What does being fat mean? What I've discovered from learning more about measuring percentage of body fat is that whether someone is fat or not has nothing to do with the scale, or with how people appear. Perceptions of being fat are cultural, and in our culture we idealize those wispy ballerina types, all muscle and bone, with only the smallest ounce of fat supporting our boobs.
But the reality is that those skinny chicks are just as unhealthy as someone with a percentage of body fat of 35%. Too little fat is as big a problem as too much body fat. Whoever said a woman who is 5'10" should weigh 118 pounds is a psychopath. Unfortunately, we all tend to think that way on a deep, collective-unconscious level.
A woman who appears "fat" as she's walking down the street in a size 14 dress may be more fit than I in my size 6. She may weigh 155 pounds, but only have a percentage of body fat around 22%, which is excellent. That makes her strong and healthy, even though we may roll our eyes at her when she orders a mocha and a cookie at Starbucks. I appear healthy, but my higher percentage of body fat makes me more susceptible to health problems like osteoporosis and diabetes. The reason is because I don't have enough muscle on my bones, and muscle keeps our endocrine systems working properly and our bones from deteriorating.
How we look or what the scale says are not good indicators of health. Dress size doesn't matter, percentage of body fat does. Women who are healthy and strong need to stop beating themselves up for not fitting into a size 8. Throw out your Vogue! Go find out your percentage of body fat and work with that instead. You may be surprised how lean you actually are.
When I picture myself at 50, I see a strong, muscular woman who likes to run in the evening after a long day of teaching. I do not see a weak, weary woman who struggles to load a wheelchair in a mini-van, which is me now. 50 isn't that far off, so I need to focus on strength training to meet my goal.
But at the same time, I need to be careful not to obsess about this. Once an anorexic, always an anorexic, and I've caught myself a few times ignoring hunger pains because I didn't want the calories. It's a slippery slope for me, so I need to focus on exercise and not counting calories. Although I have cut waaaaay down on sugar and upped my veggie intake, which seems like a good idea for everyone.
Here's something else I've been thinking about: Jennifer Lopez is considered fat. Can you believe that? The woman is GORGEOUS, but because she's got a big butt, the media labels her "overweight." People make jokes about her ass. I'll bet she's about 25% body fat, another excellent number, and could probably kick all of those paparazzi asses without breaking a sweat.
Need more proof that percentage of body fat is more important than scale weight? Check out this short article that explains how it works and what it means.
Understanding Your Body Fat Percentage