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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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81 Responses

  1. Betsy
    Betsy October 1, 2007 at 8:17 pm |

    I hope more men post their pics/stats too (even if the head is cropped)! It’s not just women who have body image/body fat issues, and I think it would be good for everyone to see what these categories look like on both female and male bodies.

  2. Kat
    Kat October 1, 2007 at 8:24 pm |

    That is an amazing visual.

  3. Dr. Confused
    Dr. Confused October 1, 2007 at 8:29 pm |

    I stopped at one picture and thought “she is not overweight, she is cute and perfect!” Turns out she’s exactly my height and (pre-pregnancy) weight, so I guess I’m reinforced in my feeling that the right weight for me is in the “overweight” range.

  4. purpleshoes
    purpleshoes October 1, 2007 at 8:54 pm |

    The first thing I did was scroll through until I found a woman with my same proportions, and breathe a sigh of relief at the “normal”.

    My self-worth should not hinge on five pounds.

  5. L-K
    L-K October 1, 2007 at 9:09 pm |

    My BMI: 27.6 (right in the middle of the “overweight” category)
    My height: 5’0″

    My weight: 140lbs
    Size: 4/6!

    A factor that is completely overlooked by this BMI nonsensical tool: I’m a weightlifter; therefore I have a higher amount/proportion of muscle mass than the majority of women. I’ve fitter and slimmer at 140lbs than I was at my recent lowest weight of 118lbs.
    The BMI system has always proven to be extremely flawed and irrelevant for certain individuals, such as athletes and weightlifters.

  6. Katherine
    Katherine October 1, 2007 at 9:15 pm |

    I just wanted to get permission from y’all to use your footer in a presentation I’m doing. I’m not using the exact image (I’m actually changing it a bit), but I wanted to use the idea of the image. :-)

    please let me know if this is okay; if necessary, I’ll post the powerpoint so you can see how I use it!

    Thanks! :-)

  7. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth October 1, 2007 at 9:36 pm |

    I’ve lost a lot of weight recently – been on weight watchers. My BMI was obese, and now it’s just overweight. I feel great though, more energy, etc. I’ve always been active with cardio and weight training, I just changed my eating habits.

    Anyway, I was at a health fair last week and took a body fat percentage test. The person told me I was in the normal/healthy range. I was glad to hear I wasn’t putting my health at risk anymore, but it bugs me that BMI is so widely used where in my case it obviously says nothing about how “fat” I am.

  8. Elaine Vigneault
    Elaine Vigneault October 1, 2007 at 9:43 pm |

    I like that there is a cat in the photos, too.

    I’m in the “overweight” category. BMI = 25.8 But I’m tall, like Pippa, so it’s slightly more acceptable. People say things like “you can carry it on your frame.”

    I don’t think weight is a great measure of health, but it’s one of many measures. Alone, it’s not much good. But combined with other info it’s something worth keeping an eye on. Not keeping an eating disorder type of forever watchful eye, just an eye.

  9. evil fizz
    evil fizz October 1, 2007 at 9:45 pm | *

    I hate, hate, *hate BMI. With a passion.

    That whole thing just makes me dizzy.

  10. Henry
    Henry October 1, 2007 at 9:51 pm |

    Body fat percentage is a much better indicator of fitness and health. I don’t know why it’s not the standard measure.

  11. ks
    ks October 1, 2007 at 10:10 pm |

    Elaine, I am about the same. I’m overweight at 5’10” and about 185 lb, but my height makes people think I’m thinner. Because I ‘can carry more.’ But the whole BMI thing just doesn’t make much sense. Someone with more muscle mass will have a higher BMI than someone who’s just thin and squishy (or chubby and squishy, like me), because muscle weighs more than fat. But I’d hazard a guess that the person with the higher BMI and more muscle mass is probably healthier than the thin and squishy person. It really doesn’t tell you anything about the overall health of the person.

  12. justanotherjane
    justanotherjane October 1, 2007 at 10:17 pm |

    Henry – I don’t think it matters. Whatever the measurement, lower will always be considered more desirable. Oh, your body fat is 20%? It could be 15%, etc. Oh it’s 15? It could be 12. etc.

  13. Yuri K.
    Yuri K. October 1, 2007 at 10:41 pm |

    BMI is appealing for soundbites and pop-medicine because you just plug in your weight and your height and bingo! A perfectly chartable statistic!

    The fact that it’s so easily distorted by muscle mass, etc. means that it doesn’t even really measure what it’s supposed to measure, much less ‘health.’ I remember a study that came out and announced 90% of NBA players were ‘morbidly obese’ by this lousy statistic.

  14. SarahMC
    SarahMC October 1, 2007 at 10:49 pm |

    This was an interesting visual but sadly I found myself comparing myself to the women and their stats and getting depressed about my own body. I just got weighed at a doctor’s appointment this morning too. No matter how feminist I am I’ll always be disgusted with myself.

  15. Dr. Confused
    Dr. Confused October 1, 2007 at 11:24 pm |

    Amanda, it was one of those two who has my exact height and pre-pregnancy weight. I lost quite a bit of weight to get to that point, and was looking at the charts thinking I should be losing more (to get in the “normal” range) but my weight loss leveled off at about the same time I was happy with my body, so I stopped trying to lose.

