Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Big as Life: Some Thoughts on Obesity, Part 1

I saw a show about obesity last night and it was really interesting. The title is Big as Life: Obesity in America and it was on Discovery Health (soon to be OWN.)

Here are some rambling thoughts on the topic:
  • Obesity is not simply caused by eating too much or exercising too little or genes. It's often pretty complex.
  • Our bodies have evolved to work against us sometimes. When your body thinks you are in a famine, it will store fat to help you through the tough time. Unfortunately, this can also kick in when you go on a diet. If you only work the supply side (limiting food), your body can start storing fat and try to figure out how to keep you going through this time of limited food.
  • Some people are genetically predisposed to gain or lose weight more easily. Still, genetics probably doesn't explain why obesity levels have increased over the past few decades.
  • Humans weren't really built to wake up and immediately suck down bacon, eggs, and pancakes while reading the paper. We were probably built to be more active, especially in the morning. For instance, our ancestors got up and had to hunt and/or gather before they ate.
  • People who are obese (or bigger) are generally less healthy than people who are "normal" or overweight (going by these definitions.) Having a positive self image and realizing that you should and can be healthier are not mutually exclusive. Calculate your BMI. There are unhealthy thin people and healthy overweight people, but in general, carrying significantly more weight than you should (being obese or bigger) is not healthy.
  • Sizeism is wrong. Judging someone by the way they look (whether their skin color, their height, their weight, or any other factor) is bad and can be hurtful.
  • There are plenty of people who are attracted to bigger people, but you don't have to be attracted to a person to treat them with respect, kindness, and civility. Not only do many people have a problem treating big people with real respect, but many big people have serious self-image problems. Everyone (including overweight people) should give overweight people more respect. Just because you are a "normal" weight doesn't mean you are better than anyone who is overweight. We all have lots of baggage in our genes and our upbringing.
  • When a thin person teases someone who is overweight about their size, it generally comes off as mean. If you have ever patted my gut and made a comment about its size (including comments like "when is it due?"), I have probably hated you for that comment.
  1. Calculate your BMI so you know where you stand. These numbers are not absolutes, but can give you a general idea.
  2. Many doctors say that where you have your weight is at least as important as how much weight you have. For instance, weight around your gut is not good. The rough rule of thumb seems to be that your waist should be no more than about half your height. .
  3. A little over a year ago, my BMI was borderline obese and I was about 6 or 7 inches too short. I'm healthier now, but it hasn't been for very long.
  4. Most of us need to exercise more. Personally, I think that being healthy is more about activity than it is about a low-cal or low-carb or low-fat diet. If you only work the supply side(calories), your body can think it's in a famine. Working the demand side (activity) is critical to winning the battle.
  5. Long-term change can only happen when you commit to increasing your activity level and eating healthily. This doesn't mean running a marathon and starting a fad diet. It means moving more (even just walking) and having better balance to your diet.
The Day
  • Workout: short run
  • Music: Natalie Merchant, Big Audio Dynamite

No comments: