Monday, March 24, 2008

What’s the Skinny?

It’s not uncommon to hear your friends talk about wanting to lose weight. Whether it’s for a wedding, a vacation, or just the summertime, I bet it’s actually a quite common topic of discussion in many different circles.

Saturday night, after a time at the bar, I retreated back to a friend’s house with four friends of mine. Quickly, the conversation turned to losing weight, and there were two different conversations going about the topic – one between the men and one between the women. In all honesty, I may have been the perpetrator ofthis discussion when we were back at the bar. I mentioned I wanted to get myself straight before my 30th birthday, which was closely approaching.

Of the four friends I was talking with, no one in the room was obese, and sizes ranged from what many would consider thin and up. It started out with discussions of how the people in the room “used to look,” and then we had an argument about how many calories were “too few” calories for a man to eat each day. In the end, the men were concerned with muscle definition, while the women just wanted to feel confident in clothes.

During the discussions, I remember thinking it was odd that weight was something everyone in that room was concerned with – it made me realize that no matter who you are, you probably feel like you should be thinner. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because maintaining a healthy weight is an indicator of physical fitness for most people (there are, however, some of us who fit the “fit and fat” bill), and it’s admirable that a person wishes to stay healthy, yet not once did anyone mention health as a motivator behind their yearning for a slimmer physique.

Late last year a study came out that indicated a “fear of being unattractive (fat)” was the biggest motivator for people to keep going to the gym, so maybe my friends aren’t so far off and will be successful in their weight-loss endeavors. I find this sad.

Perhaps we’re still too young to be worrying about high cholesterol and heart disease, perhaps we can’t see that far into the future, or perhaps we just don’t care. I really hope it’s not the last one. We all know our waist measurements, our weights, and our body fat percentages, but how many of us know our lipid levels, cholesterol levels, and average blood pressure? Even if we did know our medical stats, how many of us would know what they mean? What should the ranges be for good health?

There’s a million and one articles out there, on the evening news and splashed across the “Health” sections of news organization websites about weight loss, what your waist-to-hip ratio should be, your BMI, etc. No wonder we’re more concerned with the outside than the inside – we’re immersed in perception. On some level, it’s not our fault that fear of being unattractive is our biggest motivator, yet I still find it disturbing and not quite right.

This summer, when I’m on vacation celebrating my 30th with my ladies poolside, I will inevitably be looking around at all the other people there, comparing myself to them, because unfortunately that’s where my brain naturally goes. But, I can also take comfort in the fact that each other person there likely wishes he or she was thinner, and I know that regardless of my packaging, I’m healthy, with wonderful cholesterol and lipid levels.

No comments: