.

  91. The being-fat-is-a-choice-&-shouldn’t-be-covered-by-the-ADA commentary: OK. Then the ADA should not cover people with disabilities caused by smoking (cancer), drinking (kidney failure), listening to loud music (hearing loss), having unprotected sex (HIV/AIDS & debilitating STDs), etc. OR, continue to evaluate these people on an individual basis under the ADA and consider allowing fat people to have potential protection under the ADA if they meet the test.

  92. For those who are not fat but feel compelled to criticize, I weigh over 300 pounds and have borderline high blood pressure, but my cholesterol and blood sugar levels are fine. I wish I could do physical tasks with greater ease and look better in my clothes, but I also realize much of the reason I feel bad about how I look is because of unrealistic expectations foisted on us by the fashion industry. Fat is no more inherently ugly than wrinkles, but only thinness and youth are celebrated in American culture. The diseases of aging cost as much as those associated with being overweight, but I never hear anyone complain about old people wasting our tax dollars by “choosing” to stay alive. Funny how generous we can be when it involves someone we give a damn about.

    Why am I fat? Lots of reasons, many of which I’ll admit are personal choice. I love the taste of chocolate and seem to crave and enjoy the feeling of being full more than most people. Food has always been my security blanket when the world is not particularly kind. I was picked last and ridiculed during sports as a child, so I never learned to enjoy exercise. Nowadays I’m nervous about even going for a walk in public because I’ve been called names by passersby before. Unhealthy food is definitely cheaper and more appealing than lean meats, fruits and vegetables.

    My bipolar disorder is bad enough that I can no longer work, and I have always coped with it by emotional eating. When I feel down, I gorge on sweets. When I get manic, I bring myself down with starches and salt. I developed these habits before I knew what was wrong with me, and it is very difficult to reshape them, especially when I continue to suffer from mood swings. I take lots of medication and try to use tips I’ve learned in counseling, but sometimes the depths of despair or heights of grandiosity and denial make it impossible to employ dietary discipline.

    If anyone cares to cast any more stones, please take a look at your own messed up lives. Fat people are keenly aware that most people judge us and our lifestyles could kill us. The only thing simple about the obesity problem is the minds of those who think it can be solved with a little tough love or unsolicited advice.

    Oh, and if I need a second seat on an airplane, maybe it’s because all the seats are too small to be comfortable for anyone. Does anyone begrudge tall people a little leg room?

  93. RE: DeRuiter (Comment #79) Yes, the concentration camp diet works! Hooray! Forced eating of bug-infested, germ-laden, moldy, rotten food in minuscule quantities by people who wish you ill makes you thin as a rail. And worthy of being a fashion model in most New York fashion mags, ’cause nothin’ sells the latest glad rags than looking like you were just let out of a concentration camp. However, what you see in the pictures is the people who lived. What you don’t see is their condition before being whisked from their homes and families and forced to live in conditions that would sicken most animals.

    Having been sick enough to lose weight in this manner, I will tell you that the excess weight I had ahead of time probably saved my life. The ability to starve oneself is an illness, either physical, mental or emotional.

    That people see something instructive in photos of concentration camp victims and survivors that they contribute to weight-loss conversations is nothing new. It is sad and disingenuous. Truthfully, if someone were to eat as if they were in a concentration camp, having any other options, it would have far worse health effects than some extra pounds. If you were faced with a co-worker, friend or relative eating in this manner, you would be forced to either rush right out and purchased groceries for them or get them psychiatric help.

    Obesity is increasing for many reasons, some of which is related to changes in our food supply, some of which is related to increases in illnesses that once would likely have been untreated, and some, certainly because of increasing emotional and psychological problems. And yes, for many people, eating less and exercising more is the answer. But not for all.

    I find it interesting that this subject has brought up so much ire. In the current era, we are likely to see government taking over our healthcare system and doling out our money for all kinds of illness, and rationing care. Let me ask you, do you wish to see your government, or any other group deciding which care should be allowed you and which should not?

