Today’s Never Say Diet post is about a really exciting new study which finds that about 20 percent of obese people are perfectly healthy — as in, no clogged arteries, no OMIGODDeathFat (as Ragen likes to call it). Which is a big enough percentage in my book to end the debate and officially say no, you cannot diagnose someone’s health based on their size, Body Mass Index, or number on a scale.
Well you can. But you have a 1 in 5 chance of being wrong.
Which means we need to continue the discussion that we have on here all the time about how we can separate weight from our understanding of health so that when we talk about wanting to be healthy, we mean sustaining healthy lifestyle habits (eating well, exercising more, getting enough sleep, managing stress). And when we talk about wanting to lose weight, we’re talking about aesthetics and changing our bodies to meet a beauty standard.
And yes, there is overlap — a healthy lifestyle might result in weight loss or weight stabilization, and if you go about losing weight in a way that doesn’t wreak havoc on your health (and I hope you would — because harming your health to meet a beauty standard is a dicey business!), you’ll probably adopt some healthier lifestyle habits at the same time.
Another similarity between pursuing health and pursuing weight loss is that they can both be wicked hard to sustain day to day if you only have vague future goals (like “I don’t want to get cancer” or “I must be thin for my vacation six months from now”) as motivation. Neither addresses your need for a cookie in the here and now, which means we end up feeling like failures when we eat the cookie instead of sticking to whichever vague, not entirely realistic or helpful goal we’ve decided to pin all of our self-worth on achieving.
But really, health and size aesthetics are two different, complex, multifaceted issues with a few points of intersection.
For more on the science behind this, check out Never Say Diet. (Oh but first! Apologies in advance — I did not choose the photo and I think y’all will understand why I didn’t repost it here the way I usually do.)
And I also want to hear what you think: How do you define health for yourself? Is weight (or size or appearance) a part of that definition or are you working on separating that out into its own little box? Which, even having read the research, is easier said than done, I know… those darn cultural messages go deep.