omments made about Dr. Regina Benjamin when she was nominated for the surgeon general post (aka, the nation’s doctor). Those who were critical of her based their rejection only on her body weight while disregarding all of her accomplishments.
It was disheartening to hear some ringing loud alarms about her weight because, according to some, it makes her unfit to be a “role model.” I think what they meant was that she is not fit to be a “fashion model.” Perhaps, some were purely expressing a bias against people of large size in a thinness-obsessed culture.
That bias is an implicit bias usually practiced under the banner of promoting health and eradicating obesity. While there is nothing wrong with promoting health, the notion that health is affected and can be measured by only a number on the scale is wrong and dangerously too simplistic. Aside from the social justice principle of not discriminating against someone because of their weight (or even health), there is all the current research showing that obesity for some is a natural state and that most of the ills associated with obesity are actually more linked to inactivity than they are to body weight.
I am not advocating tossing out weight tables or body mass index (BMI) charts. I am stressing the fact that they are not the be all and end all proxy for health. Here is why — both the weight tables and the BMI are based on a flawed assumption.
Both assume a “magic” number of pounds per unit height that is “universal” for humanity at large, which shows blatant disregard for human diversity and recent data showing that it is fitness, not weight, that matters.
There is also a danger in remaining velcroed to the notion that while obesity is horrible, being overweight is just troubling.
When one is reasonably healthy and is living a reasonably healthy life, one has an inner regulation over hunger and satiety signals which eventually lead to a natural regulation of energy and body weight. It is not a bizarre notion, then, that health can be reached and maintained over a range of body sizes.
However, when one is over the weight which is naturally, and almost innately, regulated (not the weight listed in a table or a chart), one is overweight, and consequently, one is not healthy. So while obesity can be a natural state for some, being overweight never is.
We suffer serious limitations when we put all of our diagnostic eggs in one basket called weight/height tables or BMI charts. Such tables and charts do not take into account some of the most significant factors dictating one’s health and weight, such as: percent body fat or where the fat is located, genetics, reproductive history for females, medications that may affect weight or ones history of dieting.
Based on these facts, what we should be doing is legitimizing the prejudice and implicit bias we seem to have against large-sized folks regardless of whether they are healthy or not.
Let us remain focused on what is really important the chains imposed by a thinness-obsessed culture and a monstrous dieting industry.
As a student you should not be worrying about weight. You will be far better and healthier by living a joyful life, eating healthy, mouth watering foods, making sure that you are reasonably fit, avoiding being obsessed with a bathroom scale reading and abandoning the notion that you must look like a fashion model. Ultimately, health is much more than a weight we carry.