  16. Betsy
    Betsy October 1, 2007 at 11:28 pm |

    SarahMC, I wish there was something I could say to lift that burden from you. I guess I will just say that body fat is not dirty, it’s not disgusting, and it’s not evil. It doesn’t make you gross or unworthy or any of those other insidious thoughts. I think that’s the beauty of Kate’s project – it showed how wonderfully alive people in all of those rigid categories were, and how the human so fully transcends the label (including “normal” – nobody there looked “normal” to me). But you’re not a bad feminist for having those feelings either; they’re nearly universal, though it doesn’t have to be that way. Hang in there.

  17. pocochina
    pocochina October 1, 2007 at 11:29 pm |

    Seriously. And the fact that it gets thrown around as an indicator for eating disorders makes me crazy. I was “overweight” even when I was starving myself – at the other end of the overweight range than I am now, but still. I guess my fat ass didn’t deserve a diagnosis, though! Because the BMI said so!

  18. Rose
    Rose October 1, 2007 at 11:41 pm |

    The BMI chart is nothing but a height/weight table. It is disheartening, to say the least, that it is taken even marginally seriously.

  19. Justin Ellis
    Justin Ellis October 2, 2007 at 12:04 am |

    This goes to show you what value averages have when we’re trying to figure out difficult societal issues. The average American has one breast and one testicle, how many people like that have you met? BMI may be interesting for a statistician, but it should not be used as it currently is. I’m glad people are talking about this.

  20. octogalore
    octogalore October 2, 2007 at 12:27 am |

    My question is, IS BMI taken seriously by anyone authoritative? I think it’s more a magazine shortcut than anything medical professionals take seriously. I can’t imagine any doctors telling athletes/bodybuilders or anyone with large bones or high muscle content that they need to lose weight if their body fat is normal.
    My trainer is 6’0 and 210 and apparently is overweight, for example, but would never be told that.

    That said, I guess the fact that this was created means people do feel BMI is an indicator of something. Hopefully, charts like this will demonstrate that it’s not.

  21. kate
    kate October 2, 2007 at 12:44 am |

    I was always over the BMI charts and they have caused me a lot of worry and consternation. I lifted weights in the early nineties and at 5’4″ I was 145 which apparently is overweight. I was near the local champion record set for the deadlift for women in my age range at that time, but according to the BMI charts I was fat. Fah!

    I’m overweight now by about 50 or 60 lbs. but since I work construction, I still carry a lot of muscle. Just last week I lifted an an 80 lb. bag of concrete on to my shoulder and carried it to the register across the Lowe’s store. I don’t think I’d be able to do that if my total body mass was at 115 lbs. So again, I’d like to have less body fat, but Fah! on the BMI’s they are traps for women.

    Also, note the BMI measurements for women when applied to men leave men looking quite thin. Men’s BMI’s are higher since the assumption is granted that men carry more muscle, but women aren’t supposed to apparently.

  22. Hector B.
    Hector B. October 2, 2007 at 3:00 am |

    Because BMI assumes extra weight is fat, muscular people should have their body fat percentage measured, by underwater weighing or skinfold measurements.

  23. bbrugger
    bbrugger October 2, 2007 at 4:18 am |

    I am five foot one, weigh in at aboput 152. No idea what the BMI reads, but I’d bet I am at the very least obese.

    Dudes,and dudettes, I’m 52. I work out when I can. I am stronger and fitter now than I have been in years.

    But the damn BMI chart tells me I am a danger to myself , part of an epidemic. The only epidemic I am dealing with is the ‘damn it clothes are not cut to allow women ot have muscles.’

    It’s a stupid flawed metric.

  24. kali
    kali October 2, 2007 at 5:03 am |

    That actually clarified something to me. My BMI is currently 19.4 or something like that. But I look much more like the “underweight” women. I think I understand more now why people have passed comments on my skinniness for most of my life; probably at the times when I was kind of sick and my BMI was 17, I looked a lot worse than that.

    I’m not sure why I look like I weigh less; I’ve never exercised regularly in my life so it seems unlikely to be muscle mass. It’s probably just being very small boned, but you’d think being small boned would make me *actually* weigh less, what with bones presumably being heavier than fat. However I’ve decided to believe it’s because I have, like, a natural tendency to be muscled and now that I’ve finally started exercising I’ll get toned and strong really fast! Which would be great because I’ve always thought of my body as kind of naturally weak and frail and incapable.

  25. Dr. Confused
    Dr. Confused October 2, 2007 at 7:51 am |

    BMI was never really meant to be a metric applied to an individual. As others have mentioned, body fat percentage is a much better indication of health, and clinical definitions of obesity use body fat percentages. However, in a lot of, especially retrospective, studies, body fat percentages weren’t available, but height and weight were. So researchers needed a metric that relied only on height and weight, and they found that BMI was roughly correlated with body fat percentage. So a lot of research started using BMI to try to correlate “obesity” with various health conditions. Of course the media picked up on this, distorted it, and now we’re being told we’re morally repugnant if we’re not in a specific, narrow BMI range.

  26. micheyd
    micheyd October 2, 2007 at 8:52 am |

    Spreading the word about this is so important. I calculated it for myself (5’4″ and 138), and I am nearly into the overweight category. I’m a size 4 or 6. I work out 5 times a week. Anyone using BMI as health diagnosis tool should be laughed at, and loudly.

  27. zuzu
    zuzu October 2, 2007 at 9:08 am |

    Because BMI assumes extra weight is fat, muscular people should have their body fat percentage measured, by underwater weighing or skinfold measurements.

    You must have really good insurance.

    Actually, those caliper tests are notoriously unreliable. The best way is the dunking, but you need a pool and the necessary equipment.

