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We can thank this post because I made the tragic mistake of taking a nap when I came home from work today, and thus have fucked up my sleep patterns something fierce.

We can also thank this post due to a conversation I had with a friend on facebook earlier this week about nutrition and sizeism in our culture. I think we need to change how we look at nutrition in our society.


First off - let's talk about fat. How do we judge who is fat and who is not? Well, for a long time we have been using the BMI chart which many people are finally realizing is a load of bull crap.

FUN EXPERIMENT! Go over to the BMI index and find yourself. Found your number? Okay! Let's see how you compare to the "official" reading!

Underweight = <18.5
Normal weight = 18.5-24.9
Overweight = 25-29.9
Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

So how do you feel about your numbers? I would guess that some of you out there might fall within the "normal weight" but that more of you would fall above that. This is not because my friends list is populated with fatties, but because the BMI is total bull shit.

Now let me share some personal information with you: I am 5'7 and weight 195 pounds which puts me at a BMI of 30. According to the BMI, I AM OBESE!! Not only that, when I was at my lowest weight, a weight some of my friends said I looked "gaunt," I was 177, which put me at a BMI of 28. I LOST 120 POUNDS AND WAS STILL CONSIDERED OVERWEIGHT!!!

Many of you saw me at that state, and many of you know what I look like now. While I might consider myself "overweight" I would not consider myself obese. More importantly, because of how I eat, I would NOT consider myself unhealthy. I eat right, I exercise, I have a good diet. So why does the BMI, on which we base our standard of "fatness" on say that I'm obese? And does that reading mean that I am unhealthy?

NO NO NO!!!!

the BMI takes your height and your weight. It doesn't take into any consideration of your muscle mass, bone density, body build or anything like that. Just height and weight. All those body builders out there? OBESE! OOOOOOOBESE!!!!!

Now let's talk about sizeism. Was I unhealthy when I weighed 300lbs? According to my blood tests taken at the start of my fast, no - I was actually pretty darn healthy. Was I in danger of being unhealthy? Well, even though I did eat like crap, but we don't know for sure. Correlation and causation are not the same thing.

Also just because a person is skinny does not mean they have a healthy diet or lifestyle. There is at least one study, and more I am sure, that show that some people are resistant to gaining weight and, when forced to gain weight, easily shed the weight they have gained. Is it because they are out there running marathons and training ever day? Nope. Is it because they eat a well balanced nutritious diet? Not at all. It's just how their bodies work.

My friend Ed's little sister (she's 14 I think) is rail thin. I saw what this girl ate. Candy bars and hamburgers. Apparently the folks over at the local dunken donuts know her by name. But nobody's worried about her diet because she's so thin! Thanks to the BMI, we are told that anybody who is thin must be healthy.

Also, being fat and being grossly obese ARE DIFFERENT. Much like being naturally thin and anorexic are different. There are many studies that are showing that some people cannot for the life of them gain weight whereas others seem to be more prone to it.

FOR THE RECORD (before I get my capslock privileges revoked for good reason): I am not advocating the "I can't help it, I was born to be fat!" plea. Everybody has a personal responsibility for their nutrition and their health.

If you weight 300 lbs, have a full pizza every friday night, a huge ass sandwich for lunch ever day, probably consum upwards of 3000 calories a day and never exercise (like me three years ago), YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE. Also, if you weigh 110 lbs and survive on a diet of pixie sticks and tictacs, YOU ALSO HAVE NO EXCUSE. This, people, is not healthy. You will probably die (although we can't say for sure until you do).

If you know that you are eating a healthy diet, if you know that you are physically active, if you know that you are happy and healthy, then (and this is important) FUCK THE MEDIA. No - it's not fair to make fun of someone who is skinny as much as it isn't fair to make fun of someone who is fat. It would be nice, though, to see the same amount of worry and care that goes into saving the poor skinny girls go into saving the poor fat girls. Of course, people just tell the fat girls to "put down the fork" like that will solve the problem.