    I will tell you that as an overweight person, I often check out other people’s grocery carts. I am amazed at the amount of junk food in healthy-looking skinny people’s carts. But then, I have several friends who are adversely affected by extremely high metabolism or the inability to process food. They eat enormous quantities of high calorie food striving to get to a so-called “normal” weight. Eating is an obsession with them because they have this struggle. One friend looks like she is a concentration camp survivor, but the fact is she eats loads of high calorie foods. She would be the first one to die in a concentration camp because she has not one spare ounce on her emaciated frame. I have to believe that if there are these people, who where they to increase their activity levels or drop their caloric intake would likely die, then there are those likely in equal amounts who will have a very difficult time losing weight on anything but a concentration camp diet.

    By the way, my “concentration camp diet” as I called it was limited to the ingestion of about 200 calories a day, simply because I was too ill to eat. I suppose many people would suggest that since that worked, that I should willingly continue to live on 200 calories per day.

    I can think up any number of Twilight Zone worthy episodes about this matter.

  94. I find it entertaining that there is such a wide range of percentages of people who can be overweight due to medical conditions (I’ve seen anywhere from 1% to 10%). Clearly no one is looking this up and finding out how many are affected by the diseases that have been listed. Since no one knows what the numbers are, and you can’t tell by looking at someone whether they have this disease or not, why not just have compassion for someone who is probably not happy with themselves?

    How do you know they’re not already trying? What do you think will be accomplished by telling someone who is trying hard to eat right and exercise and has lost 20 pounds but still has 50 to go, that they obviously have no control over their eating and need to get their fat ass to the gym? I doubt you would be so cruel to someone who is struggling (but trying) to get his or her finances in order.

  95. I realize that I may be a little late to this discussion, but I really needed to “weigh” in on this. One of the problems that our society has regarding people’s size is an unrealistic vision of what a healthy weight is. At 48 years of age, I am well within what doctors consider to be a healthy weight and have a BMI within the normal range. I cannot, however seem to get my body into anything below a size 8. These days a size 8 is considered to be “beefy”.

    Since I am only 5 feet tall, in order to keep my beefy size 8, I can consume no more than 1200 calories a day and I must exercise for 30 minutes to an hour every single day. Many people would consider this extreme. I have friends and acquaintances who can eat whatever they want, whenever they want to, and do not require the same level of exercise to maintain a healthy weight. The point is, that we are all different. What works for one, may be ineffective, or more difficult for someone else. The same goes for our finances.

    Just like “calories in = calories spent”, we all know that the formula for staying healthy financially requires spending less than we earn, but all of us come at it from a different place. A young adult, living alone, trying to get rid of credit card debt while paying rent in New York City, has a whole different set of challenges than a middle aged couple who has two kids in college, takes care of an elderly parent, and does not have a decent public transportation system. Knowing what to do, and being able to do it successfully are very different things. The purpose of connecting through this blog, is for support, so we can face our respective challenges and hopefully, succeed. We need to remember that things are not always as they appear on the surface, and we all carry our own unique set of issues.

  96. Great advice here today. My husband has pretty standard sized feet but he’s on them all day and has issues as well. Another thing to buy in addition to shoes that fit and breathe properly is appropriate socks – preferably thick ones that absorb and wick moisture and protect against chafing. As for rental properties, they really *are* more trouble than they’re worth to most people unless you spend an awful lot of time researching and making sure they’re higher-end. Finally, good job on the podcasts. Since I bought my Honda Fit (which I adore!!!) I’ve been listening to a lot of books on CD, but NPR is always a trusty backup between books. Thanks for your blog!

  97. Hi, Trent–
    Thank you for your wonderful blog. I learn so much from it, and am grateful for what you write.
    I have a question for you that I have been pondering for months without getting any great ideas.
    I want very much to budget our money well so that we can pay off debt, create an emergency reserve, and prosper. What is making it difficult for me (besides my right-brained tendencies :) is that our income is in part from seasonal work. We have one job paid by a salary year round, and another job paid by hourly wages only during the school year. So during the summer, our income drops to about 1/3 of what it is the rest of the year.
    I had worked out a system of saving during the more prosperous months to make it through the dry summer, but was doing all the record-keeping on paper. Do you have any suggestions for how to make this situation work using a program such as Quicken?
    Thank you for your help!