  28. Anna B
    Anna B October 2, 2007 at 9:09 am |

    My question is, IS BMI taken seriously by anyone authoritative? I think it’s more a magazine shortcut than anything medical professionals take seriously. I can’t imagine any doctors telling athletes/bodybuilders or anyone with large bones or high muscle content that they need to lose weight if their body fat is normal.
    My trainer is 6′0 and 210 and apparently is overweight, for example, but would never be told that.

    My experience must be different, then. I’ve definitely been in several doctors’ offices where there’s a full color BMI chart right in the examining room. In fact, during my last OB/GYN visit, the doc asked me how tall I was, then actually hopped up off her stool to actually point to me on the BMI wall chart. Then she sort of hummed patronizingly to herself. She treated me differently from that point on in the exam, too.

    This was after I specifically told her of my history of an eating disorder, and that I was not interested in trying to modify my weight in any way. (My sanity is a little more important than whether I have a fat ass.)

    And this wasn’t the first time something like this has happened.

    Yeah, I’m not going back. I actually don’t feel like going to a doctor ever again at this point, and I’m only 33.

  29. jfpbookworm
    jfpbookworm October 2, 2007 at 10:17 am |

    The problem I have with the “oh, but the BMI doesn’t work for muscular people” idea is that it implies that it works for “non-muscular” people. Combine that with the idea of health as a moral imperative that we seem to have in our culture, and we’re back at “if you’re fat (and you are), there’s something wrong with you.”

  30. QLH
    QLH October 2, 2007 at 10:52 am |

    This was amazing. Thank you, Jill, for pointing us to this. (I should run over and thank Kate, too.) I kept reading the labels applied to those women and men, and thinking, “No, she’s not! No, he’s not!” I’m glad that the labels were in quotation marks (So-and-so is “overweight”) because it indicates skepticism. Don’t accept those labels.

    I hope that this photo collection stays up for a good long time, so that I can point people to it.

    What I saw: a bunch of beautiful, healthy people.

  31. the candid castaway
    the candid castaway October 2, 2007 at 11:18 am |

    The problem I have with the “oh, but the BMI doesn’t work for muscular people” idea is that it implies that it works for “non-muscular” people.

    Well, and I say this as someone who is a wishy-washy fence-sitter on the politics of fat acceptance, I think it’s also because someone who says that is of the opinion body fat analysis is the way to go to screen for obesity-related issues. Also, I think a lot of woman who go to lose weight via exercise discover the phenomenon of muscle being denser than fat and it comes against their own sexist training.

    So I don’t think people are being out-and-out anti-fat when they say that, just trying to reinforce that weight is a poor indicator of any health condition.

  32. Marle
    Marle October 2, 2007 at 11:39 am |

    Because BMI assumes extra weight is fat, muscular people should have their body fat percentage measured, by underwater weighing or skinfold measurements.

    I had a skinfold measurement done once. But, my thighs were so muscular then that you really couldn’t pinch much skin, so the nurse wound up putting the caliper around my entire thigh and the numbers came back that I was hugely obese. So the skinfold test can be just as inaccurate as BMI.

  33. Hector B.
    Hector B. October 2, 2007 at 11:40 am |

    There are two questions:
    (1) Does the amount of fat you are carrying around affect your health?
    (2) If (1) is true, what is an adequate, cost-effective way to assess the amount of fat you are carrying around?

    If you don’t believe (1) is true, there’s no need to get to (2). If (1) is true, BMI may be the answer for most people for (2). If BMI is too gross an approximation for your particular body, skinfold measurements may be good enough. If skinfold doesn’t work for you, then underwater weighing may be the only thing that works.

  34. Hector B.
    Hector B. October 2, 2007 at 11:44 am |

    Marle, any test can be inaccurate when the examiner doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. If you give a Spanish-only speaker an IQ test in English he will score as an idiot.

  35. Kaethe
    Kaethe October 2, 2007 at 11:46 am |

    obesity as an individual issue instead of a collective and complicated problem that has less to do with fat and more to do with access to health care and healthy food (and a good number of other factors)

    Obesity is neither an issue nor a problem, it is an arbitrary descriptor of a genetic tendency. Exercise will not change a person’s weight, only their fitness. Diet will not change a person’s weight, except to cause an ultimate increase. It doesn’t matter what you’re eating, or how much movement you have in your day, your weight belongs to your body, not to your choices or actions. You’re no more asking to be “huge” than you are asking to be harrassed.

  36. Kaethe
    Kaethe October 2, 2007 at 11:50 am |

    Hector, to answer your questions:

    1) No. Fat has no demonstrated causality in health issues.
    2) There is no effective way to change a person’s weight, cost effective or not. According to the National Institutes of Health, in order to be demonstrably successful, a voluntary weight-loss measure must enable the subject to maintain weight loss for 5 years. Nothing does that.

  37. DiscGrace
    DiscGrace October 2, 2007 at 1:24 pm |

    But the damn BMI chart tells me I am a danger to myself , part of an epidemic. The only epidemic I am dealing with is the ‘damn it clothes are not cut to allow women ot have muscles.’

    OMG. I have grown to hate shopping for pants because I can’t find anything that fits my large quads (I added 4 inches to my vertical jump this summer, thanks to my martial arts class) without getting an unwanted couple inches of gaping fabric around my waist/hips. >:(

    I vote that there needs to be a clothing store designed specifically for muscular women. Like, other than Dick’s Sporting Goods.