What would be nice, in the end, would be to see a medical system based on diet of the person, not the size of the person, to help figure out if they are healthy or not.

Hell, it would be nice if our standard of health actually came from, you know, HEALTH, and not what a person looks like.

I'd also like to put in the the OTC clinic which I go to in Davis, while it does use the BMI as a guideline, knows that realistically most people fall above what the BMI lists. They want their patients to be happy and healthy in a weight that is healthy for the patient, not according to a stupid graph.

Care to take a stab at my BMI?


The BMI has never worked properly because it's designed for people who get little to now exercise. I for example fall at 23.5 on the BMI which is almost, but not quite overweight.

Yet I have less than double digits of body fat on me and I get more exercise then nearly all my friends. It's because the BMi doesn't take into account that muscle weighs more than fat. It was complete designed on a hypothetical person whose body was made of all fat.
we all have an ideal, and for some of us that ideal is possible, and for others it's not. We just have to deal with that.

And I have to deal with the batch of cookies in my oven.

Fuck the BMI.
It would be nice, though, to see the same amount of worry and care that goes into saving the poor skinny girls go into saving the poor fat girls.

I've always "looked skinny" and can't even count how many times people (especially old women) have aimed to "fatten me up" by offering me food. Not that I ever cared what they thought, because I knew that eating more wouldn't make my muscles any bigger. I used to hate being scrawny, but now it doesn't bother me. If I could tone up just a smidge in the arms in the chest, I'd call it a day.
According that that chart, I'm morbidly obese. I'm so heavy that for my height I'm not even on it. I know I'm fat. I feel huge. Half the time I hate myself for my weight. But I don't feel morbidly obese. These are the sorts of things that we actually teach in Highschool health classes too...
Yeah, the BMI says I'm a little overweight, and I've lost fifty pounds since college. I walk everywhere, I eat healthy foods. I'm 6'4" and between 200 and 225 lbs. If I dropped down to 175 I'd have to shrink my shoulders. I'm overweight. Right.
I'm glad you decided to post about this. YAY! :-) To add to the ludicrousness of BMI, a FA (fat acceptance) blogger I really like put together a slideshow of people at different BMIs to show how ridiculous it is:

BMI Illustrated

Other than noticing the "fatties" look happy and healthy, another thing to notice is that a lot of people with EXACTLY the same BMI look rather different in terms of heaviness.

One of the things I really like about Kate Harding is that she truly epitomizes the idea that eating healthy and exercising is not about being thin, but is about being healthy, and that thin is not the same as healthy for everyone.

Also, a few studies have come out in the past few years showing that people in the "overweight" range have the lowest mortality rates. I think it's good that this is happening, but I still think that looking at mortality in terms of body mass index is horseshit. Here is the chart demonstrating mortality rates in terms of sex and "race" (although "race" is problematic because it's an artificially constructed category, and there is actually much more genetic variation WITHIN races than between races, but I'm not even going to get started on that.... < / anthropologist >):


Wanna know something funny about this chart? I've been both "normal" and "overweight" (the only two categories I've ever fallen into), but the VAST MAJORITY of that time I've been in the lowest morality for white women (which, of course, I am).

I have fallen below into "higher risk" categories when:
1) I starved myself
2) I got stomach ulcers and wanted to eat, but couldn't

I have fallen above into "higher risk":
1) During part of high school and part of college, when I was still treating my body well, but I wasn't yet running marathons and lifting weights (though I was still paying attention to food labels, but probably wasn't eating as healthfully as I do now, because ALL I paid attention to was calories and fat rather than the food as a whole. Now I don't look at the calories so much as the ingredients, and I buy mostly whole foods that don't have a calorie label, anyway). Being harangued on several levels for this "fatness" was a huge trigger for #1 in the top category.

