Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Thoughts on Weight, Health, and Functionality

Some interesting posts look to be coming up via Alas, a Blog and the Big Fat Carnival, which I will post a link to when it arrives. I was vaguely thinking about submitting a post, but missed the deadline, so perhaps next time.

I find myself ambiguous on much of what Amp writes about fat and fat acceptance, even while I think he does a marvelous job of it. His major points I think are hard to refute.
1) There is little to no good evidence that being fat in and of itself poses a threat to health. The studies that have been done are deeply flawed for any number of reasons - varying from study to study. Generally methodology on obesity studies is very poor.
2) There is no effective treatment for obesity. Diet and exercise have a tremendous failure rate - one that would get any other treatment regime blackballed. Rates for weight loss maintained over a period of five years are so tiny as to be practically non-existant, even when the bar for success is set very low. Yet the same things keep being recommended over and over again because obesity is seen as a failure of willpower.
3) The medical community and society are both so obsessed with weight that they will do truly horrible things to people "for their own good" if those things have to do with weight. The case of the girl whose treatment for psychosis was diddled with because the drug that worked caused her to gain weight comes springing to mind. I am loathe to subscribe in any way shape or form to the idea that being overweight is some horrible fate to be avoided at any cost whatsoever.

Nonetheless, I find myself currently trying to lose weight. In my defense, I will say that my goals are actually pretty modest. Mostly I'm bothered because over the summer I put on about 30 pounds, attributable to hanging out with my family for a good portion of the summer - even a weekend with my parents is good for five pounds. I think that dropping that recently gained weight has a pretty good chance of succeeding. That last ten pounds in particular seems to be causing some knee strain that I'm uneasy about, so I'd like to get rid of that. On the other hand, while I would love to go back to my pre-child weight (165), I seriously doubt that's ever going to happen. I'm simply not the person I was then, physically or mentally. I'm pretty comfortable at a weight around 180-185, so that's where I'll aim for.

Interestingly, the charts say that my ideal weight is about 150, another fifteen pounds below my percieved ideal weight. Which gives me serious pause about the charts seeing as I've been 150 - it's clearly underweight for me. I looked like death warmed over. I was constantly cold. I had no stamina. This is healthy? I don't think so.

Mostly I'm annoyed that fat is such a loaded issue that I can't make a simple decision to aim for a weight I'm happy and stable at without having guilty feelings that I ought to be aiming lower. And that my doctor may be more concerned with the number on the scale than my eating and exercising habits. Our priorities as a society are badly screwed up on this issue, and it makes it difficult for individuals to think clearly about it.

And having gotten that off my chest, my weight this week is 213.8, the same as last week. On the other hand, I gotten enough more flexible to be able to grab my toes, and I can do 14 laps of the dojo without getting into serious gasping. Given this last week (more later, when the results of the tests come in), I'm reasonably satisfied, if not precisely happy with that.


Becky said...

You must be pretty tall, then. I'm short--5'3" and my ideal weight is 116. I, too, look skeletal at that weight, so I'm shooting for between 125 and 130. Though when I joined the Navy in 1989, I didn't weigh but 107. I can't imagine what I looked like at that weight. My goal is just losing the weight I gained over the holidays.

BTW, my doc says there is no one ideal healthy weight. It is a range based on height, bone structure, body type, muscle mass, etc. My range is 116-145, which I'm well within. Good luck to you.

PerpetualBeginner said...

I'm about 5'8" with both wide hips and shoulders. Which, entertainingly enough is the height of the average American male. With the wide bone structure it means I'm bigger than most men even at a good weight, which keeps surprising them in karate. Most people "read" women as being slightly smaller than they really are - even other women. Nobody, for instance, realizes that I'm two inches taller and thirty pounds heavier than Sensei unless one of us points it out to them.