  38. Bahesmama
    Bahesmama October 2, 2007 at 1:43 pm |

    I thought that now it was waist circumference that mattered. More than 33-35 inches for women was considered dangerous. I’m American Indian and have a tendency to gain fat around the middle (“apple shaped”) which can also lead to diabetes (American Indians have the highest rates of diabetes in the US) and strain on the internal organs. But, I’m only 5’2″. By the time I lose the fat around my waist and get down to a good measurement, I’m down to a size 2. I lose all the weight around my buttocks first. At a size 6-8 I’m obese. Isn’t that crazy?

  39. Kate Harding
    Kate Harding October 2, 2007 at 1:59 pm |

    Thanks for the link, Jill!

    My question is, IS BMI taken seriously by anyone authoritative? I think it’s more a magazine shortcut than anything medical professionals take seriously.

    Sadly, it’s still taken seriously by way too many doctors.

    But just as importantly, debunking the “magazine shortcuts” is a huge part of what this project is all about. All the talk about how “overweight” and “obese” Americans have gotten is based on BMI. And articles on the “obesity crisis” are inevitably illustrated with pictures of headless people who are well into the “morbidly” or “extremely” obese range — a very small percentage of the population. When you look at the “overweight” and “obese” people in these pictures, it doesn’t seem like such a crisis. (Or it really, really shouldn’t, anyway.)

    Also, for anyone who doesn’t know, the “overweight” standard was changed from 27 to 25 in 1998; most of the “overweight” people in the stream wouldn’t have been classified as such 10 years ago. Millions and millions of people suddenly became “overweight” overnight.

  40. fatmammycat
    fatmammycat October 2, 2007 at 3:28 pm |

    “Obesity is neither an issue nor a problem, it is an arbitrary descriptor of a genetic tendency. Exercise will not change a person’s weight, only their fitness. Diet will not change a person’s weight, except to cause an ultimate increase. It doesn’t matter what you’re eating, or how much movement you have in your day, your weight belongs to your body, not to your choices or actions. You’re no more asking to be “huge” than you are asking to be harrassed”

    What a victim ready croc of shit. Weight is not connected to what you eat or how much you exercise? Seriously? I must tell all my buddies at the gym this GOOD news. So that way they can stop sweating an hour a day, eat as much as they like and sit around doing absoutely nothing all day, I’ll stop running 40 to 50 k a week and get with the buttery toast and buttery mashed potato program I like so much. I”m sure our weight will remain exactly the very same.
    Or, oh I don’t know, maybe it won’t.

    I really hate this kind of attitude I really do. If you’re comfortable being whatever size you are then be it, but don’t pretend that diet and exercise won’t alter your weight. it’s a lie.
    One that won’t hold up.

  41. Kate Harding
    Kate Harding October 2, 2007 at 3:52 pm |

    I must tell all my buddies at the gym this GOOD news. So that way they can stop sweating an hour a day, eat as much as they like and sit around doing absoutely nothing all day,

    Actually, no fat acceptance advocate would suggest you do that, since overeating (which, you’ll note, ought to be a very different thing from “eating as much as you like”) and “sitting around doing absolutely nothing all day” will probably make you unhealthy — unlike fat. The goal is not to encourage laziness and junkfood consumption; it’s to combat the fucking stereotype that that is how all fat people get fat.

    You might want to see this article on how exercise doesn’t make you thin, actually, and this oneor thin people permanently fat.

    Thing is, even if your friends did stop going to the gym and start eating crap, they probably wouldn’t get as fat as me. But they’d be a whole lot unhealthier than I am.

  42. Kate Harding
    Kate Harding October 2, 2007 at 3:53 pm |

    Oops, sorry about tags.

    1st article.
    Second article.

  43. Bunny
    Bunny October 2, 2007 at 3:55 pm |

    fatmammycat, I think kaethe is referring more to trends in the body.

    I was smaller on average when I had a better-paying, more active job and could afford lots of fresh seafood etc, than I am now with a low-wage and very sedentary job. But at either end of my weight scale I still wobbled around the same weight and dress size, give or take a few pounds. Any major weight gain/loss would be brief, before settling back in at my natural size. I’ve never managed to keep down by more than 1 dress size for more than about 3 months, and that was by starving myself, obsessing over weight and working out more than I slept.

    Of course, when I was walking 8-9 hours a day in all weather for work, cycling to work and classes daily, lifting weights in the evenings and climbing trees at the weekend I was slimmer- I was far more toned. My body even plummetted in weight duringthe first few months before increasing and settling again close to my original weight. And of course, sitting in front of a PC screen for 9 hours a day, squeezing in what exercise I can around the rest of my life, I am wobbly and thick around the limbs and stomach. But this winter I am still wearing the same jeans I wore when I was slimmer, they just are tighter around the thighs and looser around the calves this time around.

    So I can pretty much say that exercise and diet doesn’t greatly effect my weight. It did definitely effect my health, though. When I was more active I felt better, had more energy, got hungry more regularly and my skin was clearer and brighter. (I also had a shiny wet nose and a bushy tail).

    Because weight is not the same as health.

    And that is, rather, the point.

  44. zuzu
    zuzu October 2, 2007 at 4:00 pm |

    OMG. I have grown to hate shopping for pants because I can’t find anything that fits my large quads (I added 4 inches to my vertical jump this summer, thanks to my martial arts class) without getting an unwanted couple inches of gaping fabric around my waist/hips. >:(

    The Stacy & Clinton rule for that is to fit the largest part of you and have the rest taken in (though you also have to look for clothes that *can* be taken in at the waist and hips, so no fancy waistbands or weird pockets).

