Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fat Acceptance

I caught an interesting video from the Today Show regarding fat acceptance. The discussion revolves around whether or not fat acceptance is a cop-out.

Sometimes when complex topics are covered in a short amount of time on a talk or news show it only allows time for the stating of opinions, but not enough time for meaty discussion or education. I guess it is good to bring awareness to the topic, but I'm always a little bummed that there's never enough time to get more helpful information out of it. Whether I'm fat, skinny or somewhere in between I need a takeaway tidbit that points me in a positive direction.

There is a 40-something year old female model included in the clip. She looks energetic, strong and vibrant. She's also carrying extra weight even though she reports that she watches what she eats, and it's pointed out that according to the BMI Chart she's obese. It shows her swimming in a pool, discussing acceptance of herself as being a larger person and encouraging others to do so as well. She says she's thrown away her scales. In sharp contrast it shows a quick clip of runway models.

Let's talk about runway models for second. I find them quite fascinating, sort of in the same way that I'm still fascinated that I can send a piece of paper over a phone line. How do those little bitty legs (probably smaller than my arms) pick up those heavy high-heels and move forward? I think most of us would agree, even if we long to be svelte, that the emaciated look of a runway model is not the goal.

While I'm at it, let me just throw in something about the BMI Chart. According to the BMI chart, my husband is obese at 5' 8" and 180 pounds. He's also a state and national level masters bodybuilder competitor who took home 2 first place trophies this year at 6.4% bodyfat. So that might tell you something about the accuracy of the BMI Chart.

Back to the show. After the clip, several key points are brought out but unfortunately not discussed enough. One is that some research shows you can be fat and fit. I feel a need to see that research for myself, but there are people who are classified as fat that are very active and strong with great endurance and are deemed healthy on physical exam. They also point out that there are skinny people who eat poorly and have little to no activity, which can be detrimental to health, it's not just about the fat. It's also not just about how we look in our jeans. How a person looks may not translate to actual level of health. They touch on the social component of accepting people, fat or not. It's mentioned that a person who is very overweight but thinks she should be a size 4 may feel defeated and never even try, whereas fat acceptance might encourage her toward some positive change. One opinion stated was that our country doesn't have an obesity problem, rather we have an inactivity problem. The conversation was brought around to the fact that physicians fear the message of fat acceptance due to the monumental obesity issue and we cannot deny or ignore the negative health impacts of diabetes, heart disease and cancer that we know is impacted by fat.

I say we should love people and hate fat.

We have to have some meat on our bones if we're going to be strong and energetic. That meat, however, should be predominantly muscle. It's not enough to "watch what we eat". Choosing foods that our bodies can use most efficiently as fuel for energy and supporting our body systems is typically not food that will pack on extra weight in fat, particularly if portions are considered. Weight can be lost without activity, but the loftier goal is to lose fat. Resistance training and well-designed energy systems work promotes the loss of fat. Throwing away the scales can be a good move if we put too much emphasis on an arbitrary number. Throwing away the scales just so you don't have a measurable reminder that you're too heavy isn't truly helpful. The BMI chart, like the scales, is just one measurement in the overall picture. Waist/hip ratio measurements and body fat measurements should also be done and may be more helpful. We may never look the way we'd like to look in our jeans, but we can ask ourselves these questions: do they fit? are they getting tighter or looser? am I consistently buying bigger sizes? does the size I need right now seem right?

Most importantly is that we need to love and support each other. Human nature baffles me in that we don't want to accept people who aren't exactly like us. If we live long enough, we'll all have some battle to overcome. Let's love each other and help each other to overcome this excess weight/fat battle that seems to be taking over our lives. At the same time, we must accept and find joy in who we are, and that means taking care of ourselves. We simply cannot accept gaining unnecessary weight or fat or becoming complacent with it. There are too many negative effects on our joints, hearts, organs and intricate body systems. Most people that I encounter that are too heavy are not like the woman in the video clip. I can tell you I wasn't when I was 30 pounds heavier. (I still am on the warpath to get leaner).

What are you thinking right now? If you find yourself gaining weight, or you are already battling fat, please do not just wave the flag of surrender. You can find the courage, education and support to battle it and win. You are important. It's not about being a cover model, it's about being strong, healthy and fit so you can live your life well, whatever shape or form.

As a person who is actively declaring war on fat, I would be happy to help in any way possible and I always want to hear your thoughts. Comment or contact me. You can view the Today Show video here.

Related posts

Fitness and Nutrition: How Does It Fit with Healthcare?

Weight vs Body Composition

Translating the Benefits of Exercise into Every Day Life

Weight Loss vs Fat Loss Part I

Weight Loss vs Fat Loss Part II


wesupportlee said...

I think that it would help if doctors would evaluate general health, not so much just by BMI but rather by the even simpler measure of waist circumference.

Waist circumference is becoming well-supported by evidence linking measurements of less than 40 inches for men and less than 34 inches for women to better health.

This isn't an onerous set of guidelines. Patients, especially those who are under 55 years old, could be recommended to stay an inch or two below these amounts.

Any person who gets a reasonable amount of exercise (except maybe sumo wrestlers...) should be able to easily fulfill these amounts for waist circumference.

On a somewhat different topic, there was another recent article in the BMJ that actually suggested that it's healthier to have some mass on the thighs. The researchers said that it was better for both men and women to have thighs that measured more than 60 cm i.e. 23.6 inches.

If you were to profile a person with a relatively low waist circumference with sort of large thighs, you would probably have some sort of athlete, rather than a supermodel...

So, not exactly fat acceptance but acceptance of anyone who has a reasonable mobility and activity level.

The leg article recommended lower body physical activity, and that reminds me that I need to make an appointment with the leg press!

Kelley Moore said...

wesupportlee: thanks so much for your comment! I apologize for the delayed response. I agree the waist circumference measurement is much more informative and practical and would be a sound goal that is easy to measure for anyone. That's interesting to consider the waist circumference and leg circumference in conjunction with each other. Makes me envision a sprinter, with a lot of power and mobility!