Jul 29, 2008

Today Show, Ideal Weight, Diet, and Poor Body Self-Image

A friend mentioned watching the Today Show where she heard an "expert" say that the ideal weight for a 5' 5" woman was 125 lbs.

Now, my friend is FIT. She likes to bike 30 miles at a clip. She works out at the gym 5 times per week and she is a vegetarian. She looks fabulous, fit, and thin, is 5' 4" tall, and weighs, gasp, hold your breath - 129 lbs.

"I should weigh 125 lbs?" she said incredulously. "BAH! I'm not even as tall as 5'5", and if I lose more weight I'll look scrawny." She is right. She looks fabulous just as she is, and she is generally admired for her wonderful posture, glowing skin, figure, and stylish clothes.

My sister-in-law is a size 6. She is lean and mean. Every morning before work she walks 30 hard and fast minutes on the treadmill. She also walks the dog several times per day. For six years she has been on a diet 24/7/365. Before her daughter's wedding in November, she means to lose a total of 25 lbs so that she will be the same size she was in college.

We are all appalled. Where will she lose the weight? Her self-perception is that her legs are fat, but frankly she looks fabulous. At her son's wedding four years ago, when she weighed 5 lbs. more than she did in high school she looked positively scrawny. Though she looked great in the wedding photos, up close her face looked drawn,dehydrated, and much too thin. How will she look in November when she's lost that 25 lbs? Shouldn't she save face? Literally?

When it comes to our body self-images, where will the madness end?

For myself, I don't want to look like Angelina Jolie - all boobs and lips, and skinny arms and no hips. I rather like being meaty and offering a man (and mankind) something curvy to view.

So let's stop the madness and question those so-called fitness gurus. One told me during a time when I played racquetball 3 times per week, ran 5 times per week, and lifted weights 3 times per week, that my body fat percentage was too high. She was all of 22 years old, I was nearing forty. If you look good, are happy with your weight, exercise, and take care of yourself, why try to measure up to some so-called expert's arbitrary standard of female fitness? Why not try being happy with your physical self?

When I was 24 I weighed 114 lbs. Decades later, I am happy to weigh between 134-148 lbs. At these weights I am a size eight, my BMI is below 25, and my waist is well below 30". Sorry Today Show, your so called expert is contributing to the epidemic of low body self esteem by promoting that unrealistic "ideal" body weight. It does not take into account a woman's age, or her bone structure, or her fitness level. Go back to the drawing boards, Today Show, and come up with a more realistic standard. Oh, I know Americans as a whole are overweight, but let's not add to our self-guilt by measuring us with unrealistic, cookie cutter standards.

Biggest Loser Winner Ali Vincent at 122 lbs. How tall is she? How old is she? How fit is she?

Biggest Loser Kelly Marks at 162 lbs. How tall is she? How old is she? How fit is she?

Kelly doesn't look half bad these day. NBC and your so called fitness experts - shame on you. Your 125 lb. weight target would place Kelly in the Biggest loser-loser category.


Anonymous said...

ugh this is so agravating. What body weight is "good" depends on so many factors. In my opinion weight shouldn't matter as much as eating right, exercising and keeping bmi, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc in check.

I'm in college (studying psych so this aggravates me on many levels) and right now I am trying to lose weight because I gained about 40 pounds during my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college.

However, I don't think that I am "fat" and I'm not even sure how much weight I want to lose. I'm thinking somewhere around 130 but since I haven't been at that weight for awhile I am going to play it by ear.

After my freshman year of college I started going to weight watchers with my mom. My mom has been trying to lose weight for most of her life and she is still not satisfied with her body. She is 55 years old, has had two kids, is 5'2 and weighs around 125-130. I think that she is beautiful and healthy and she wants to lose weight because she has a "pooch." It makes me so sad that my mom doesn't find herself beautiful, both because of her body weight and the imperfections of her skin.

I hope to get back to a healthy weight and maintain it in the next year. Then, I want to be active throughout my life, eat healthily and have a good relationship with food. I love food and I want to learn how to eat in a pleasurable way and in moderation, as opposed to a tortured, guilt-inducing way.

I want to eat fresh, real foods, learn how to cook flavorful, healthy dishes, and enjoy occasional indulgences. I want to be at a healthy weight and be active so that I go out and do things such as walking around a city all day, going kayaking, etc without my body holding me back.
I also want to respect my body and maintain it healthily but embrace it for what it is.

That is healthy to me. I think that is what every woman should strive for, not some silly number.

(Sorry for the War and Peace comment. This just really touches a nerve.)

Meg said...

It seems that the more hyper-aware people are of "fitness" (or are we really talking about looking good), the more the rates of obesity seem to rise. Sensible eating, reasonable expectations and putting our attention on something other than celebrity bodies seems to be the way to go to me. Maybe, we should turn off the tv (unless it's one of my favorite shows), throw out the glossy magazines full of pictures of women who can't really live up to their own airbrushed images, pull off the ipod (unless it's your only company) and take a walk with a good friend. Afterward, have a group over for a knitting/crocheting/whatever party. At the end of my life, I'd like to know that I enjoyed my time here and helped other people enjoy theirs. Can't do that if I'm trying to reach an impossible goal strangers set for me.

Or, I could just be getting loopy on caffeine this morning. haha Don't think so, though. :)

Doralong said...

I keep hoping society will eventually reach a state of enlightenment regarding this subject, but I fear the day will never come.

The Troll said...

Ms. Place is alive! The gang at MM misses your posts. Speaking of alive, the most commonly used "ideal weight" measure is based on MORTALITY not fitness.

Thus, it's skewed towards a lighter weight because very very few people are 50 plus pounds UNDER the low end of a normal weight range while much larger numbers are 50 pounds OVER the high end of the normal weight range. In both cases, dying is likely, but there's a heckuva lot more OVER weight people croaking.