  45. fatmammycat
    fatmammycat October 2, 2007 at 4:10 pm |

    “Obesity is neither an issue nor a problem, it is an arbitrary descriptor of a genetic tendency. Exercise will not change a person’s weight, only their fitness. Diet will not change a person’s weight, except to cause an ultimate increase. It doesn’t matter what you’re eating, or how much movement you have in your day, your weight belongs to your body, not to your choices or actions. You’re no more asking to be “huge” than you are asking to be harrassed”

    This is what was said, this is what I called bull on. Not whether or not people get fat in different ways. I might not get ‘as fat as’ you Kate Harding if I stopped going to the gym and ate crap but you can be damn sure I’d give you a good run for your money. The thing is as you get older it takes a good solid commitment and a lot of hard workto keep a fit and stay a healthy weight. Why the hell should we who do that have to sit around listening to people say oh it doesn’t matter what a person does, their weight is not as a result of their hard work. Bollocks, mine is.

  46. Anna B
    Anna B October 2, 2007 at 4:18 pm |

    Sure, diet and exercise can affect weight. Like, for instance, when my husband got an intestinal virus last week and didn’t eat for 3 days, he lost 11 pounds. Whoopee! Call up the fat police! It’s a metobolic miracle!

    I also lost lots of weight when I was anorexic for a year. Working out hard 1.5 hours a day and eating only one very restricted meal a day can do that to you.

    Yep, these are temporary, unusual situations. And that’s the point. Sure, lots of things can dramatically affect one’s weight temporarily. Temporary weight loss is how NutraSystem and Jenny Craig can make money – they shoot the commercials before the subjects start eating real food again.

    But study after study has shown that over the long haul, very little can be done to severely alter one’s weight range permanently (5+ years), either down or up. (The one thing that is almost guaranteed to ratchet up one’s weight range is dieting, BTW.)

    But what about those perpetual thin-as-a rail workout enthusiasts? Natural eating and exercise habits are extremely variable (just like our sleep needs), because we all live in different bodies. If a person’s body really loves, loves, loves running, it will probably want to do so, because it’s essential to maintaining that person’s natural metabolism.

    Try to get me on a run, however, and my body would rebel. My body needs yoga instead, because I’m kindy stretchy, and dancing, because it craves rhythm. If I ran to lose weight, the habit might last a while, but my body would never be able to keep it going. But keep me away from yoga and dancing, and my body is miserable. (And yes, I’m fat and do yoga and dancing.) Does the fact that I don’t run mean I’m unhealthy? Nope. In fact, when I tried running/race walking, that’s the first time I ended up in a brace. Not so healthy.

    As for the total buttered toast and mashed potato program, I suspect most people would get sick of it within a few months and start eating a fairly balanced diet, which would return most people to a semi-normal weight. Sort of a Atkins rebound effect, only with weight loss. I know that’s probably a blow to those who put so much effort into denying all their food cravings, but w/ev.

    If everyone hasn’t read Shapely Prose’s (Kate Harding and pals’s) rundown of evidence on weight, diet, and exercise,you should really do so.

  47. Kate Harding
    Kate Harding October 2, 2007 at 5:05 pm |

    Why the hell should we who do that have to sit around listening to people say oh it doesn’t matter what a person does, their weight is not as a result of their hard work.

    Why the hell should we who exercise and eat a balanced diet and have perfectly fine blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar and are still fat have to listen to people tell us how unhealthy and lazy we are?

  48. fatmammycat
    fatmammycat October 2, 2007 at 5:16 pm |

    Why does it have to be one extreme or the other? I don’t deny myself any food, neither do I over indulge in any food. I don’t diet full stop, diets are totally unsustainable and misery making.
    I’m talking about a lifestyle that includes exercise on a daily basis, weights twice weekly and- as I’m training for a marathon at the end of the month- a good deal of running. I also exercise a little restraint in what I choose to eat. That’s me in a nut shell, nothing extreme. Why is it offensive to declare you’re pretty sure your diet and activity is helping you look good and feel pretty damn healthy.
    If you’re happy Ana B I’m happy for you, there is no way I would be snitty about a happy healthy woman who enjoys what she does. One of my best friends is a yoga instructor and that girl can do thing with her body I can only dream off, but she can’t run 30 k either. We’re both fit, just in different ways for our paths. My enitre gripe was with the diet and exercise don’t change weight comment. The oops obesity is genetic nothing I can do about it attitude, which annoys the shit out of me because it is so defeatist-which I’m not either.

  49. fatmammycat
    fatmammycat October 2, 2007 at 5:17 pm |

    hey Kate, I didn’t say that. So save it for someone who did.

  50. Karen
    Karen October 2, 2007 at 5:31 pm |

    What I found most powerful about this is the visual attached to the actual number of the weight. We have such moral/beauty/health ideas attached to these numbers. So it’s really eye-opening to go, hey, that girl looks great! She weighs 190lbs (or whatever)! Because when I hear “190lbs”, I think, “fat”, even though everything I know about feminism, weight, body image, and the diet industry tells me that it’s not so. When I hear my own weight (232 as of yesterday), I think I ought to give up on life, despite the fact that I know I’ve got a great life, and am mostly happy and healthy. So, it’s deeply moving to me to see these “bad” numbers reflected in lovely and active women.