  98. The primary issue that strikes me isn’t whether being obese is voluntary – it’s whether obesity should be considered a disability for legal purposes and whether obese people should be protected under anti-discrimination laws.

    Making obesity a disability would require businesses to make things all kinds of products and services – including public buildings and offices – accessible to people with that disability.

    This is simply a ludicrous option in my view for one simple reason: obesity is 98-99% CURABLE (not to mention preventable). Besides, are we really as a society willing to hand out government disability checks along with handicapped parking tags to over half of all Americans simply because they are obese???

    Plus, where do you draw the line? Does every chair and toilet and doorway need to be enlarged and every elevator converted to industrial grade so the man who weighs over 700 pounds (he exists and lives in Harlem, bed ridden) can ride?

  99. Trent – I feel ridiculous thanking anyone for treating fat people like people, because it should be par for the course. But I’d like to say thank you anyway.

  100. If being fat is voluntary, why do fewer than 5% of people who lose weight (which puts them in an exalted minority in the first place) maintain that loss over three years?

    Having said that, being fat is also the RESULT of many other diseases and conditions. It’s also the RESULT of many medications prescribed. It’s also the RESULT of not being able to exercise because you have no energy, can’t catch your breath, or don’t have the strength to stand due to a medical condition or the treatment for such a condition.

    The point is to treat fat people with the same kindness and courtesy you treat any other stranger.

    Alternately – the best way to get egg on your face is to critisize a fat person’s dining in a restaurant!

  101. I have a question for the mailbag. In 2010, Lexington, KY (where I live) will be hosting the World Equestrian Games. The whole city is getting revamped in anticipation of the many people coming here from all over the world. Our newspaper recently ran an article about people renting out their houses during that time. Based on the article, my fiance and I (we will be married by the time the games come around) determined that we could probably get about $1000/day to rent out the house. The article had a smaller home with no yard that was going for that much. The games last for 15 days. During that time, we could go on vacation or stay with my fiance’s parents without any trouble. We’d have to clear out our clothes and some valuables, but for $15,000, it seems well worth it. There might be some issues with damage, but a damage waiver would at least help, and we might need to update our insurance policy for the home. The article even listed 3 companies that offer different levels of help with the process (i.e. hands off and no commission or hands on with commission). Do you think this is a good idea to pursue? Do you have any thoughts on this that might be helpful? Thank you!

  102. For the PhD student:

    I teach at the college level, and IMHO your best option is Microsoft OneNote. With it you can print PDF’s into the program, annotate to your heart’s content, tag, take lecture notes, including audio, and search your notes. It will keep everything in one place.

    Even if your PDF’s are scanned as images, OneNote can OCR them and search the text in the image. You can do all kinds of thing with this program, which I think is the greatest, best kept secret out there for academic use.

    Students can get Office 2007 Home and Student, which includes OneNote for $60 with a valid .edu email.

    Also check out BlueBeam Revu and PDF annotator, both of which have nice features for little dough.

  103. Katie, I would rent the house out in a New York minute! That will be the easiest money you every make.

    Re: renting homes. Aside from the work involved, keep in mind that one meth lab on your property will eliminate your entire net worth.

    Re: rolling over 104 K: If you are unemployed for a long time, make it a Roth. Then it will build without you having to pay taxes on what it makes over time.

    Re: obesity. I am sick of judgmental people who can see the symptom of overweight without seeing what lies under it. The usual excuse for the hatred is that somehow, somewhere, the overweight person is “costing me money” on health care.

