A new study has just been released that shows, yet again, that those who fall into the “overweight” category on the BMI scale are actually the healthiest. Or, at least, they live the longest:
Two years ago, federal researchers found that overweight people had the lowest mortality rate of any weight group. Investigating further, they were able to link causes of death to specific weights. Obese people had more deaths from heart disease, they reported last week. And thin people? They had more deaths from everything but cancer and heart disease.
But there were 100,000 fewer deaths among the overweight than would have been expected if those people had been of normal weight. This is what might politely be called the chubby category, with body mass indexes (a measure of weight for height) of 25 to 30. A woman, for instance, who is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs between 146 and 175 pounds.
About a third of Americans fall into that range, defined, less politely, as “overweight” by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Interestingly, I am in the demographic that the article cites. Not just overweight according to the BMI chart, but I’m actually 5’4” and in the provided weight range. So that’s reassuring, I suppose.
[Side note: actually, I would much rather be called "overweight" than "chubby." WTF, Times?]
I will admit that I take glee in this study. No, it’s not because I think that I now have some ability to cheat death (I wish!). And it’s not because I want to see skinny people suffer. I don’t. And one of the things that pisses me off most about the weight discussion is when fat-pride takes the form of thin-hate. I understand where those feelings can come from, certainly, but I don’t think that it does us any good. And, believe it or not, thin women have body issues, too — like the fact that “pretty” not only equals skinny, it also equals big boobs, and it’s pretty rare to naturally have both. So, no, thin people, I don’t want you to die before I do. In fact, I’d like to find ways to help you, and the rest of us, live longer and healthier.
The reason I’m happy is because my point that the BMI is an absolute crock of shit has been proven yet again. I’m happy to know that I’m not unhealthy because of my weight (if I’m unhealthy, it’s because I don’t exercise enough). And I’m happy to have something to throw back in the concern trolls’ faces when they start whining about how “worried” they are about everyone’s health.
. . .
Now, of course, many of the fat-shaming concern trolls will claim that they’re not talking about the overweight so much as the obese. Of course, we know that’s absolutely untrue. We also know that the “concern” has very little to do with health, but with the fact that fat (in any amount) is seen as unattractive.
I have to commend the Times for actually pointing this fact out in the article — that beauty as pertaining to weight is actually an artificial construct that has changed with social values over time. Good for them. I mean, they’re just doing their job, but we’re at a point where I feel like we have to jump up and cheer and give journalists a million pats on the back when they actually write a fair, balanced and complete story. Maybe then they’ll start doing it more often. And in any case, I can’t remember the last time I read anything about “the obesity crisis” that was not on a feminist blog and dealt with social views towards weight and sexual attractiveness. I’d go farther than they did and suggest that weight is used against women as a tool of oppression, but hey, baby steps. Especially since the article also included the current link between obesity and poverty (due to unhealthy food being either less expensive or more accessible) — it seems like they’re on a roll.
The study proves another thing, that many have been arguing all along: you cannot tell how healthy a person is by looking at his or her weight.
I mean, gee, how can all of the “chubby” people be healthy and live longer? They have all of that “unnecessary” fat on them! Mhm — surprising, I know. But just think, if we couldn’t tell that the chubby ones are statistically the healthiest by looking at them, maybe, just maybe, we can’t tell how healthy anyone is by just looking at how much “extra” fat they are or are not carrying around. *Gasp!* Maybe we’ll have to stop judging people!
Wishful thinking, I know. It’s unlikely, but it’s also logical. I also personally think that this kind of reaction is absolutely necessary. I imagine that it will be a long time before the medical establishment catches up to this news and alters their recommendations accordingly. And I think that it will be even longer before society then restructures its ideas of health and beauty — if that ever even happens.
But when and if it does, I also don’t want to see what we currently consider to be overweight shifted to what we see as necessarily healthy, and for the current “normal” to be considered unhealthy. Because, again, it’s not necessarily true. Sure, it can be, if they’re not eating enough. Just like being overweight can be unhealthy if your diet consists mostly of potato chips and ice cream. That’s what we need to be looking at here: not telling people to lose or gain weight based on what the scale says, or based on what they’re height is, but based on how healthily they are actually living their lives. We should also be solving the problems that are causing obesity in poor communities, since in this demographic high weight is strongly linked to eating foods with low nutritional value and therefore to poor health.
And even then, the goal shouldn’t be for the overweight person in the example to take off weight, or for the underweight person to gain it, but for both of them to start eating and exercising at more healthy levels. The weight loss or gain should then come naturally. And if it doesn’t? Well, for Christ’s sake, leave them alone. As we’ve already covered, a person’s weight does not determine their health.
Is such a system too much to ask for?
But hey, I can dream.