    It’s also a great rebuttal of BMI, but I haven’t believed anything I’ve heard about BMI in ages — as someone pointed out, it’s a statistical measure meant to be applied to populations, not individuals.

  51. Karen
    Karen October 2, 2007 at 5:51 pm |

    I also exercise almost daily and eat a (mostly) balanced diet. And I’m obese or morbidly obese, according to BMI stuff. So, it’s frustrating to be told that my weight can be manged by diet and exercise.

    fatmammycat, you say your body is a result of your hard work. What I’m saying is that I do the same hard work you do, and my body is a result of that. And my body is fat (5’0″, 232 lbs). So, I have a lot of trouble with the idea that I can change my weight via diet and exercise. I can (and have) changed my health via diet and exercise. My blood pressure, my cholesterol, all of those other indicators are in good ranges. But my weight has not changed significantly in my adult life, despite my good habits. Exercise and diet have had no effect on it.

    I’m obviously only one example, but a number of studies have shown the same: diet and exercise can change fitness, but they almost never change weight over the long-term. I will probably always weigh this, give or take. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t exercise or watch my diet — obviously, I should, for so many reasons, and I do. But that’s not why I’m fat. So I hate being told that my fatness is a result of my own laziness or lack of commitment to my health when I’m neither lazy nor uncommitted to my own well-being.

  52. fatmammycat
    fatmammycat October 2, 2007 at 6:13 pm |

    Karen it works for me, and the original person I responded to said it it couldn’t so I reared up. I”m against absolutes. Of ANY Kind. If you say nothing alters your weight then let that be that. You know you better than I know you.
    But I can tell you this, there are a few of us girls, a tennis player, a Yoga instructor, a triathlon champ, a mountain and fell runner and me, a novice marathon, long time martial arts and weights aficionado and not one of us is carries any more than ten pounds extra max at any point of the year, even off season, so should our experiences be discounted? We are all in our thirties and forties, we all like a drink and good food, but we match this in our physical output. I don’t think it would be unfair or unrealistic to attribute our dedication to fitness to our ‘normal’ weights.

  53. threemilechild
    threemilechild October 2, 2007 at 8:03 pm |

    Wish I had pictures of myself in high school to submit. I was called into the nurse’s office for an “eating disorders are bad” type talk (*) shortly after I joined the swim team. That was pre-98, so I was on the upper side of “normal” but now would be considered “overweight.” I’m very heavily built, so at a BMI of 25.5 my hipbones stick out and if I hold my breath, my ribs.

    (*) Not that my school was so great — at a regular checkup several months after swim season, when I’d actually lost a few pounds of my max swimming weight but gotten flabby, they weighed me, told me I was on the upper side of normal, and did I know what a situp was? I had a bit of a tummy so I should do some situps.

  54. Noodlegirl
    Noodlegirl October 2, 2007 at 8:11 pm |

    Fatmammycat, from what you have written my guess is that you and your friends probably also have more of a natural/genetic/whatever tendency towards a “normal” weight. Fat or thin, exercise and a balanced diet are certainly the way to go, healthwise. But I do understand Karen’s and Kate’s points. While both can help one acheive greater health and fitness, the idea that a heathful diet and exercise will “cure” fatness and therefore fat people must not be doing either, is pure bunk. Pure and simple.

  55. Meowser
    Meowser October 2, 2007 at 8:14 pm |

    The thing is as you get older it takes a good solid commitment and a lot of hard workto keep a fit and stay a healthy weight. Why the hell should we who do that have to sit around listening to people say oh it doesn’t matter what a person does, their weight is not as a result of their hard work. Bollocks, mine is.

    And it benefits who, exactly, besides yourself and whoever gets to have you for arm candy? I love these workout nuts who think they deserve the Nobel Prize for being able to bounce a quarter off their midsections. Y’know, if you wait outside in subzero cold for a week to buy Springsteen tickets, subsisting on beef jerky and peeing in a jar, and you get front-row seats, congratufrickinglations. But you and whoever attends the show with you are the only actual beneficiaries. And plenty of people who got there minutes after you did probably didn’t get seats at all, no matter how much jar-peeing and beef-jerky-subsisting they did.

    You don’t realize how fortunate you are to have “normal” genetics that allow you to have even the possibility of an “acceptably thin” body. Many of us could kill ourselves at the gym for years in a constant state of ketogenesis and not get anywhere close to the weight you maintain with relatively little effort. And why should anyone be required to live such an ascetic, abstemious lifestyle forever in order simply not to be hated?

    I’m all for the joy of movement, but in terms of actual societal contribution I much more admire the fatass who devotes her spare time to feeding abandoned kittens with eyedroppers, thank you. Not to mention the blogger who took the time to put together such an awesome, stereotype-busting pictorial. I’m sure I could do a lot more to make the world a better place, but when I do I doubt those changes will begin on a Stairmaster.

  56. octogalore
    octogalore October 2, 2007 at 8:42 pm |

    Kate and Anna, that’s interesting info re doctors who go by BMI. Thanks for clarifying that, I’ve never had one who did, but I guess they are indeed out there.

    I would suggest for those like Anna B who’ve had this experience, would it make sense to go to a doctor with experience treating athletes, eg at a university hospital? Given the stats on % of athletes who are obese per the BMI charts, I imagine these doctors would be more thorough in their analysis of health.

