Yes, Virginia, you CAN be fit and fat

Being of the short and busty type (hi, fellow Jewish women!), I’ve long had a contentious relationship with the metric of Body Mass Index. Even when I was climbing large mountains every day (sometimes with 70 pounds of food on my back), I could never get my damn BMI to go from “overweight” to “normal.”

So it was with great cheer that I read this NY Times article on the lack of relationship between BMI and health. If you’re active, you’re better off than if you’re inactive, regardless of what you weigh.

Several studies from researchers at the Cooper Institute in Dallas have shown that fitness — determined by how a person performs on a treadmill — is a far better indicator of health than body mass index. In several studies, the researchers have shown that people who are fat but can still keep up on treadmill tests have much lower heart risk than people who are slim and unfit.

This should be obvious, but “fat” in our society is such a synonym of “lazy/ugly/BAD” that it’s not. Of course, the article goes on to mention that a BMI of 25-30 is not really what people think of when they think of fat. (Calculate your own freakishly large BMI here – the fat pink person is a nice touch.)

“People get confused by the words and the mental image they get,” said Katherine Flegal, senior research scientist at the C.D.C.’s National Center for Health Statistics. “People may think, ‘How could it be that a person who is so huge wouldn’t have health problems?’ But people with B.M.I.’s of 25 are pretty unremarkable.”

Oh! By unremarkable, do you mean…normal??? To recalibrate your expectations, check out the Illustrated BMI Categories. (Previously).

Quasi-relatedly, Joy Nash made this kickass video on Staircase Wit. She comes up with excellent, all-purpose comebacks to nasty weight-related comments. Some of her comebacks will work for other kinds of street harassment, too. And I love her style and poise.


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