The ‘healthiness’ of being overweight is a hotly debated topic. Since the early 1960s the amount of people who are considered to be over-weight or obese in Western Society has more than doubled. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention officially lists that the percentage of adults aged 20 years or over in the United States that are obese is up to 42.4%.
This is important to note because history has shown that whenever any specific trait or characteristic becomes the majority it quickly becomes ‘normal’. This is why we have quickly seen a turn-around in our cultures perception of weight and whether it is healthy to be over what was for a long time considered to be the average weight.
What Does It Mean to be Overweight?
The answer to the question of; ‘is it healthy or not’ to be ‘overweight’ is not a simple yes or no, but rather something that needs to be considered separately for each individual but in simple terminology; being overweight is the leading cause of a number of health conditions. Including, but not limited to:
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- High Blood Sugar
- High Cholesterol
- Breathing problems (such as sleep apnea) – which a physician has confirmed is caused by your weight.
The main system used to judge if an individual is overweight or not is through measuring their Body-Mass Index (BMI), the calculation used to figure this out is your weight divided by your height.
Weight (kg) / Height (m)2
(Weight (lbs.) * 703) / Height (inches)2
You can calculate your BMI here
Is Losing Weight The Answer?
Basketball superstar Michael Jordan has a BMI of 25.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s is 30.
BMI is not a perfect indication of an individuals’ health. It does not take into account what is causing the weight and since muscle weighs a lot more than fat, people who are in prime physical condition end up on the ‘overweight’ or even ‘obese’ side of things. It’s not just career athletes that are let down by this system, studies have shown that nearly 30% of those who have a ‘healthy’ BMI are actually obese.
Improving Your Health =/= Losing Weight
We all know this instinctively. If it were that simple all we’d have to do is starve ourselves, but weight isn’t the only qualifier for health. When you begin to improve your health the right way you may even notice the numbers on the scale go up as your body develops more muscle. The opposite of this affect was seen in the documentary ‘Super-Size Me’, where a man ate only McDonald’s every day for a month. During one of his regular physician check-ups he found he’d lost some weight, the result of his body losing muscle do to his increasingly sedentary lifestyle.
There is also the issue of ‘water weight’ – as our bodies are made up of nearly 60% water, the first thing that we lose when we enter into ‘starvation’ mode is a significant portion of what we call ‘water-weight’, this means that unless you plan to stay completely dehydrated and face the health consequences of that then a few of the pounds you lose are going to come back quite fast once your diet balances out. This is why many diets based on doing a massive drop in what you eat appear to work only for you to regain that weight fast.
While overall, you will be losing weight as you improve your health, having your mind focused entirely on how much you weigh can sometimes end up negating other factors. Instead, try to work toward a more balanced and healthy diet with an increased level of exercise. Set goals based on your physical prowess such as: being able to do a two-minute plank in two months is a better fitness goal than lose ___ number of pounds in two months.
The Importance of Body-Acceptance When Embarking on a Weight-Loss Journey
For any attempt to improve your physical health to work it has to come from a place of self-acceptance, you cannot approach this from a place of self-loathing. Right now you need to accept yourself for who you are. The habits and lifestyle that lead you to your current state are not completely permanent, they can be changed over time but if you’re in the dumps over things you cannot control (the last five years of eating habits), you’ll never be able to break out of that head-space.
Many of us come to the decision to lose weight and get healthier because of outside ridicule. This is an unfortunate fact of life, and in the era of the Internet where complete strangers are able to somehow find and comment on photos of us, it can be especially distressing and difficult to ignore. Consider the words of Debi Hope;
“Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.”– Debi Hope
The sad truth is, regardless of what you look like right now, used to look like ten years ago, or will look like in ten years, there is, was, and will always be someone who wants to pop in and say you should look different.
While I believe that most of these people mean well, comments like “you should lose some weight”, or “too skinny, go eat a cheeseburger” are both careless and rude. I’ve known people who’ve struggled to gain weight due to a health disorder, I personally had significant difficulty keeping my body from being much larger than I personally wanted, and I’ve known gym rats who are incredibly dedicated to their personal fitness, each of these people have experienced some form of body-shaming from people who ‘mean well.’
One of the worst of these statements in my opinion is ‘Real Women Have Curves’, what a way to completely disregard another individual and accuse them of not being a ‘real’ women all because they don’t fit your personal definition of what a woman should be and should look like. It’s just plan mean.
This again goes back to something we should have all learned as children: don’t put others down to make yourself feel better, and if you can’t think of anything nice to say: don’t say anything at all.
If you have decided that you want to get in better shape and are ready to launch yourself on a path toward a thinner, fitter you — a better you that no longer feels the need to conceal under bulky sweaters or scurry to get a cover-up at the beach.