First of all I have to provide a bit of background regarding fitness and being obese because in this I do know quite a bit since I have been both for half of my life. Just today, I read an article on the internet that a recent British study has debunked the 'belief' (some may say myth) that you can not be fat (or obese depending on your BMI) and be fit. In fact, according to this British study, you still have a 50% chance of having heart-related diseases even if you have no current 'factors' (ie; high blood pressure or cholesterol). You may feel well and, usually with youth on your side, you can participate fully in a lot of physical activities. I know because I have been morbidly obese since age 30. I thought I was an anomaly at the time. However, I did have factors that pointed to me being a high risk for many of the chronic 'lifestyle' illnesses even if I didn't exhibit them at the time.
Now, this is not the kind of figure that I am talking about.
When it comes to fat and being healthy it is where the fat is located that matters. Having a slender waist with little or no tummy is just having a very curvaceous figure. I am not that woman (not yet anyway). I carry the majority of my weight in my torso.
I have an apple figure.
It is not your BMI that you need to be concerned ( according to an article with Dr. Oz being quoted) but your waist to hip ratio. Ideally, your waist measurement should not be more than 35" and the waist to hip ratio should be less than 60%. [divide your hip by your waist]. The reason why the location of your fat matters is that the higher up it is and closer to your heart the more difficulty you will have breathing and putting undue pressure on your heart. Think of a crowded elevator. Isn't our first impulse is to spread out and not be crammed in like sardines in a can? There is a natural reason for this. We need to provide room 'to breathe and function well' even within our interior self.
Now, the second part of this equation: body positivity. I am relatively new to this. I have always hated being fat for the same reasons as most everyone else. So, when the new wave of larger women (and I do hope that it isn't only women) claiming they were going to accept and love their existing bodies I was both puzzled and then intrigued by their assertions. It did make me ponder about how I felt about my body. So, I decided to do an inventory in front of a mirror. I liked the parts that looked 'normal' (or should I say culturally normal) and I didn't like the parts (my high big butt, pot belly, large breasts and moon face) that were not as 'culturally normal'.
It does make dressing a bit of a challenge but it is possible to look attractive even with my stated 'non-normal' body parts. I do love fashion (always have!) and I feel fortunate enough that over the past 34 years of being larger (than life it seems) the fashion industry has finally caught up with my size and I can dress any way I want to. I remember a friend of mine, who was a size 6 at the time, who said ' You are fat but you always dress nice." I am within two months of being 64. I don't need to wear skinny ripped jeans to prove I am attractive. However, I do still love tie dye. :) and I love bright colors. So, I have that part of body positivity down. The only part that I would like to hear more about from some of the more vocal members of my gender is about "What exactly are we celebrating when we say I embrace my larger body?" I 'get' the message about our culture has a very twisted view of gender in general and being anorexic has and never will be a model of either good health or a practical goal to work toward but what are we saying when we believe that we can still be fat and fit?"
I was 240 lbs. and just before my 40th birthday when I spent 3 weeks hiking in three of our national parks in the NW going up where my only companions were the goats on the steep graded cliffs. I was strong because I did a lot of physical work: both at home in my garden, transplanting tree root balls (weighing an average of 75 lbs. each) and working out hard in a gym with others. I power walked 15 miles every week for 7 years straight. However, I ate horribly. I ate in a restaurant 3-4x a week at night and almost as much for breakfast in the morning. I did end up having my gall bladder removed.
I had PCOS around the time I gained a lot of weight (age 30) although it was not treated as the serious condition that it is now considered. The only concern in the early 1980s was the fact that I was not having a period. We didn't talk about how this is symptomatic of future insulin resistance, diabetes, thyroid and heart problems. So, a ticking time bomb was present in my body and basically went untreated. If my weight was ever discussed it was more about how unsightly it looked and never about the health consequences that would show up later. It was more presented to me as being unattractive and not unhealthy. I based my lack of body acceptance more on that vanity message than anything else.
Fast forward to today: now we have many spokeswomen who are rejoicing about their body size and shape, most of which are not going too much into detail about the health ramifications of their extra padding. One very famous model spokeswoman was adamant about claiming that she is a true size 14 no matter if others think that her weight has gone up or even down. It seems like some of these more vocal spokeswomen seem to be defiant that they do not exercise and they can have pancakes for breakfast while their slimmer 'sisters' are having an egg white omelet. I don't consider being so defensive necessarily shows to me that you are as accepting of your choices as you may think you have lead me to believe.
I did read in the past week, one plus-size blogger, who posed in a two piece swimsuit and did admit that she had recently lost 74 lbs. and she was focusing on being healthy. I was relieved to see someone finally say that being fat is not necessarily healthy. Thank you! I felt her attitude was the most well rounded and really showed a more acute awareness that yes I am a heavier person but I also know that I need to eat healthy for no other reason than my body won't last if I don't. She also was aware that our size is not static. We don't have to stay the same size and, guess what, we also won't stay the same age either.
Recently, I decided that I was going to explore body positivity as well as ageism so I could get a clearer focus on where I am at in terms of the changes I am making in my life. I once said (and even saw a cartoon to that affect later) that I have never been this age so I really don't know how to act, look or behave. I am and will always be ME, only older. I can not expect others to accept me until I have learned to accept myself. Just like taking ownership of my food intake, I also need to take ownership of who I am, who I present myself to be and who I may want to be in the future.
I am about 100 lbs. from what is considered a normal BMI for me. I do not feel fit at this weight right now because, quite frankly, I am not. I believe that it will only be for my own intrinsic benefit to lose this extra weight. However, like many other aspects of aging, I really don't feel like killing myself in the gym or eating a salad every day for lunch. I belonged to a gym for several decades. They got my money and I got fit. However, I was on the injury list all the time for pushing myself past my physical limits. I was young and 'ignorant'. Now, I am older and I think there is a better way to meet my goals as long as I willing to take it slower, easier and safer.
I have decided that while I am fat I have no excuse or reason to not eat as healthy as I can. However, if I do have a piece of pie I also am not going to punish myself with self-loathing. Since I know myself I have decided that I would make my weight loss goals more realistic for who I am. It will take me twice as long to lose the weight but I think I will be easier to live with while I do. Of course, if I had a health crisis where a doctor told me that I needed to lose weight more quickly I would certainly consider and heed his/her advice. However, I haven't had that yet so I will proceed.
In conclusion, I do believe in embracing who I am right here and now. I will not use my extra weight (nor whatever failed efforts I have had in the past) as an 'excuse' to not be fit and as healthy as I can be. That means that I eat sensibly with nutrient rich food. I also need to move my body because that is what bodies are meant to do: move. I agree with this British study that I am still at a higher risk of many diseases because of the extra weight I carry. Getting diabetes is proof of that. So, even though I was fortunate that my body structure was such that it allowed me years of being very active, age caught up with me and that along with the extra fat has made getting older a lot more painful and tougher.
So, as always, find the middle road of self-acceptance that leads to self-improvement and you will be rewarded with the joys and benefits of good health along the way.