glow notes

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The space we take up

My yoga teacher is a babe. She's got curly dark hair and big brown eyes. Her eyelashes and eyebrows are thick and dark. Her features are lush and her skin is inc-redible: dewey, unlined, and fresh. Her age is hard to determine, probably between 35 and 45. Her figure is soft and curvy. She glows. She moves in her body with comfort and ease. She is obviously flexible and strong.

According to BMI charts, she's probably 30 or 40 pounds over her ideal weight.

Is she unhealthy? I doubt it.

According to those same charts, most of the NFL is obese. Now, there are some big boys playing football, but are they obese? They seem purdy nimble on their feet, and they're not keeling over from heart attacks. At 5"1' and 165 pounds, the Olympic Gold Medalist for weightlifting, Pawina Thongsuk is considered severely overweight. I could go on.

There are two things going on here. One is that BMI doesn't account for body composition (i.e. muscle mass). Two is that not everybody was born to be small. While being much over your ideal weight clearly isn't healthy, I don't think that there is a formula for weight health that can be codified and applied across the board. Same as what you eat. How can the American Dietetic Association know that 45-65% carbohydrates is good for me? For some people, that's a recipe for a blood sugar disaster. For others, it may be low.

I'm digressing. My point is that health is individual. Little about it can be stated in sweeping terms.

Further, I have a concern, which is that women have been taught, in various subtle and overt ways, that they aren't allowed to take up space. I know that trying to be something you aren't causes all sorts of problems (some people were not meant to be size 6's, and trying to be one will cause illness and obsession). That has caused me more than a moment of pause as I carefully watch my own intake and weight, and in my role as a coach who specializes in fitness and food.

Here's what I think. You, woman or man, have a right to your body and to all decisions about it. If you want to be a size 2 because it makes you feel the best, more power to you. If that makes you unhealthy or unhappy or hungry all the time, I'd strongly advise you to reconsider, but I wouldn't stop you. If you love your size 16 body but want to learn to love exercise, that's great, too. If you don't have any idea what it would feel like to be really radiantly healthy, and simply want to concentrate on figuring that out, with no focus on size at all, hallelujah!

So make some noise for all the gorgeous women in the world! Yeah for all the space we take up on the planet!

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