    I also disagree with the setpoint theory — at least universally. I’ve found exercise helpful in maintaining weight. And I’ve gained, or not been able to eat as much, when I haven’t done it. I don’t think diets help, but I do think finding a workable plan that one can stick to, that has enough flexibility to have a good life with, works well. I don’t have a particularly great metabolism, but can eat 2000-2200 calories daily if I exercise alot and stay at 115lb. I can’t get away with that level during periods where I’m not as active.

  57. Clancy
    Clancy October 2, 2007 at 9:57 pm |

    Hey everyone, I started a group on Flickr if you want to upload your own photos with BMI info.

  58. Isabel
    Isabel October 2, 2007 at 10:10 pm |

    Fun data point about BMI & health: I’ve never been underweight, BMI-wise. I’ve always had, oh, at least 5 pounds leeway (and that was in my darkest days–most of the ten or so pounds I lost over a year and a half were stress/depression-induced weight loss). But I did get skinny enough that my gynecologist took one look at me at my last visit and asked me point blank if I had an eating disorder before prescribing a bone density test which revealed, indeed, that I had managed to get my bone density low enough that I am at a higher risk for osteoperosis later in life. I’m 19.

    And people wonder–out loud! to my face!–why I would not want to lose weight (which, I hate that so much. it’s like, “but losing weight is good!” Um, not if it means all your pants fit weirdly, it’s a result of depression and stress, your bone density goes down, and YOU DIDN’T NEED TO LOSE IT ANYWAY. Seriously, why would you just blatantly tell me “you need to lose weight!” and the thing is I know these people don’t mean it like that, they just think losing weight is a goal everyone has in common. Like getting married, or having children, or making as much money as possible. But the commodization of supposedly personal goals, the assumption of uniformity, is a whole different rant for another time).

  59. octogalore
    octogalore October 3, 2007 at 12:19 am |

    Isabel — one good thing about the period after 25 is that people generally get more attuned to the fact that they may be old someday and more aware that things like losing too much weight and other fun health experiments actually have an affect other than looking like Kate Moss. I was acutely conscious of weight in college (and I can probably be described along the same lines as you in that regard), but now my “happy” weight is about 20lb higher than it was then. And people don’t question that. (I’m not a great example as I’m still pretty thin, but when I still had an extra 15 leftover pregnancy pounds on top of that, people still didn’t much care or comment). Not that any of this is great comfort now, and not that the world becomes perfect after 25 as far as all of this stuff, but it really does fade significantly in importance.

    One of the things that has helped me is, when I do get magazines, to get women’s health mags and stuff like Oxygen instead of Cosmo etc. The women in the latter mags are healthy and have some size, and the ideas for cooking are pretty good and some actually taste OK. So, despite anorexic tendencies, this kind of reading helps me focus on functional strength and health rather than size. I’d bet some of the models in the health-oriented mags are overweight on the BMI.

  60. octogalore
    octogalore October 3, 2007 at 12:20 am |

    Sorry for typo, I mean former instead of latter in “the women in the latter mags.”

  61. Lorelei
    Lorelei October 3, 2007 at 12:40 am |

    fatmammycat,

    i don’t care what your body looks like, nevermind how much effort or work you put into it.

  62. Mercurial Georgia
    Mercurial Georgia October 3, 2007 at 12:42 am |

    Re: BMI

    Last summer, when my brother was enrolling at a university where nutrition was a big subject, he actually volunteered with a Prof, to record his weights and measurements, because the current BMI, didn’t fit Asians. The BMI could ‘fit’, but the Asian in question could actually already be overweight

    …and of course, even within ‘a race’, there are many body types, and…accounting for the whole muscle is heavier than fat thing, I’m all for throwing BMI out the window, and stick to the ‘flab test’? If you are flabby, cut down stuff with added sugar, sleep early, jog. I can’t remember where I heard it, but apparently one, was supposed to walk 10 minutes and then jog for 30 minutes…or the other way around, per day. I measure how in shape in I am by rather or not I get winded after catching up with the bus.

  63. kellbelle1020
    kellbelle1020 October 3, 2007 at 1:24 am |

    Oops… if you catch it in moderation, please delete my first post!

    (1) Does the amount of fat you are carrying around affect your health?

    1) No. Fat has no demonstrated causality in health issues.

    I hope you meant “weight”, because what you said is completely and ridiculously untrue. Fat is absolutely linked to heart disease and cholesterol level. Fat in the liver is also very dangerous, to give two well-documented examples.

    What matters is where a person carries their fat. Fat in and around the internal organs is highly dangerous to your health. Fat that is stored just under the skin is far less relevent to health. In fact, thin people who don’t exercise much may just be genetically predisposed to deposit fat viscerally rather than subcutaneously (and, thus, are far less healthy than “overweight” people who store most fat subcutaneously). Recent studies using MRIs have discovered these internal fat stores in healthy-looking people.

    And THAT is the point. Looks can be deceiving. BMI is crap. Weight doesn’t necessarily indicate health. But fat is absolutely related to health, so let’s not go crazy and make completely bogus claims. That will certainly not help anything.

  64. Liz Henry
    Liz Henry October 3, 2007 at 3:07 am |

    Jill, have you seen Body Impolitic’s post debunking BMI? It’s really good!

    http://laurietobyedison.com/discuss/?p=434

  65. fatmammycat
    fatmammycat October 3, 2007 at 3:49 am |

    Lorelei, nobody said you had too, so can it. I argued against one person’s viewpoint, what I did not do was attack over weight people ingeneral. If you’re that sensitive maybe you need to back out of an argument before you make a stupid passive aggressive remark.

