Mixed Messages

So, today I went to a thing on my campus. It was a beauty contest of sorts, though there was no beauty aspect involved. There were four parts, an intro, a values, a talent and a Q&A. It was a heritage thing and the values and intro were about their countries of origin. It was also a small thing. All four contestants wore pretty dresses and high heels and had hair and makeup done up. There were skits in the middle done by people that seemed to be about feminism. Kind of. It was a little iffy, but hey, college kids in a cultural club get points for trying in my book. Oh, and full disclosure, I am not part of the club, I was working the event for another group. There were also dance groups that were pretty awesome. I’d love to be able to dance like that, and honestly, I wasn’t discouraged at all since these dance groups had dancers with a variety of body shapes. In fact, there was body diversity everywhere, dressed in cocktail dresses since it was some sort of banquet. And these women knew that they were beautiful. All the dresses* were as short and sparkly and strapless as the next woman’s. Getting to see that kind of confidence was really refreshing. Since offline in my daily life outside, I tend to start believing that body confidence doesn’t come in my size.

And then the Q&A happened.

And the last girl got asked about the obesity epidemic. And her answer was that people didn’t know that eating a lot of food was wrong and will give them diabetes. And that we should teach them that. And encourage people to exercise. And I don’t know why, but that question and that answer made me want to run out of the room and cry. Maybe it was because I was eating my first meal of the day** as she was answering that question and it made me want to stop. Maybe because I hadn’t eaten I wasn’t thinking as clearly. Maybe it was that question and that answer combined with all the women (and men) in that room who are obese and who were hearing that they could be “fixed” if they just ate right and exercised, and that they were too stupid or ignorant or whatever to know that. Or possibly because some dancers were on stage only minutes ago proving that health and size are different. Maybe it was just because I’m used to seeing questions framed like that on the internet and it was hard to see it spear its way into my outside world. I don’t know but it hurt.

And then they crowned the winner. She was the “fat chick” of the bunch and if I were to guess, she was probably obese. It wasn’t pity votes, she rocked that show. And I felt a lot better.

*There were also skirts and pants worn, but mostly sparkly, short, strapless cocktail dresses.
**I’m guilty of being a breakfast skipper.

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February 26, 2011. Tags: , , . Current. Leave a comment.

BMI

I’ve been eating more, two to three meals a day, or you know, one big massive one like today. Not that I did anything deserving of food. I read somewhere that it takes 500 calories just for your brain to work properly, and I assume who ever said that meant per day. If so, I had been stunting my brain again, not by eating fewer than 500 calories (though that was true for one or two days I’m sure) but by eating fewer than 1000. Because if 500 gets devoted to your brain imagine what it takes for the heart, the lungs (well, the diaphragm), everything. I’ve been gaining weight again since I started eating. It makes eating distressing, but I know that if I can eat regularly and healthfully I can convince my body I’m not starving, and it will stop hoarding calories. I realise this isn’t about BMI yet but I think I should reflect on the moment as well as the whole.

As for the issue of BMI, well, I think it’s terrible. First of all, there’s that disclaimer that it’s not meant for measuring health or fat, but everyone does it anyway. Companies, colleges, doctors, individuals — everyone passes judgement on people based on this number. I’ll admit, I’ve spent most of my post-pubescent life inside the 25-29.9 range. Though only a few months ago I was flirting with 30 being two or three pounds away from that threshold number when I weighed myself every day. I was also at the highest weight I had ever weighed myself at. I had passed my magic number and all my pants were tight and I’ll admit I was probably at my least healthy point. I had been exercising less and caring less about what I ate. To an extent, I think it’s was probably healthier for me to not care so much about my diet. It was certainly liberating until I started weighing myself daily.

During these months I read an article about how a university had a BMI requirement for graduation. While it was true that anyone who didn’t have the right numbers would just have to take a PE class, it still wasn’t something that sat well with me. Especially since I was on the verge of facing that requirement (matriculation aside) and was normally only somewhere around eight to ten pounds away from obese even when eating healthy and exercising regularly. As I’ve mentioned before I’m short so while I may be only ten pounds away from the dreaded diagnosis of obese my BMI is two points away from obese and three from “normal”*.

In a fit of rage after reading that article I cruelly asked my friend to guess my BMI. She said 25.6 when I was 29.4 and 3 pounds away from 30.0. Now, even if this friend deducted a point or even two points in the name of friendship, she was very, very off. Even with these extra two points she was still lower than my BMI when I considered myself healthy. Today, an study showed that 3 in 10 teens didn’t know they were overweight with males mistaken twice as often as females. Is this really a surprise to anyone?

Even after BMI gets discounted as a measurement of health, I regret to say, I will still use it. I’ve already been indoctrinated even though I fight tooth and nail every time someone else uses it. I still have a BMI calculator as one of my tabs. I will still sit there and go “Well, what if I’m this weight? What if I lose 5 more pounds? What if I were an inch taller?”. My personal ideal weight, the weight I want to be and think I have a chance of reaching is has a BMI of 24.7. I know when I get there, I’ll see that if I gain two pounds I’ll be over weight again and try and lose another five. That’s a start of a slippery slope. I hope if I ever get there, I won’t go too far.

Still, something that always is nice to see is the BMI Project.

*Approximately.

February 10, 2010. Tags: , , . Reflection. Leave a comment.

Doctors

Last year, over the summer, I went to the doctor because my throat was doing things it wasn’t supposed to, like swelling and hurting. I had recently switched GPs so I had to go through the questionnaire. For those who don’t know it it goes like this “Do you smoke?” “How often do you drink?” “List your physical activities.” etc.

At this point in my life I attended fencing eight hours a week during the school year and ran a half an hour every day other day over the summer. I took vitamins almost every day. I only drank caffeinated beverages on occasion; I didn’t drink; I didn’t smoke. As the doctor read over these notes that the nurse had made on the computer she was clearly impressed with my lifestyle. Then she said “But you could stand to lose a few pounds you know.”

I did know, and I wasn’t there to get that reaffirmed. I was there to make sure I didn’t have mono (I didn’t) and maybe get some medication. My BMI was 28ish and I had not weighed more than or less than three pounds of where I was that day at any doctor’s visit she would have on record going back four years.

Now, I mumbled something like “I’m trying” because I was, and what else was I supposed to say? I have to say I was probably at one of my peak physical conditions. I was probably on a diet. Maybe I should have asked her “How?” because I’m still not sure.

I remember being a prepubescent kid and dreading my yearly check up because I knew I gained ten pounds. Ignoring the fact that I had also grown. My paediatricians didn’t seem to disapprove of that weight, until I got my period, and then it wasn’t okay any more. I would love to lose those pounds to be back where I was in middle school, to be pushing the “normal” BMI even though I was still being told by my family, peers and doctors that I needed to lose weight. I realise now that my body wasn’t done changing. Even though I may have been done growing up, fast forward a year or two and my weight had completely redistributed itself.

But ever since that doctor’s visit, I don’t care how healthy I feel or how good I look, I can say to myself or others “But my doctor said I needed to lose weight.”

February 3, 2010. Tags: , . Reflection. Leave a comment.