I feel a rant coming on. Whoops, sorry but not sorry.
Does this selfie make me look fat? Oh wait, I don’t care what you think. #LongHairDon’tCare
Okay, so here goes. I am sick and tired of insignificant numbers dictating people’s perception of health. Body fat percentages, body weights, BMI, total cholesterol… WHO CARES!? These numbers are no more than numbers, and they have little way of measuring the health of unique, beautiful you.
Did you know that a weight loss of a mere 5% can yield dramatic improvements in health? It dramatically reduces your risk of diabetes, stroke, heart disease… and yet, no one seems to appreciate the incredible benefits of this small change, because of a fixation on achieving a body fat percentage of 2% or losing exactly 43 pounds or whatever.
I get it. I know that having a goal is motivating (for some) and can help you on your health journey. And I respect that. Use whatever tools work for you, but please, please, please stay rational.
So what do I think are important measures of health?
How you feel about yourself, your energy levels, measures of inflammation, and, for those of us in our reproductive years, whether you’re fertile (I know, this last one’s a little weird, but bear with me for a sec). A combination of all these things influence true health.
In regards to how you feel about yourself, guess what? This is totally up to you, meaning its totally subjective; and not your nutritionist, your trainer, your significant other or anyone should impact how much you love your figure and shape, no matter what your weight or body fat percentage.
Besides the heinous spelling error (*AMBASSADOR!), I love this Tumblr image. Numbers can’t reflect a person’s strength, athleticism, or overall health. #NoJudgement
That said, our personal perception of the perfect weight should also be influenced by how energized we feel day-to-day. For those who feel more comfortable in their skin at a very low body weight or when they’re extra voluptuous, power to ya’! But are you waking up everyday with the energy to take on life full speed ahead? Having too low of a body fat percentage or too high can disrupt hormonal balance which may make you moody, fatigued and generally no-fun-to-hang-around. Yuck.
Now, I said it once, and I’ll say it again; I don’t like numbers! However! Clinical markers of inflammation can be measured by your doc, and they do mean something! C-reactive protein, high triglycerides, high Hemoglobin A1C, troponins and elevated liver enzymes can all suggest something in your diet (or something else) is hurtin’ your body. You can be slim as a washboard, but if your triglycerides or hemoglobin A1C are elevated, you can bet there’s a lot of systemic inflammation within you caused by sugar consumption. See, body weight is not the end all, be all of health.
Last, but certainly not least, we come to the topic of fertility and reproduction (“REPRODUCTION! PUT YOUR POLLEN TUBE TO WORK!” Remember that song from Grease 2?). Now, whether you intend on being the next octo-mom or have zero desire to produce offspring, protecting your body’s ability to reproduce should always be of the utmost importance. Think about it. When you’re healthy, your body doesn’t have to “worry” about basic bodily functions and, thus, can enjoy the “luxury” of trying to produce new human life. Along those lines, we have evolved over billions of years to support survival of the fittest, thus it makes sense that unhealthy bodies are biologically incapable of reproducing. Whether you’re missing periods due to abnormally low or high body fat, due to stress, or due to physical activity; fertility should be factored into your personal definition of the “health equation.” Also, sex drive is an important indicator of health, as it also suggests your body is healthy enough to support the creation of new human life. Well, duhhh.
All in all, I do not wish to body shame anyone, instead I hope to simply add a little depth to the all-too-common perception of what “health” and a “healthy body weight” looks like. I’ve heard numerous individuals make claims that a woman’s ideal body fat percentage is “such-and-such,” or that a healthy older man should have a BMI of “yadda-yadda,” but I simply do not agree. Genetics, personal goals, energy levels, and more all add up to true health (and it does not look the same for every person!!). A great example includes ethnic disparities among BMIs, such that African Americans are often perfectly healthy at high BMIs, while Asians may suffer from chronic disease even when within the “normal” BMI range!
Bottom line; forget what I have to say about this. Forget what your mom, your boyfriend, your best friend has to say about healthy weight. Evaluate yo’self for yourself. You’re the best person to ask!
/end rant :)