1. Healthy behaviours and healthy weights are not the same thing:
- Overweight people who exercise and eat healthily develop excellent metabolic health, even if they are still an “unhealthy” weight.
- Slim people who are inactive and eat poorly typically have poor health, despite their “healthy” weight.
2. Much of what contributes to body weight is actually healthy:
- Many people who work out regularly will develop significantly greater muscle and bone mass, improve their health substantially, yet are at risk of becoming an “unhealthy” weight.
- Not all body fat is associated with poor health, with more fat in some areas (such as the buttocks and hips) linked to better health.
3. Not accepting our current body weight is highly stressful:
- Body weight has a strong genetic component, and I don’t know of a single person who has found weight loss to be an easy and stress-free process over the long-term.
- Seeing yourself as an incorrect weight is a constant emotional stressor (consider that 9 in 10 formerly obese people would choose blindness (!) over being obese again).
- Constant emotional stress predicts significantly poorer health and early mortality.
4. A large difference between your current and desired body weight is considered a better predictor of physical and mental health, than a large current body weight!
- There is no clear bodily mechanism that directly links being overweight to poor health.
- The association between weight and health differs between cultures who perceive the same body weights differently.
Yes, a clear association does exist between body weight and mortality for the population.
But how can one point to this data and accurately conclude that a single individual must be of a particular weight if they wish to be healthy? Especially when the association between weight and health is largely influenced by the way that we perceive our bodies.
Healthier, I think, to do more healthy behaviours, than to stress about needing to be a “healthy” weight.
Thanks for writing this Tim. It is so true and the BMI scaling system is so limited. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we could just accept our body the way nature intended it to be and not based on societal pressures and scopes?
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Thanks, Lisa. It would indeed.