It's common to hear people lament how low "normal" weight seems. I spend much of my time on the cusp of overweight for my height -- just above "normal". Even when I'm eight pounds above my current weight, people tell me that I don't look overweight. Visual perception is very misleading. The right or wrong clothes can change a visual assessment entirely. But I also suspect that people are used to seeing more overweight people, so I look normal in a wide range of clothes.
We turn to BMI because the weight issue is so complex, even though BMI is imperfect.
The question of what is normal weight became even more complicated when researchers started looking into how weight affects death rate and found that overweight people have a different set of problems from normal, obese and thin people, but that overweight people seemed to live longer on average than normal people.
As with many things in science and nature, the answer about what is a healthy weight is complicated, and there are a host of differing opinions. It's not only life expectancy, and not only the risk for certain diseases.
While they addressed the question of possibly changing our understanding "overweight," I was disappointed that this NYT story glossed over how they have, in the past, decided where to set the BMI categories.
My risk comes out to 0 on a scale of 0-10. If I gained 15 pounds I'd be at a risk of 5. And in 5 years I'll pretty much be stuck at "5" no matter what I do about my weight.
But, clearly, they don't think that being a little bit overweight is a problem. The story changes when it's no longer "a little bit."
Cost / Benefits
I've never exercised in the hope that it would unnaturally extend my lifespan. My interest has always been to feel better, and this payoff is one that comes soon enough once you are regularly exercising that I don't have to just hope that my exercise is paying off. I have impossible-to-ignore every-day benefits from being in better shape. It's worth the brief time I have to put in exercising. The eating is harder, but thinking about the benefits is one motivator.
One example: poker. Poker requires your brain to be working right. I notice a definite difference in my poker playing when I'm in better shape. Maybe it's partly attributable to discipline alone, but there is a difference, and I believe it to be physical. Your brain, after all, is a part of your physical body. Why shouldn't it work better when your body is working better.
Basically, if you do something with your body, it works better when your body's working better. It's not rocket science, but science is about proving these things rather than just going with what sounds good.
I liked the comment from the first NYT article I referenced:
Dr. Gail, though, had some advice, which, he said, is his personal opinion as a physician and researcher: “If you are in the pink and feeling well and getting a good amount of exercise and if your doctor is very happy with your lab values and other test results, then I am not sure there is any urgency to change your weight.”
You know how you feel. And you know if you're getting exercise. And your doctor can tell you about your test results.
Taking all that into account, it shouldn't be too difficult to decide if you actually need to lose weight. Maybe you want to lose weight because of some of the other benefits. Or maybe you're getting exercise, and everything else looks good, but gosh darn it you can't lose those pounds! If you can avoid fooling yourself about your BMI, your cholesterol, your level of activity, etc, you might find that you're either OK where you are or your goal of a healthy weight is more attainable than you thought. Posted by James at November 21, 2007 11:18 AM