The “skinny” on weight

… Get it?

It’s story time. A friend of mine got a surgery during our college summer break, which laid her up in bed for a good three months. I came to visit her partway through the summer to see how she was doing. When I asked, she responded optimistically: “Not bad. I’m a little bored, but the good news is that I’ve lost so much weight!

Can you detect the problem?

It’s likely that the majority of the weight she lost came from muscle, not fat.  After all, I’ve had a few surgeries myself, and it doesn’t take long for the unused muscle to atrophy, shrinking dramatically in size over the course of a few weeks. And muscle is heavy. It’s likely that, with her dietary and lifestyle changes accompanying post-op medications, she lost some combination of muscle and fat.

So why don’t we ever make this distinction?

The fascination with weight is one of the biggest scams of modern times. The electronic scale has become an infamous symbol for our unrealistic, unquenchable body image goals. We count the numbers on the scale, and smaller is better, larger is worse. The dichotomy makes things easy. Hm, sounds familiar.

body-weight-scale1

If there’s anything you should have learned from my blog by this point, it’s that health is rarely so black and white.

I’m not going to spend any time delving into different body types, the idea of being “big boned”, or the like. In my opinion, we do not need to justify the number on the scale to the extent that we have become used to doing.

Too many discussions of health are framed as “how to be thin”, “how to look good for swimsuit season”, “how to keep weight off”, or “how to ditch that muffin top”. Marketers and producers of food products have taken notice, and are rolling out products with the promise to make you slimmer. Look out for The Skinny Cow, Lean Cuisine, and Think Thin at a supermarket near you. Oh, and let’s not forget about Weight Watchers.

skinny-cow-logo

How do you even sexualize a cow this much?

I was a victim of this mentality at one point, back when I was weighing 145 pounds and trying to take off that extra 5 I had put on during finals season. I weigh a comfortable 160 now and feel healthier, fitter, and, yes, slimmer than ever.

The biggest change in my mentality came when I started lifting weights and found it to be something that I enjoyed. At the gym, I traded my 1.5 hours on the treadmill for 1 hour at the free weights rack. Every day I lifted, I was putting on more and more muscle (read: more and more weight), and as I watched that number on the scale climb, I realized that I had been duped.

I’m not saying that your weight is not a useful number. However, weight and health are not inversely proportional. Don’t be afraid to put on a few pounds if they’re the right sort of pounds, and don’t treat shedding weight as the ultimate goal. If you don’t believe me, then a few months on strict bed rest are sure to have you dropping those pounds in no time!

 

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