  66. fatmammycat
    fatmammycat October 3, 2007 at 4:48 am |

    “And it benefits who, exactly, besides yourself and whoever gets to have you for arm candy? I love these workout nuts who think they deserve the Nobel Prize for being able to bounce a quarter off their midsections.”

    It’s supposed to benefit me, that’s the point. But this will be my last comment on the subject because now I have people being rude to me for no reason whatsoever. Arm candy and a work out nut? Could you be any more patronising? As if keeping fit was the ONLY aspect of my life. I thought this forum was a place where women could voice their experiences? Just because I find that weight is altered by exercise and diet doesn’t mean I’m attacking everyone else’s experience.
    Pffft. Arm candy…right. Way to show your true colours Meowser.

  67. Rochelle Robinson
    Rochelle Robinson October 3, 2007 at 7:40 am |

    The ridiculous notion of using BMI calculations to determine ones health is destructive and archaic. It fails to measure muscle vs. fat and account for different body types. This issue is not limited to women, and was discussed a while ago using male celebrities as models.

    [Will] Smith is in good company with many other “overweight” and “obese” celebrities. Consider the stars of Ocean’s 11 and 12. At 5-11, 187 pounds, Matt Damon has a BMI of 26. The six-foot tall Brad Pitt carries around a positively unattractive 203 pounds, giving him a BMI of 28. But it’s George Clooney who leads the “Fat Pack” at 5’11”, 211 pounds, and a BMI of 29. Meanwhile, the “Governator” Arnold Schwarzenegger, at 6’2”, 227, is obese with a BMI of 33.http://www.consumerfreedom.com/pressRelease_detail.cfm/release/86

    The photo gallery was a great showcase of real women! Beautiful!

  68. Schmorgluck
    Schmorgluck October 3, 2007 at 8:45 am |

    A female friend of mine told me how, while she is naturally groundy, her mother insisted to make her thin when she was in her teens, forcing her into drastic regimes, with a rather ironic result: it messed up her metabolism and made her obese, which she is still now that she’s in her mid-twenties. Not thoroughly, and nothing to obsess her (though, understandably, she still resents her mother) but still a bit of an issue she has to deal with. Which she does calmly, without hurrying, and above all without renouncing to her food habits (she’s a wonderful cook, kind of a cuisine nerd). But I find it a sad story anyway.

  69. wriggles
    wriggles October 3, 2007 at 8:01 pm |

    “Way to show your true colors Meowser”

    I thought scintillating wit is your true colour. Is she saying that you are faking? If so jolly good effort, you had me fooled.

  70. Sorli
    Sorli October 4, 2007 at 10:22 am |

    A factor that is completely overlooked by this BMI nonsensical tool: I’m a weightlifter; therefore I have a higher amount/proportion of muscle mass than the majority of women.

    Quite. I remmeber reading that according to height/weight calculations, Martina Navratilova was obese.

  71. Minna
    Minna October 5, 2007 at 3:54 am |

    I thought scintillating wit is your true colour. Is she saying that you are faking? If so jolly good effort, you had me fooled.

    Mmm, see, I’d have to agree that “arm candy” is an extremely offensive term. Especially since it’s 95% of the time aimed at women. Smells just a little of misogyny.

  72. wriggles
    wriggles October 5, 2007 at 10:22 pm |

    The point of the pictures is to illustrate what bodies look like in actual BMI categories, rather than the usual ‘headless fatty’ pictures.

    Fat acceptance is not about what it’s detractors think it’s about, it’s about what it’s about. It is defined by the people who are fat and have decided to take control as they are the ones who can and should define themselves most accurately. Fat acceptance is not defeatist, defeatism is epitomised by allowing those that wish to malign you to define you. Defining yourself positively and honestly is the duty of any human being. It is obvious that dieting and exercise does not make fat people thin, we who have the experience know this through our own experience, through our own bodies and minds, it is not something that requires the conformation of others. If this upsets people complains should be taken to the forces that designed the human body.

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  76. chantell
    chantell May 27, 2008 at 12:34 pm |

    I am 5 foot5 and I am 12 years old. I have a small bone structure even though I’m tall. I wear size 9 or 10 ladys in shoes lol! Around the waist I’m a 23, around the thighs I’m a 16. And I can’t say how much I weigh. I am not trying to brag but I am very thin because I am a ballerina.

  77. chantell
    chantell June 20, 2008 at 6:43 pm |

    I am 5 foot six now!!!!!!!

  78. foozlesprite
    foozlesprite July 11, 2008 at 5:17 am |

    I find BMI to be horridly ineffective especially at tall/short ranges. I’m 5’0″ and 220 pounds, which is overweight, yes, but it’s not the morbid obeseness that BMI says I am. It fails to take into account that a large percentage of my weight is concentrated in my large breasts, and that a good deal of my weight is muscle mass from Taekwondo and marching band.

    Sadly, BMI is taken very seriously by people in Arkansas, where I live. When I was in high school BMI was taken every year (mandatory, if you missed that day you had a make-up scheduled). No matter what your results were, they were sent to your parents along with your report card. Honors classes, straight As, marching band, oh yeah and your kid is morbidly obese. Most parents took it as fact without seriously looking at their kid, and it hurt a lot of people’s feelings. But I guess this is the same school system and nation where I spent an hour a week learning to fill in bubbles on standardized tests for No Child Left Behind, so the BMI issue may be the least of our problems.

    It’s time our health care professionals learned that not everybody is a 30 year old white male.

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