I talk about food a lot. And other stuff.

But mostly food.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Healthy Weight

I'm reading about healthy weight in this month's EatingWell magazine and went to their BMI calculator.  I'm on the cusp of overweight right now, and have started to make better choices so I can fit back into the healthy range by making sustainable lifestyle changes.  Let's face it, it's also so I can feel good about being in a bathing suit in January, as I did not this summer.  But I was struck by playing around with the numbers on this calculator.  How is it that the "healthy range" for my height has a difference of 42 pounds?  At my lightest last summer, at 156, I was still 4 pounds heavier than the Middle of that range?  The range is 132 - 174.  You mean I would still be in the healthy range if I had kept going and lost another Twenty-Four pounds?! I personally don't think that a 5' 10" 132 pound woman fits into a category called "healthy".  Seems REALLY SKINNY to me. 
Is it just because I'm back on the "heavy side" of that range, or does that seem off to anyone else?  I have a light bone structure.  Even at my heaviest, I still had skinny little wrists.  It doesn't seem like I could even get to 132 unless I stopped eating all together.  And we all know how healthy that would be (and how impossible).  It makes me wonder about the criteria for BMI calculators.  What does "healthy" mean? So I went to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site, and it says a healthy weight is within the range of 5% - 85% percentile of age, height and weight.  Five percent?!  Seems like an enormous range to me.  And if you're going to use 85% as the upper range (with 85 - 95% being "overweight" and 95%+ being "obese"), wouldn't you think that you'd at least even it up an use 15% on the bottom range?  I wonder if the perception of "healthy" is influenced by our concept of "beautiful." 
I recently found another great blog, and these posts, especially, got me thinking.  I posted a few weeks ago about how I want to "Lose Weight" again.  I have since realized really what I want is to feel healthy again.  I want to not be stiff in the morning, be able to run upstairs for something without getting winded, to have more energy, to feel happier because my body is healthier.  I know I'm a little off from where I'd like to be.  I'm often tired, I don't run from here to there as often as I did last summer.  And, yes, there are a few really great dresses I'd like to fit into again.  But I just found out that gorgeous Mad Men star Christina Hendricks wears a size 14 - just like me.  I am so down with that.  I can buy more really great dresses that fit me in the body I have now.  I just want it to be healthier.  Too bad the media calls her fat.  She's a great example of what healthy beauty looks like.  And it makes me feel awful to hear it -for her and for me and for everyone who is like me. What do you think about where you fit on the BMI scale? How you feel in your body?

PS -  I wonder if part of the reason I liked being pregnant so much (besides the fact that I was Growing A Person! How cool is that!?), was that I was fat and gorgeous and people smiled at me because I was perceived as gorgeous "even though I was fat."  Now when I dress, I'm afraid that people will think I'm pregnant when I wear an empire waist shirt or dress.   How did I go from feeling great about my shape to shameful - just because I'm not incubating a human being?  I'm still beautiful - belly and all!  My friend Molly brilliantly has this to say about the subject, and some fabulous advice for us all. 

PPS, I'll get back to talking about food next time.  Promise.

Photos here and here.


  1. It really is amazing what the ranges are -- but I think a lot of it has to do with muscle mass, frame size, etc -- like you, I have tiny little bird bones, but I am also a big pile of muscle and boobs -- at my marathon-skinniest, I was 177 (for like 5 seconds until I crossed the finish line and stopped running 20 miles on the weekends); my "happy weight" is probably 180-185, and I was about 190 in my Health Magazine feature... and I'm not very tall at 5'6! But WW wants me to weigh like 158. Uh, no. Maybe if I lop off a leg... But like I said in that feature, "I'll never be a size two, but I can be a gorgeous size 12 (or 10)." Goal is to get back to happy weight -- and instead of focusing on getting smaller, focusing on what it takes to stay there - both in the 180s, and HAPPY.

    And I agree that Christine Hendricks is STUNNING... uh, did you see her at the Emmy's?!?! Vavavavavooooooooooom!


  2. In the last 15 months I've dropped a very substantial amount of weight, and people always ask, "How much did you lose?" My answer is always, "I have no idea because I refused to measure it."

    It sounds counter-intuitive, but if your goal -- like mine was -- is to feel healthier, then counting pounds is meaningless and even counterproductive. If I dropped a pound in a week, did it make me feel, say, 0.5% better? Could I even tell? On the other hand, have a bad week and creep up a pound and you could lose hope and just give up.

    I guess what I'm saying is that BMI and its related metrics are only proxies for fitness, which is partly why the ranges are so broad. For me, it made more sense to concentrate on concrete but less easily measured effects.

    I can now climb a long flight of stairs at a run, two at a time, and not feel slightly winded (stairs of any height used to be an ordeal). Now I don't avert my eyes when I pass a mirror. It makes no difference to me whether I'm 170 or 185, so why worry about the number?

    (For what it's worth, the one measure that made a difference was in clothes size: almost 12 inches around the waist, which meant I had to go shopping a lot :)

  3. Wow, the site with that BMI calculator is awful! It tells even those in the "ideal" range (which they specify as ANYTHING under 25) that they will be happier losing weight. Who are these evil skeleton overlords, and what do they have to gain from this propaganda?

  4. I'm not a huge fan of BMI because I've seen it be screwy more times than not (also, it was amusing to see my friends who were weightlifters be classified as "obese" even though they were 7-10% BF!)

    This made me giggle: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106268439

    That said, I think guidelines are good in that they give us something to measure by, and it works and keeps you motivated, then it's a good thing! (See: tape measure, pair of skinny jeans, scale, etc.)

  5. V - your post makes my spirit soar, it is so authentic. And, I am totally psyched about your response to this numbers game...having a perspective that seeks to the healthiest you, instead of the skinniest, is in my opinion the happiest place to be. Wahoo!

    Instead of focusing on numbers on a scale and every little thing we eat, isn't it best to just listen to our bodies - eating when we're hungry and stopping when we're satisfied? For most people, our bodies naturally seek a weight that is healthiest for us. So much talk about what to eat and how much is so distracting that it's easy to forget that our body is actually designed to tell us how much we need!

    I've got some opinions about BMI myself, which you've inspired me to post about soon...

    ps For every inch of height, a woman would weigh +/- 5 lbs. For me, at 5'4" and 126 lbs I am pretty much exactly the weight you talked about in your post. This is the weight my body naturally settles in at when I am living in a way that aligns with the healthy practices I like to keep, and it is in the middle of my BMI range. Like you said, if I lost 10 lbs I am pretty sure my family and friend would actually be concerned about my health!