Society has drawn a very simple conclusion... that being slim automatically means that you are at the pinnacle of health and have achieved wellness nirvana. Companies can sell you products to help you drop those unsightly kilos and once you’ve reached that goal, nobody can tell you how to live your life because once you're skinny you’re perfect… right?
Well luckily there’s been a big shift in what it actually means to be healthy. And we’re all here for it. But before we go into that, we thought we'd talk about where this attitude towards our bodies has come from.
The connection between weight and health
A quick dive into history, what has been a big driver for determining a person’s healthy weight was the Body Mass Index or BMI. The general science behind it is that for a person’s height, they would need to fall within a certain weight range to be considered healthy which is between 18.5 – 24.9kg/m2. If you’re 170cm tall (we’re metric people over here!) then your weight should fall between 53.5kg - 72.2kg. Anything over that, you are categorised as overweight/obese (depending on how much over the weight you are), or underweight if you are below that weight. The science behind it is that if you are above the weight threshold for your height, you are carrying excess body fat that could be reducing the efficiency of your internal organs, which could lead to diseases like Type 2 Diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and other metabolic disorders. And inversely, if you are underweight, you could be at risk of vitamin deficiencies, weakened immunity and fertility problems.
If this is the science, what’s changed?
It’s all about how we look at BMI. There’s the argument that is repeated by the general public. Stop me if you’ve heard this before:
“Well BMI isn’t accurate because if it were then the entire England rugby team would be considered obese”
And whilst that is correct, you are taking an incredibly small sample of highly trained athletes who are a required size for their specific sport. They exercise more than most of the population and should not be used to compare to the general public.
Instead, we’d rather look at it from this perspective:
BMI is a good tool when assessing the health of a population, but when you look into the specifics of a person, you need more information to determine that person’s health.
People have individual characteristics which can sometimes determine whether a high BMI is a problem. How much muscle do they have? Is the fat situated around their stomach where their major organs are? Or is it more so in their lower body? What is their waist circumference?
Any of these factors can determine whether a person is “healthy” or not. Someone with a healthy BMI can still have a large waist circumference which would put them at a high risk of those diseases we mentioned before. And someone who is over that 24.9kg/m2 range can have a higher muscle mass, and exercise 5 times a week, putting them at a lower risk.
We actually think that...
We’ve never cared about the science!
Now we’re not saying that those in medical or science professions don’t care, but the general public doesn’t. If the science was at the forefront of their minds, they’d be quoting it left right and centre. Instead you have a subtle undertone whispering in your ear every day telling you that “fat is disgusting”, and this is perpetuated by magazines with slim models on the front and headlines like “how I lost 10kg before my dream holiday”, TV hosts obsessively commenting on the bodies of women, companies selling you their diet shakes promising you’ll lose weight if you buy in to their product, and that’s just scratching the surface of how society makes you feel if you have an ounce of excess fat on you. And what happens when you tell these girls/women that society doesn’t like the way they look? They don’t like the way they look, leading to eating disorders and mental health issues that can take a toll on their physical health too.
This is something we feel is unacceptable. A problem exacerbated by society which makes people feel bad about themselves and resort to sometimes unhealthy diet fads to help them get to lose weight not for their health, but to just not feel like s***. Sometimes, wanting to lose weight is a completely harmless journey to embark on, turns into a journey of punishing their bodies.
But it’s not all doom and gloom gals!
There’s been a shift
We’ve seen a wave of women who are speaking up, for themselves and representing women everywhere who have felt like this at one point or another. People are speaking up against those underhanded marketing ploys companies use, encouraging more inclusive and positive imagery.
Women are exercising for their health, and not just to lose weight. We’re seeing a range of women with differing body types which is more representative of the varying body types we see in our everyday women. We’re seeing more sustainable eating patterns with a focus on balance and treating yourself instead of starving yourself and living off shakes. We’re seeing weight gain journeys instead of constantly being barraged by the latest diet fad.
And we couldn’t be happier. This is what we need. Instead of making it out that this world of health is just for the “skinny” or with the goal of being “skinny”, we need this approach that encourages that health is for all, no matter your size. And maybe if we continue down this path, we can see the physical and mental health of our women, and our population improve without manipulation.
And for anyone reading this who has experienced those feelings that they don’t quite fit in when they try to kickstart a health journey, just remember:
Healthy, not skinny.