You've heard of skinny fat?  Well this would be fat skinny...

 

You’ve heard of skinny fat? Well this would be fat skinny…

 

Health and beauty, those words always go together in our minds don’t they? Like cup and saucer or table and chairs. Health aand beauty. That which is healthy is always beautiful and that which is beautiful is always healthy. Except, that isn’t true is it? Healthy can come in a wide range of formats but society only understand beauty in very narrow terms. Society doesn’t care about the beuty we see in our loved ones, it only sees beauty in those who fit in with its standards and ideals and attempts to redefine those standards will often be met with accusations of attention seeking, unfair criticism and downright bullying.If you know me, even if only through social media, you will know I that worry a lot about my weight, my diet and my exercise regime. I wouldn’t be lying if I told that I have been unhappy with my body since I was fourteen and I’ve been dietting on and off since I was sixteen. For all of my efforts to get skinny, however, my weight has varied within about a stone for that entire time and at the moment it’s at the bottom end of the stone wide scale.

As a youngster, it was all about beauty, I wanted to be thin, because thin was beautiful. I’m not sure I even wanted that directly in order to attract the opposite sex, I simply wanted it. As an adult I coloured that desire with health concerns, loosing weight became about my fear of premature death and for the last year I’ve been researching diet and fitness and working hard to change my body shape and my weight for the better. In spite of all of this, my weight hasn’t dropped much lower and my dress size remains the same.

Over recent weeks I changed my approach. I had been walking for least 45 minutes a day, performing yoga for another 45 minutes a day and running on a machine (in phases I admitt) for about half an hour a day. I then read that all the cardio probably wasn’t helping, particularly when combined with calorie restrictions and that restistance work, based on building muscle, might prove more effective. From here I came to the concept of percentage body fat as measured by body calipers being more effective than BMI. The idea being that since muscle is more dense than fat (you’re not allowed to say heavier anymore) you may be gaining in muscle without altering on the weighing scales, indeed you may even get heavier.

I dutifully bought myself some cheap calipers. I was hoping for a rather more flattering result judging by photographic examples of different percentages but I wasn’t prepared for how low my percentage really would be. Last time I was measured, by my hubs, my body fat was only 21%. That’s fitness, ideal basically, a hop, skip and a jump from being an athlete. I was amazed, I imagine people who’ve met me in person are likely to be amazed and this is where I finally get to the point of this blog post. Healthy and beautiful, or fashionable if you prefer, are not the same thing.

We have a very visual culture. We rely on images more than we know and when someone says ‘healthy’ to you, an image of what a healthy person looks like will pop into your head and that image is going to be of someone tall, fine boned and slender. Slender may well be a matter of health but tall and fine boned have naff all to do with it. I’ve been scared to death about my health for years because I’m short, muscular and measurably big boned with broad shoulders and embarrassingly large breasts, none of which, it turns out, have a bearing on my body fat percentage but all of which makes me look bulky.

So here’s the thing that worries me. The concept of what is socially accepted as beautiful is obfuscating the concept of health and making ‘health’ appear to be an unattainable ideal when, in reality, we all have it in us to be healthy and we all deserve to be healthy. Being healthy isn’t half as hard as it feels like it is because healthy doesn’t mean looking like a supermodel, it means being healthy in whatever format your healthy body happens to take.

I’m all for healthy eating. I’m all for cooking your food from scratch and avoiding processed food where you can, I’m all for cutting back on sugar and limiting alcohol. I believe that daily exercise is a life saver and that we should all drink plenty of water but I don’t think any of that should be motivated by the goal of looking like someone who has a different genetic makeup to you because that may well be an utterly unattainable goal and it may turn your healthy pursuits into an unhealthy obsession.

Human beings do suffer with a strange kind of self-indulgent self-loathing. We are our own worst enemies and the biggest enemies of health in the western world are poor lifestyle choices, we do need to take that at least semi-seriously if we aren’t comfortable with the effects that our life style choices may have on our old age. But for all that we need to make health a comfortable companion, not an ellusive luxury item intended only for those wealthy enough to pay for it. The war on obesity will only result in a rising casualty record if we can’t separate health and beauty.

 

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