    Well, I have news for you. You speeders are costing me money when you cause crashes. You mountain climbers and hikers are costing me money when you get in trouble and someone poor schmuck has to risk his/her life to go out and rescue you. You hang gliders are costing me money when you crash and have to go to the hospital. You bicyclists are costing me money when you get hit by a car. ALL OF THOSE ACTIVITIES ARE TOTALLY VOLUNTARY!!!! Eating, on the other hand, is NOT.

    Grow up, judgmental so-and-sos. When you have taken the log out of your own eye, then go after the speck in others’ eyes!

  104. Re: swapping lawnmower and snow blower. Great idea, but consider liability issues before you do that. Talk to your insurance company. If your neighbor loses a hand and sues you, that isn’t good. If you run over your kid or dog (all of which should be safe inside the house when these are operated) and sue your neighbor, also not good. consulting a lawyer to draw up a document you both sign promising to assume liability when you use the other’s equipment would be a REALLY good idea!

    Also, the snow blower is used a lot less (in most places) than the lawn mower. Maybe you should offer to pay for gas for half the summer for the neighbor? Or offer to pay for end-of-season maintenance, or something to address the imbalance.

  105. About Large Shoe Sizes:

    You should try BA Mason shoes
    http://www.bamason.com/home.jsp?

    We get the catalog at home and all the men in my family wear their work boots. They say they feel “broken in” already and guys at my dads work actually orders boots through him because they like them so much. The company also has special guarantees about the quality and replace worn out shoes sometimes.

  106. Wow, Trent. Thanks for taking a stand against discrimination and hatred of fat people, even though it’s obviously not popular with some of your more judgmental commenters. You are a good person.

  107. I work in a hospital and the majority of our patients are obese…not just fat, morbidly obese. And no matter how sick they supposedly are, sick enough to be in a hospital, the first thing they usually ask for when they arrive to their rooms is where’s their meal. And sometimes the one meal tray isn’t enough for them and they ask for a second one. Being fat is a choice, 99% of the time and they have no one to blame but themselves. Just because restaurants serve a huge amount of food for a meal doesn’t mean it all has to be eaten at once. Take half of it home for another meal. Fat folks need to quit blaming everyone for their lack of self-discipline and just take responsibility for their actions. AND 99.9% OF THE TIME, BEING FAT SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED A DISABILITY!!!

  108. I’m a couple weeks late, but the graduate student looking for a good PDF reader may want to check out the recent Lifehacker post comparing various free and paid readers. Personally, though, I found that having text in print was more helpful – hours on end of looking at the screen didn’t work for me. When necessary, I could have Word open and type notes there.

  109. I’m late to this discussion, but I want to weigh in (ha) on the weight issue. I live among the skinny minnie Japanese in mainland Japan who, along with Okinawans, have about the longest lifespans on the planet. It is not much fun being a big American here, sometimes, as the chairs in most tiny restaurants wouldn’t support today’s average size American. Nor does the ‘cake set’ (coffee and a teeny tiny slice of something sweet) support an American-size appetite. And even the sweets are not that sweet! But after 10 years of this diet, I find I no longer crave a “Chili’s” size burger and sides with a Chili’s size dessert when I visit the States. It is just too sweet and too huge for me to consider eating by myself, so I mostly share. I think my body and my mind have been slowly re-educated about food portions and my taste buds have been re-educated to appreciate the glimpse of sweet that passes for dessert here. A major group of Japanese desserts is made from Japanese red beans, which are often served with a rice-based ‘sweet’ cookie or mochie and maybe some blackstrap molasses. That even desserts are nutritious floors me still. I am just now acquiring a taste for some of this . . . While their diet is by no means perfect, I find that re-education regarding portions and sweetness has made me appreciate food so much more and I am therefore satisfied with less. The beautiful presentation helps, too. Of course, I’ve been slowly cooking more Japanese dishes. It seems we simply do not have the big weight problems here –more than likely because kids are taught nutrition and cooking methods from early elementary age in school. A fish-based rather than red meat-based diet also helps. I think that if we Americans could learn how to eat to support good health (and not for emotional reasons) the national obsession with obesity and weight loss would abate. Any comments?

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