Or at least I am according to my "BMI".
After reading the comments in louisev's diary about the woman who died of kidney failure thanks to airlines that wouldn't/couldn't seat her due to her obesity I feel the need to rant just a bit about what being overweight really is per the "standard" and about how people who are overweight are treated in our society. Follow me over the fold for more.
First about me. I am 6'4" and I weigh between 220 and 230lbs. I am active even though I sit behind a desk all day and you'd be hard pressed to pinch an inch on me as I am in good "shape". But according to my BMI I am overweight, fat, obese. I call bullshit. Even more I call bullshit on those who think it's perfectly fine to criticize others as being unhealthy, fat, obese, whatever based on a measure that was never intended to be used for an individual and based on how they "look". This is personal for me, not just because of the fact that per the "standard" I am overweight but because I lost my younger sister to suicide partially due to her self-image as it related to her weight.
BMI is bullshit
According to wikipedia, what became known as the Body Mass Index was originally developed in the 19th century as part of "social physics". It wasn't until the 1970's that the name was changed to BMI. Even then it was not meant to be used on an individual basis.
In 1998, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought U.S. definitions into line with World Health Organization guidelines, lowering the normal/overweight cut-off from BMI 27.8 to BMI 25. This had the effect of redefining approximately 29 million Americans, previously healthy to overweight. It also recommends lowering the normal/overweight threshold for South East Asian body types to around BMI 23, and expects further revisions to emerge from clinical studies of different body types.Amazing isn't it? They tinker with the numbers a bit and suddenly 29 million more people are considered fat/overweight.
The U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 1994 indicated that 59% of American men and 49% of women had BMIs over 25. Morbid obesity—a BMI of 40 or more—was found in 2% of the men and 4% of the women. The newest survey in 2007 indicates a continuation of the increase in BMI: 63% of Americans are overweight or obese, with 26% now in the obese category (a BMI of 30 or more). There are differing opinions on the threshold for being underweight in females; doctors quote anything from 18.5 to 20 as being the lowest weight, the most frequently stated being 19. A BMI nearing 15 is usually used as an indicator for starvation and the health risks involved, with a BMI less than 17.5 being an informal criterion for the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa.
Even better, a quick google search gives a visual aid illustrating the ridiculousness of the BMI metric.
Being overweight/fat/obese doesn't mean you are unhealthy
My wife is a BBW, for those who don't know what that means she's a big beautiful woman. She's 5'9 and 270lbs. Hell according to the BMI calculator she's close to Morbidly Obese yet when she goes to the doctor and gets her blood work done her cholesterol is low, her sugar is perfect, by all measurements she's healthy as can be. But, OMG, she has a belly and her BMI is so high! She also eats well, gets regular exercise and in general is not sitting around doing nothing all day. My point is there is a lot more to it than just appearance and weight. Just as the saying goes "you can't judge a book by it's cover".
Are there lots of fat unhealthy people? Yup, and there are a lot of skinny unhealthy people and "normal" unhealthy people.
You wouldn't be fat if you just did x, y, and z
Easy for you to say. Hell I eat healthy, I exercise regularly and so does my wife. In fact the only thing we do have in common that will most certainly lead to health problems is the fact we both smoke which we've vowed to rectify this year by quitting. But here's the thing, according to the BMI I'm fat and my wife is borderline "morbidly obese" yet we're in relatively good health.
So what are us "fat lazy slobs" to do? I know let's start taking diet pills! Or hell let's pay a fortune and go to a weight loss clinic! Wait, even better, let's go have part of our stomach removed or even let's just have a tube wrapped around our stomach that can be tightened or loosened as needed!
A close friend of ours went with option 3 after diet and exercise just weren't cutting it, you see everyone in her family was overweight...pesky genetics...and now she can barely eat anything, can't keep certain foods down, and relies on supplements because that's what gastric bypass does.
There is now a new mega-industry out there for weight loss, all based on the idea that a number, the BMI, is a real measure of a healthy weight. Go to any store and most of the time there'll be an entire aisle dedicated to weight loss supplements, everything from MEGA GREEN TEA to the latest legal form of speed. We're bombarded with commercials for Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Nurtri-system and every other program out there. They're all in it to make money off the latest "epidemic".
Do we as a society have to make some changes? Sure. I'd love to see the fast food industry go the way of the do-do. I'd love to see real sugar used in the place of HFC in soft drinks (they taste better to me). But for some people Fast food is all they can afford. It's cheaper to get something off the dollar menu at McDonald's than it is to go to a grocery store and buy the ingredients for a healthy meal. So many end up getting their calories when and where they can. Want to fix that issue? Let's start by raising the minimum wage, improving our education system so kids can grow up to get good paying jobs that will bring them and their families out of poverty. What we shouldn't be doing is sitting on our high horses criticizing people who appear to be fat or are considered unhealthy simply due to their weight.
Fat is Sexy
I said it and I will continue to believe it, in some cultures it's still considered to be a very attractive quality and if I was given my choice between some runway model who ate like a bird and a woman who ate well and had meat on her bones I'd take the woman who had the meat on her bones any day. We need to seriously start re-evaluating our body image when it comes to what is "normal" and what is "attractive". Not every man can look like an Abercrombie And Fitch or Calvin Klein model and not every woman is going to look like whoever or whatever the latest supermodel/pageant winner looks like and nor should they.
People come in all shapes and all sizes. Just because someone doesn't "look" a certain way or because they "weigh" a certain amount doesn't mean that they are unhealthy, slovenly slobs who are just plain lazy and don't do x, y, and z. For some it's a medical condition, for others it's inheritance, for others still it's socioeconomic and yes, for some it is just their lifestyle choice. But that doesn't make it ok to judge or criticize.