Sunday, August 1, 2010

the weight obsession


I have a scale in my house, but not for the same reason as most people. Most people take their weight and obsess over it—their weight becomes their worth. I have a scale so I can accurately calculate my body fat percentage, a measure of health.

Our culture has become so obsessed with two things: weight and appearance. Because of this obsession, many people let their actual health fall to the wayside, lost in the fray of counting calories and fitting into one size smaller. The amazing truth is, when you’re healthy, the weight and appearance factors fall right where you wanted them to be in the first place. And even then, when you’re healthy, you don’t really care as much about weight and appearance. You feel so much more energized and so much more confident when you’re healthy, that those other things aren’t as important anymore.

I don’t want to imply that weight isn’t important. When you’ve already found yourself in the unhealthy weight category, it is important to get your weight under control. Being overweight can contribute to diabetes, stress on the muscles and joints, and can lead to heart attack and stroke. But if we treat our bodies as though health is our priority, we will eat well, exercise regularly, and otherwise take care of ourselves. A healthy weight will follow.

Body fat percentage is a far better measure of your current health. Basically, body fat percentage tells you how much of your body is fat and how much is lean body mass (muscles, bones, etc.). There are different ranges for different people depending on gender and lifestyle. For instance, men don’t need as much body fat as women do in order to be healthy. Also, naturally, an athlete’s body fat percentage will be far lower than an average person’s percentage. I strongly recommend that you do some research and find out 1) what your current body fat percentage is, 2) what it should be, and 3) what you need to do to be healthy based on what you find.

I encourage you to check out this website where body fat percentage is explained in an easy-to-understand way. The site also shows a chart of healthy body fat percentages. One of the most important points this particular site makes is that often a person’s weight goal is actually an unhealthy weight. Go check it out—you might be surprised by what you find.

The most accurate way to calculate body fat percentage that’s available to the average person is to use a hand-held body fat analyzer like one of these. Luckily for me we already have one of these in our house because my husband is a personal trainer and he bought one to use with his clients. They’re really not too expensive, especially when you consider how much money people sometimes spend just on a scale. But if for some reason you’d rather not buy one, you can also use online calculators like this one. They’re not as accurate, but they’re still a better measurement of your health than just a scale.

It’s quite difficult to rewrite in our minds what’s important, but the weight obsession is a dangerous one.

Prioritize health.


Cree said...

I recently saw a mini-documentary about how even concentrating on a BMI can be incredibly misleading ... ... Well, I guess it wasn't a "documentary" so much as an episode of Penn & Teller's Bull**** ... but they had a lot of good points about how BMI calculations are inaccurate. I'm gonna try the calculator that you've provided, and I'm interested to see what it says.

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