Even the Thin Can Be Fat
A Marsha Hudnall blast from the past, re-posted from 2010: When I read the story in the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Scales Can Lie: Hidden Fat,” it took me back to my college days and a friend I remember wondering about. As I was struggling with my own self-perceived fatness, I remember wondering how my friend could be so thin yet not look it, at least in the way thin is usually thought to look. She seemed the perfect picture of “ideal” until you noticed her muscle tone. There wasn’t any. I still would have preferred having her body to mine at that time, though, being as ensconced in a poor body image as I was.
Fast forward 30 years and I see the above article talking about “normal weight obesity.” It’s a situation where someone of “normal body size” (their words, not mine) has a higher ratio of fat to muscle than thought to be healthy. In this case, they were talking about the impact of unhealthy levels of body fat on heart health. Seems as many as 30 million Americans may fall into the “normal-weight-obesity” category. The article goes on to discuss the need for validation of the Mayo Clinic study that suggests this as well as the problems with assessing body fat.
What I took out of the article, however, is that the research underscores the basic message of the health at every size (HAES) movement. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it’s our health, stupid. Not that I encourage anyone to worry, but if we are going to worry whether we’re fat or not, our focus lies better on its impact on our health rather than on our size. And we can benefit greatly from realizing fat doesn’t always have a negative impact on health.
I have no idea what was going on with my friend, whether she had a high percentage of body fat or not. But my 20-something-year-old mind was thinking fat, and not the health impact of it, but what it looked like. Along those same lines, one prominent voice in the HAES movement raised worthwhile speculation about what may be behind the concerns of some of the scientists quoted in the WSJ article. “Perhaps it isn’t really weight per se, or high BMI’s, that has lots of scientists concerned — it is the aesthetic properties of fat itself,” says Bill Fabrey of the Council on Size & Weight Discrimination. As evidence he points out the final quote in the article. “If you’re at a sloppy normal weight, that’s not going to be good for you.”
Sounds like for some the “sloppiness factor” is at issue at least as much as health. No real surprise there. I’ve moved on since my 20s, thank goodness, for my own sake as well as that of the women I work with.
Have you moved on? If so, you may want to consider taking part in the HAES movement. You can join the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) before February 28 and get special “partial-year” discounted rates. It really is an organization worth supporting and being a part of. And remember, there’s strength in numbers. When we’re talking about movements, that is…not body size.