We've given weight the wrong readout

  • Article by: PAUL CAMPOS
  • Updated: January 4, 2013 - 5:06 AM

Our current definition of "normal weight" makes absolutely no sense.

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merkinJan. 4, 13 7:55 AM

Let's have a burger and talk about it.

You can pork out all you want, but I'll stick with eating sensibly and exercising regularly. Sitting on the couch eating chips may lower my mortality rate, but it also lowers the amount of fun I can have dancing, running around our many parks, and raises the amount of time I would spend in a hospital.

Thanks, but I'll stick with my current lifestyle.

luzhishenJan. 4, 13 8:23 AM

"Sitting on the couch eating chips may lower my mortality rate," The article doesn't say that - better check it again. As for the main topic of the article, if within a species - take dogs for example - there is a wide range of healthy weights for given breeds with the same basic length or height measurements - why shouldn't the same hold true for humans?

CarrieMplsJan. 4, 13 8:47 AM

merkin, I eat sensibly and exercise. I'm a vegetarian, consume very little processed foods, avoid fast food, etc. I have danced many a night away, run around our many parks (in fact, I've run the St Paul 10 mile race) and I regularly bicycle all over the city. My biometric numbers are all fantastic. My blood pressure borders on low, in fact. Still, I'm overweight. 10 more pounds and I'd be considered obese by BMI standards. The point is that weight is not the end-all be-all indicator of health and shouldn't be treated as such. Plenty of "skinny" folks are unhealthy and plenty of "fat" folks are healthy, so we need to stop using that as our measure of who's healthy and who's not.

afgehringJan. 4, 13 8:50 AM

I don't think just using "mortality risk" as the sole indicator is a great idea. Yes, overweight people can have very healthy hearts and have no real health issues. However, if you go into your 50s and 60s with that extra weight, you will regret it, not because you may die sooner, but your quality of life will be drastically limited.

beebee82Jan. 4, 13 9:16 AM

No mention of how much longer overweight and slightly obese people actually live. Is an extra six months or a year worth the added medical expenses and reduced mobility due to those extra pounds really worth it? While I realize we do put too much emphasis on things like BMIs, we are faced with a very real problem of the number of moderately to morbidly obese Americans — which is no small number and an issue this article completely ignores.

Slider451Jan. 4, 13 9:34 AM

I saw an article about smoking recently saying that lifespan is more tied to genetics than lifestyle choices. But quality of life at the end was greatly affected by choices earlier in life. In other words, you may still live into your 90s if you smoke and are over weight, but your last few decades will likely be far less pleasant than for those who avoided such vices.

bluebird227Jan. 4, 13 9:41 AM

From the article: "average-height women -- 5 feet 4 inches -- who weigh between 108 and 145 pounds have a higher mortality risk than average-height women who weigh between 146 and 203 pounds." Doesn't this seem like a ridiculous weight category comparison? For a 5'4" woman, you can weigh 104 pounds or 140 pounds and be in the same category?? Or, if you are 5'4" and weigh 150 lbs you're lumped in with women weighing 200 pounds! There's a big difference!

jgmanciniJan. 4, 13 9:44 AM

"While I realize we do put too much emphasis on things like BMIs, we are faced with a very real problem of the number of moderately to morbidly obese Americans — which is no small number and an issue this article completely ignores."-----Isn't the point of the article to question why we think obesity is a very real problem? Many overweight people never develop a major health issue, and are very healthy overall. Many thin people develop heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, and are generally unhealthy. It's not all about weight.

vegasgalJan. 4, 13 9:45 AM

I have always take the weight chart with a grain of salt. By genetics and activity, I had more muscle mass than most women. When I was losing weight about 20 years ago, the divorce diet, my doctor told me that if I dropped below 150, she was going to throw me into the hospital. At 155, I was bone thin. I now weigh about 190 which is an uncomfortable weight for me but when I tell folks that I am trying to drop more 20 lbs this year, they become concerned. I just don't look like I have that much weight to lose. When I tell them that all I want to do is get down to between 165 and 170, they are mystified and mumble, you must be pretty solid. There are many factors that go into determining a healthy weight. It is really unrealistic to lump everyone together.

owatonnabillJan. 4, 1310:02 AM

While the article does allude to this, the fact is that what weight is "appropriate" is determined not so much by issues of health but by societal standards of attractiveness. Case in point: owatonnabill was dating a Turkish lady some time back and during an outing at some mall she alluded to the fact that a person we encountered had a "rich man's gut". In the culture she came from, where food is sometimes scarce, a paunch indicated wealth, and was hence desirable, as opposed to America where a large gut or being just generally "overweight" indicates a poorer class of people who habitually gorge on Big Macs. This trait manifests itself in other ways too. Travel in any poor third-world country and the standard of beauty is to have a skin hue lighter than that of your compatriots. That is because a dark skin indicates outdoor labor and hence a lower living standard, while a light skin indicates an indoor office job and hence a higher standard. In America it is the complete opposite: here, a dark skin color indicates leisure and the financial ability to tan and/or go places in cold weather when those who labor for smaller income (i.e. secretaries, clerks, etc.) cannot. So our "standard of beauty", and never minding the health risk of skin cancer, is a tan--the precise opposite of that in third-world countries. And did you ever wonder why statues of females from the Greek classic period would all be considered moderately to even grossly obese by today's standards? Same reason. What we perceive as a desirable weight has little to do with health. It's economics. Always has been.


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