Could this mean that I, naturally, have *gasp* a BMI that falls around 24, 25, 26, and that when I treat myself well, I'm SUPPOSED to be that size? Wow. What a concept. However, even though this particular study says my size is "ideal," I STILL think it's a load of hogwash. Not EVERYONE is this size normally. I know people who would be unhealthy at my size because it would mean they are stuffing their faces with junk food and not exercising, and I know people who would be unhealthy at my size because they need to starve to get there. However, I realize I'm preaching to the choir here, so I'll shut up.

Also, These are basically the main tenets of the HAES -- Health at Every Size movement. It's essentially what you are saying, in list format. :-)
Sorry for rambling on and on, but I just wanted to add one thing...

Also, being fat and being grossly obese ARE DIFFERENT. Much like being naturally thin and anorexic are different.

I think a more apt analogy would be "Being fat and being a binge eater are different. Much like being naturally thin and anorexic are different."

"Grossly obese" is still a physical descriptor and not in and of itself indicative of health. Also, it's a pretty subjective indicator. "Binge eating disorder" and "anorexia" are serious mental illnesses.
You are so right! This reminds me of a story, something that happened to me when I was about eleven or twelve. I used to be a REALLY active girl, I was always biking everywhere and running around the block with the boys. I was a total tomboy. ;) I raced them and could keep up with them in all sorts of sports. I was in really great shape back then.

But I still looked plump. In fact I pretty much just looked "fat". So my mom took me to the doctor for a check-up and then asked him point-blank what she should do about my weight. I was shocked and pretty offended that she would do this without even talking to me about it, but apparently my fatness warranted an intervention. She completely overlooked the fact that I spent 2-3 hours every single night riding miles on my bike or playing soccer with the boys. She just looked at me and saw fat and that was bad.

The doctor looked at her like she was crazy. "She's in perfect health," he said. "Fifty years ago her figure would have been considered very attractive." He gently tried to express that the problem wasn't me but her image of me. (Unfortunately this lesson did not really sink in and she remained convinced that I was incredibly lazy and gluttonous.)

I'm really grateful for that doctor... ultimately, only you really know if you're eating right and being active enough. No one can tell that by looking at you. The problem is people think they can - thin people must be in great shape, and fat people must be in terrible shape. Blocking out their voices and opinions is hard, but worth it. Own the work that you do and have done to live in a healthy body.
Your doctor is awesome. Seriously. I've heard of a lot of doctors who really feel that "OMG TEH FAT" is the worst thing that can happen to a person, and it's SO damaging. I really believe that one of the reasons why health may be poorer among the obese in this country is that they are not receiving proper medical care. Lots of people avoid going to to doctor for illness or injury for fear of getting a diet lecture. My mother, at age 12, in the 1960s, was put on a diet by her doctor for being slightly chubby. She did lose the weight initially, but it set her on a decades-long cycle of disordered eating that brought her everywhere from extremely thin to morbidly obese. She's in the middle now weight-wise and very healthy lifestyle-wise, but she still struggles with body image (and she's 58). Every single woman in my family is short and stocky on both side (the only exception I can think of died of breast cancer in her early 30s, though that doesn't have anything to do with the fact that she was thin), and most them also live into their 80s and 90s. My mother is part of that lineage, as am I. I was a chubby pre-teen, too. As an adult now, being on the normal/overweight borderline, I'm actually one of the thinner ones (though I run marathons and I'm a vegetarian, so that might play a role, though not as great as one might think).

Anyway, I'm sorry about your mother, that's AWFUL, and very happy that doctors like the one from your childhood exist. I just wish there were more out there like him.
Best Fat-Girl moment ever...

Taking the Flow Rider crew from Massanutten Waterpark to Vertical Endeavors - the dudes in red are the crew - Jeremy's brother appears to be in the "Flow Rider Demo" picture - the bottom scary skinny one (medical excuse, but damn).

Oh yeah, who kicked ass on the walls when the sweet-jesus-ripped 18-23 year olds didn't? Oh yeah, that was me (and I did to - my best climb to date was that day).