In the National Briefing section of today’s New York Times I found the following blurb:

COAST GUARD RECOMMENDS RISE IN WEIGHT ESTIMATES The Coast Guard recommended that operators of small boats raise weight estimates for passengers to reflect that Americans have grown fatter since the first standards in 1942. The recommendation arises from an investigation of an accident in which an overloaded water taxi capsized in Baltimore in 2004, killing five people. The operator assumed that the average passenger weighed 140 pounds, based on Coast Guard standards. Last October, a tour boat on Lake George, N.Y., the Ethan Allen, capsized, killing 20 of the 48 people aboard. The Coast Guard settled on a voluntary standard of 185 pounds until new rules are established. (AP)

I hope that the FFA has been more diligent in increasing the average passenger weight for airlines making weight calculations. I’ve flown a lot recently and I can tell you that the average passenger weighs much more than 140 pounds.
The excess avoirdupois that many of us are carrying is much more than just a cosmetic problem and, as this piece points out, it’s even more than a health problem only to the overweight individual. Since it is a health problem for a given obese person that can affect those nearby perhaps we should call it second-hand obesity.


  1. I believe the airlines did raise their estimates. I remember seeing a program on TV where a small plane DID crash because the weight estimates were too low. They were raised as a result of the crash.
    And I weigh more than 140. At 145 I am at the high end of a “healthy weight” for a 5’7″ woman with medium bones, at least by the Met Life charts. My body fat percentage is also within “healthy” parameters. I have no desire to go below 140. My current aim is to lose body fat, gain muscle, and more or less maintain my weight.

  2. Thanks for making the inquiry because, although I commonly use the word, I’ve never actually looked it up. My trusty Oxford American Dictionary defines avoirdupois as follows:
    weight, heaviness, especially personal weight.
    I’m sure it derives from the French avoir (to have) and poids (weight)

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