You know what’s been on my mind recently?
The correlation between weight and health.
Actually, more accurately, the lack of correlation between weight and health.
Despite the widespread belief that a bigger body equals a less healthy body, research shows that it isn’t that simple. A new study published in the International Journey of Obesity analyzed the link between body mass index (BMI) and several health markers, including blood pressure and glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. What did they find?
- 47% of Americans who are labeled ‘overweight’ by virtue of their BMIs are cardiometabolically healthy (a fancy way to say that their blood work indicates a healthy person), and
- 29% of those labeled ‘obese’ are also perfectly healthy, but
- 30% of those with BMIs in the ‘normal’ range are actually unhealthy, according to their blood work
Surprised? A younger Annette would be right there with you. Back when I was a full-fledged believer in mainstream health messaging, I definitely toted the “bigger body = less healthy” line. After all, we hear it over and over again – from the media, from health experts, even from doctors. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard clients tell me that since they are overweight, they are unhealthy, despite the fact that their blood work looks great. Even with hard numbers in front of us, it’s difficult to overcome societal conditioning that tells us that a higher weight must equal an unhealthy body.
This breaks my heart, as it points to bias against fat people. When we are already predisposed to believe that fat = bad, we accept without question that fat also equals unhealthy.
Let’s start to retrain our brains, shall we?
Here’s the truth: A bigger body is just that – a bigger body. A smaller body is just that – a smaller body. Neither one means that you are more or less healthy. More importantly, neither one means that you are good or bad, or better or worse than any other human being.
We are all worthy, exactly as we are. We don’t have to earn our worth by eating salad or fitting into a size 4. We’re enough when we work out and enough when we hit snooze. The infinite value of our human spirit doesn’t increase when we stick to our diet, nor does it decrease when we eat six cupcakes in one sitting.
I’ve shared this quote from Geneen Roth before, and I’ll share it again:
“It’s never been true, not anywhere at any time, that the value of a soul, or a human spirit, is dependent on the number on a scale. We are unrepeatable beings of light and space and water who need these physical vehicles to get around. When we start defining ourselves by that which can be measured or weighed, something deep within us rebels.”
Mmmm…..how ’bout we breathe into that?
I’m smiling as I read over this post. It’s just like me to start with science, touch on societal bias, and end on a spiritual note!
To kicking BMI to the curb (and reclaiming our worth while we’re at it!),
P.S. – If you’re like me and it’s important to you to trace news reports back to their source, here’s the link to the original published paper, called “Misclassification of cardiometabolic health when using body mass index categories in NHANES 2005-2012.” Sounds juicy, right? 🙂