How Do I “LOOK?” No, How Do I “FEEL?” (Full Article)

I AM OVERWEIGHT.  I know this because I went to a nutritionist who hooked me up to a machine that told her so.  Am I unhealthy?  Not exactly…the same machine told her that I am within average ranges and am not at risk of any major diseases.  Does this mean that I shouldn’t lose body fat?  Absolutely not!  My body fat percentage is greater than it should be for a person with my age, height and activity level.  Was I surprised, upset, or hurt when I found this out?  Nope…and you shouldn’t be either.  We all have mirrors and really just need to have an honest conversation with ourselves.  Ask yourself, “Am I healthy?” “Do I ‘feel’ good?”I grew up looking in the mirror and hating the way I “look,” and I don’t think that makes me an exception; I think it makes me the norm.  I wish I could say that with age comes wisdom, but I still look in the mirror and find myself wishing I looked different.  I want to change that mentality though. I would rather get to a place where I ask myself, “Self, how do you ‘feel’ today?  Are you healthy?  Can you perform daily tasks and functions with ease?  Do you rarely get sick, take medicine, or go to the doctor?”  These are the types of questions we should be asking ourselves instead of, “Does this make me look too thin?” or, “Do I really have to buy a size bigger in jeans?”

Now don’t misunderstand me, if you are buying a bigger size in jeans because of all the squats you’ve been busting out, more power to you!  However, if you are buying a bigger size because you couldn’t say no to all the sweets in the break room at work, that’s not something to celebrate. It makes me so angry when I hear skinny people saying they just can’t gain weight, but they refuse to eat more protein or ever lift a barbell… you know, because they don’t want to “get bulky.”  It makes me even more angry to see overweight people telling each other that there is no correlation between weight and health, and that you can be healthy at any weight.  If you celebrate and empower someone else based on the fact that they look like you and it makes you feel better about yourself, you are not doing them any favors.  We need to be honest with ourselves, stop being lazy and put in the work!

There is an ongoing battle in the media between the skinny people and the fat people (yes, I know I am horrible for not trying to be more “PC” with my adjectives). One side is always trying to convince the other side, as well as the rest of us, that they are the better standard. I am going to disagree with both sides and say, “You are both wrong!” The best standard is in the middle…it’s called healthy! We shouldn’t praise a skinny person because they have the ability to fit into a size “0” and can count their ribs, and we shouldn’t celebrate a fat person because it might hurt their feelings if we say the “F” word. I know it’s not true 100% of the time, but more than likely, neither the skinny person nor the fat person is healthy.

Lately, I’ve read an increasing number of articles about how mad people are over the fashion industry’s standard of what is aesthetically pleasing for the female form. The fashion industry now considers a size “6” to be plus sized (what??)… Do I think that is crazy? Of course! On the flip side, I also think it is crazy to look at overweight models and think that they are a better standard just because they are the norm (62% of females in America are already categorized as overweight). Just because plus-sized models look more like the women we see around us each day, doesn’t make them the standard we should shoot for. Size “0” models in Cosmopolitan are not necessarily less healthy than the size “14” model in Plus Model Magazine. Neither end of the spectrum is okay; you have to look at each woman as an individual and learn what “healthy” really means. The ideal weight and fat-lean ratio varies considerably for men to women and by age, but the minimum percent of body fat considered safe for good health is 5% for males and 12% for females. The average adult body fat is closer to 15% to 18% for men and 22% to 25% for women. For men who have over 25% and women who have over 32% body fat, there is a dramatic correlation with illness and disease. These are the facts. If you fall under or over these percentages, your health is at risk.

Essential fat: Men< 5, Women <8

Minimal fat weight: Men=5, Women=15

Most athletes: Men=5-13, Women=12-22

Optimal health: Men=10-25, Women=18-30

Optimal fitness: Men=12-18, Women=16-25

Obesity: Men> 25, Women > 30

A huge amount of people fall outside healthy ranges. According to a survey done by the CDC in 2011, about 1/3 of U.S. adults (33.8%) are obese and approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 12-19 are obese. According to USA Today, 3.3% of children and teens, ages 2 to 19, were underweight in 2006 and 1.8% of adults, ages 20 to 74, were underweight in 2006. This number has surely changed in the last five years, but combine the numbers of underweight and overweight people in America, and that is a pretty big chunk of our population that is not healthy!

Everyone is worried that the younger generation is going to think that what they see in Cosmopolitan or Plus Model Magazine is what they should look like―let’s teach them differently. Instead of focusing on what they “look” like, teach them to focus on what they “feel” like. Do they eat the right foods, do they get enough sleep, do they perform an activity that makes them sweat? Above all, inspire them to find role models who measure up to healthy standards.

I am as guilty as the next person of looking at someone and saying, “Dang! I’d kill to have her body.” The truth is, we are all individuals and we can’t let someone else’s standard become our own. We should ask ourselves what we want to “feel” like every day as we move through our lives, and make decisions every day that get us closer to feeling that way.

Coach Tristy