The Good Body
Body image is a loaded subject these days. Talking about fat results in flame wars on the internets, talking about wanting to lose weight results in flame wars on the internets, and not talking about the body at all results in flame wars and the complaint that obviously the patriarchy has damaged your brain and we’re going to hell in a misogynistic hand basket. For me, personally, with this blog post, I am hoping for concern trolls and a resulting spike in comments. I hope for this, ladies and gentlemen, because I am about to talk about… my body (cue dramatic music.) Also, I want comments!
Some facts: I am 5 feet 1.5 inches tall. I am female with all the resulting curvature. I am, as of right now, overweight at 160 lbs. A little over 2 years ago I was medically obese at 220 lbs. That’s right, in the course of about 2 years I have lost 60 lbs. Congratulate me and die. This is a fact, nothing more, and congratulating me for being able to lose weight means you’re not congratulating me for being fucking awesome and that’s a problem.
It started out as an accident, losing weight. I went off a medication and started dropping pounds. I started exercising more, just yoga at least every other day and walking everywhere. My food intake stayed stable, my portions were LARGE but I was eating *mostly* fresh veggies and fruit, whole grain pasta with a minuscule amount of animal protein.
Cut to today. I am actively trying to lose weight. I eat less, mostly lean protein and veggies with some fruit, little to no sugar (and we all know that is my kryptonite. I deal by eating sweet fruit) and exercise more. I do yoga every other day, go to the pottery studio every other day, and bike several miles every day. And when I say I am actively trying to lose weight, I mean I am actively trying to gain muscle and lose fat. I have found that losing fat has made me feel better, healthier and more energetic. And my well muscled legs make me feel like a bad ass. What I am trying to say is this isn’t about fitting my body into some predetermined societally acceptable mold, it’s about getting my body to the point where if I want to go on a 20 mile bike ride, I can.
All the things society sets forth as reasonable indicators of health, the BMI, how good you look in skinny jeans, all mean nothing to me (I’m more of a dress girl.) My goal weight is one that I can probably hit, though for me it’s more about losing my disproportionately large belly (seriously, I am normal sized everywhere else and my belly is just…) and being able to ride my bike without wanting to die. Technically, my goal weight of 130 is on the high side for my height but based on the fact that I am actively trying to build muscle, I figure if I hit 130 that’s about as good as it will get because muscle weighs more than fat and I’ve already determined that this is part of why I weigh what I do. Also, I’ve been reading studies (gah, always an academic) and they all say that for a short, well muscled female, the BMI is even more worthless than usual. Time for a lesson: this BMI worthlessness is due to a couple things. 1) The BMI was created for insurance companies to measure potential mortalities based one a population’s weight. That word, population, is very important because it tells you that the BMI was never intended to be applied to individuals. 2) The vagaries of individual bodies are too numerous to account for with a simple ratio. Which is exactly what the BMI is: a ratio of height to weight. 3) It doesn’t indicate how much of that weight is muscle vs. fat, it doesn’t take into account gender factors (the BMI was originally only applied to men and when they decided to apply it to women, they essentially just scaled down the numbers. This does not take into account the fact that women, for biological reasons, are supposed carry more fat, in different areas than men. Where you carry the weight is important too!)
Basically, if I hit 140 and enough of my belly is gone (as determined by me) and I can ride without feeling like death, I will have hit my goal weight. The fact of the matter is that I don’t own a scale, don’t care to, and frankly don’t care about my weight so much as I care that I am well muscled and healthy, which is not synonymous with a low BMI. And that’s the rub, that’s what has lady websites up in arms, and that’s why this country is so fucked when it comes to determining health. We equate health with being skinny and that is not necessarily the case. I eat better than the majority of people out there, get tons of exercise, but am overweight by any medical standard. Does this mean I am not healthy?
No, it means that the way we determine health in this country is FUBAR (that’s “fucked up beyond all repair” for those who missed the 90s.) It means that the flame wars over what people should weigh are based entirely on faulty and improper modes of measuring and it totally discounts the fact that EVERY BODY IS DIFFERENT. If I were exercising and eating as I am and not losing weight my reaction would be simple yet counterintuitive. I would determine that maybe, just maybe, this is the weight my body wants to be and continue on, secure in the knowledge that every reasonable marker of health, such as stable insulin levels, low cholesterol, good energy, the ability to take part in my chosen activities, getting regular exercise, eating a well balanced diet, has been met. Many forward thinking websites have reached this same conclusion, see blisstree.com, danceswithfat.wordpress.com, xojane.com, wellandgoodnyc.com, the problem is that there is still a HUGE push back from every concern troll out there who thinks that they know better because they’ve swallowed the lies, yes lies, that the medical establishment has provided society. Doctors perpetuate these lies, their patients perpetuate these lies and pretty soon you have one person, a website, as the only reminders that nope, this is not how it should be. You have a war on obesity that is just laughable in its ineffectuality (seriously, this war, which is ongoing, has helped the nation get fatter, which, I am pretty sure, is the exact opposite of the intended effect.) And you have a society that has taken body snarking to new heights of craptasticness, resulting in the phrases “fat shaming” and “body snarking” being as common in articles as it, and, and the.
We are better than this. This is a call to action. Cast not the first stone and when it comes to weight loss, ask what is healthy rather than what fits into the skewed societal ideal. Bringing it back to the personal and just to give you a taste of what I am talking about, when I hit my ideal weight, my BMI will likely still be considered overweight. And I don’t give a fuck because when I hit my ideal weight, I will be a rockin’ bad ass who can bike 20 miles without a thought. And I’ll be a rockin’ badass because I AM a rockin’ badass, at this weight or any other.