Monday, November 3, 2008

Healthy vs. Thin

Consider the following:
  1. Joe (the Plumber?) is thin.
  2. Thin people are healthy.
  3. Joe is healthy.
  1. Bob (the Builder?) is fat.
  2. Fat people are unhealthy.
  3. Bob is unhealthy.
That's dictated to us from birth by our American culture. Makes sense, right? No knee-jerk reaction, right?

Well, I don't agree with it. There's evidence of it all around me, and you too. My partner is a great example. He is thin - ungodly thin - but he's not healthy. He's malnourished. Are anorexic people healthy? What about fat people that exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet? (Yes, they do exist.) Fat and healthy are not mutually exclusive. Weight is not the single measure of health.

Part of the "fat acceptance" movement is teaching this fact to others. The other part is learning how to live in a fat body and not hate it or yourself at the same time. After one can learn to love themselves, it becomes easier to take on the rest of the world.

And part of learning to love yourself is learning to let go of dieting. Most people (not all) cannot lose (or gain) significant amounts of weight and keep it off. Each individual body has a range of weight that it's happiest and healthiest in. In fact, if a body goes too far below or above that range, the metabolism slows down or speeds up in order to get back into that range. This causes fat people to get fat again and thin people to get thin again, over the course of several months. In fact:
[F]at people who lost large amounts of weight might look like someone who was never fat, but they were very different. In fact, by every metabolic measurement, they seemed like people who were starving.
(Emphasis mine.) What does this mean? It means that different bodies need different things. And there's nothing wrong with that. But here's where there is something wrong:
The Rockefeller subjects [who, through hardcore dieting, lost significant amounts of weight] also had a psychiatric syndrome, called semi-starvation neurosis, which had been noticed before in people of normal weight who had been starved. [...]

"It is entirely possible that weight reduction, instead of resulting in a normal state for obese patients, results in an abnormal state resembling that of starved nonobese individuals."
It's unhealthy for a naturally fat person to try to keep weight off. What about success stories?
There were a very few who did not get fat again, but they made staying thin their life's work, becoming Weight Watchers lecturers, for example, and, always, counting calories and maintaining themselves in a permanent state of starvation.
People that do keep the weight off have the drive and will power to always be worried about staying thin. I don't want staying thin to be my life's work. There might be some people that want that. I don't. I'd rather learn to appreciate the body I'm in, and I'd rather learn to keep this body healthy, whatever healthy means to it. And I'm pretty sure starvation isn't healthy, no matter what you look like.

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