The New Mathematics – Bigonometry and Flabonometry
By Michael Applebaum, MD, JD, FCLM

I accompanied a friend of mine on a shopping trip and was interested to see “Size 0” clothing for women.  What is that?  How can anyone be a size nothing?


No one can.


The apparel industry is using a psychological trick.  Frequently, designer houses cut clothing fuller to deceive a woman into believing that she is wearing a smaller size.  The clothing is actually up to two sizes larger than the label indicates.  The term of art is “vanity sizing.”


Now it makes sense.  Here is the new size chart:


Original Size

New Size










-2? (children’s, juniors)


Let me present you with other new arithmetic created to accommodate the enlarging tissue around our mathholes.


There used to be a standard butt width.  This value was used, for example, in designing seats for sports arenas, concert halls, cinemas and airplanes.  It was 18 inches or 45 centimeters.  Guess what?  We no longer fit.  Why?  More math.


In the United States, the average woman needs 2,000 calories a day, the average man 2,500, and the average for age child even less.


America's food producers produce enough food to supply an average of 3,800 calories every day to every man, woman and child in this country.  Where do the excess calories go?


The excess calories go into our mouths.  (True, some food is exported.  However, some food is also imported.  For the sake of conversation, let’s call it a caloric wash.)


Studies have shown that when you put food in front of people, they will eat it--whether they are hungry or not.  The American people are no exception.  We eat the unneeded calories.  Excess calories, once absorbed, cannot be belched, urinated, defecated, farted or evaporated away.  The extra calories must end up on our bodies.  And does.  The incidence of "obesity" has increased in every state, in both sexes, and across all age groups and races -- educational levels and smoking status notwithstanding.  Disturbingly, the evidence suggests accelerating growth since 1994.


By the way, there is another term for absorbed excess calories.  That term is “fat.”


This gorging of America has obsolesced the 18 inches/45 centimeters rule.


Ever hear of CAESAR, the Civilian American and European Surface Anthropometry Resource?  Almost two dozen companies sponsored this project to take measurements of the American physique and develop updated standards.  The Society of Automotive Engineers worked with researchers from the U.S. Air Force on this multi-million dollar study of the changing American shape, i.e., expanding American behind and belly.  As part of the study, 2400 North Americans were measured in more than 100 ways with lasers.  (Lest you think that we are measurement assolationists, you will be happy to know that 2000 NATO-member Europeans were also studied.)


A thorough working knowledge of butt-widths and belly-overhangs is vital.


Changes have already been made to accommodate blimpifying Americans.  Some airlines are lifting tray tables higher on planes to accommodate super-sater’s bellies.  Restaurants are buying wider booths and apparel makers are promoting clothing with elastic waistbands.  Several theaters are installing seats 24 inches wide, while other seats have armrests that lift to accommodate the overfat.


The consequences of consumers’ growth are felt unequally in different business sectors.  The food industry makes more bucks.  Pharmaceutical companies make more bucks as we drug ourselves to stave off death and illness from hyper-adiposity.  But industries that seat people lose bucks since fewer über-sized people can occupy the same space as normal-sized people.  Fewer people means higher charges to make the same profit.


Perhaps at some point people will realize that size matters.  Then we will have to decide.  Do we downscale our bodies to normal or create a newer math that vanity sizes the inch?