The scale represents different things for different people, and with the start of a new year, as gym memberships rise and converts commit to health, defining health becomes stickier. A recent study indicates that overweight people have a lower mortality risk than normal weight people.
The study included almost 3 million people, and noted that people who were classified “obese” faced serious challenges. Its results also reminded people that other indicia can let them know if their lifestyles and heredity are reasons for pause.
BMI (body mass index), a much-maligned assessment of one’s weight relative to one’s height, does not take into account lifestyle. An underweight BMI is below 18.5. To be considered normal weight, one’s BMI is in the 18.5 to 24.9 range. From 25 to 29.9 is overweight. A BMI of 30+ is obese.
BMI is a numbers game that does not consider ethnicity, environment or where one’s weight accumulates. While many Americans don’t desire additional pounds, weight in the thighs and buttocks region does not typically harm health the same way that excess belly fat does.
Experts say that people who are classified “overweight” could have protection from illness and that the weight can provide older people with healthy reserves.
When United Kingdom health officials reflected on the weight and health of its citizenry a few years ago, measurement critiques arose.
“There are certainly a lot of confounding factors,” said Dr. David Haslam, chair of the UK National Obesity Forum.
“You can get athletes packed with muscles who show up as overweight, and people can be slim but unhealthy. But we are stuck with the BMI as a measurement…. (Doctors) are paid for measuring patients’ BMI as part of the drive to bring down heart disease.”
Experts continue to say that weight plays a role in health. As the United States fights high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease, patterns between weight and health have been established. But, as more research is conducted and results are shared with the public, hard and fast lines are hard to come by.
In a culture that often values the aesthetic over the substantive, people feel reduced to the sum, weight and composition of their parts. A-listers’ weight gains and losses greet customers on glossies in supermarket lines. Some cyber communities include “pro-ana” (anorexia encouragement) posts and tips.
The beauty industry rakes in billions yearly. An overwhelming desire to adorn and improve can easily become an unhealthy obsession.
So, while this recent study should relax people a bit, it should also remind people to make and attend regular doctor visits, ask about their family histories and be of sound mind. (Stress is corrosive!)
The study’s results do not mean that it’s time to supersize everything, wash meals down with diet cola and milkshakes and park in front of the (favorite tv show goes here) marathon.
It should mean to develop realistic and attainable goals. It means looking beyond celebrities for validation. If society uses to media darlings to measure health and happiness, pervasive inadequacy will follow.
A cultural advantage of many blacks and Latinos has been our willingness to accept and glorify diverse body types. This diversity of acceptance is something mainstream culture almost begrudgingly embraces and sometimes loses in body lore. For example: Was Marilyn Monroe a size 16 or 8? What about vanity sizing? Should it matter anymore?
If people approach themselves and each other holistically instead of freaking out about every difference, they will find immeasurable health.