Diet myth # 9: 'ideal body image,' and your 'optimal BMI' may not be what you believe!
The ideal body size and weight... Now let's see - is it...
• the apparently ‘zero defect’ bodies we see flaunted on magazine covers or shop mannequins?
• those plastic-surgeried stars of all ages with bodies of 35 year olds?
• the insurance ideal?
• those BMI tables?
The average New York model is 9% taller than the average woman and 16% thinner than what she should be to be medically healthy. If this is your ideal body size ask yourself why multiple countries are now banning too thin models!
Not only that but all the images you see of models are photo-shopped to unrealistic standards, standards that are medically unhealthy. So while it's offered up to us as the ideal body image, it's definitely not the ideal body size.
One Scandinavian study found that the average shop mannequin, if scaled up to be life-sized, would have about 14% body fat. That's way too thin!
Simple fact - this means they would meet the first criteria for Anorexia Nervosa because with that little body fat their bodies couldn't function healthily. Women need about 18% body fat for our menstrual cycle to function normally. And many fertility problems stem from being 'too thin.'
In June 1998, 29 million Americans went to bed and woke up with a new category of disease that needed treating - overweight or obesity - due to the adoption of lower BMI standards even in the face of pretty compelling evidence that BMI standards should be raised not lowered. This story is pretty jaw-dropping and you can hear how it all went down in this interview with Prof Linda Bacon. In short, if you're relying on BMI rates as your ideal body size read the research about how overweight people live the longest before relying on them again.
Our culture is crazy when it comes to ideal body image. Gone is the comfortable gran - make way for the glamor gran. Do they represent the ideal body and weight? Where does this paranoia with anti-aging come from?
Take your pick.... Cher, Joan Rivers or Dolly Parton etc. etc... They have bodies (and faces) of 30-year-olds even when they're double that age. Of course you can too if you've got a stash in the bank and the desire to have more than just the odd nip and tuck.
Now I'm not against looking as good as we can, but what ever happened to aging gracefully and naturally? Your body is a memorial to your life: it tells the story of pregnancy, childbirth, menopause and the passing of life.
You have other choices as you grow older: to grow more conscious of your maturing wisdom. I love what best-selling author Dr Christiane Northrup's advice about being an ageless Goddess. When asked her age she says her wisdom age is 350 and her biological age is about 35- and she gives no weight to chronological age. So what if your breasts are having a race to see which one is able to touch your toes first? Yours aren’t aberrant - they're just doing what breasts and tummies all over the world do.
When you put more weight on spiritual and personal growth, you'll know it's vastly more wise to be concerned about losing your sense of humor than your 'ideal body image'.
Laughter and living with happy thoughts will do a lot more to keep you feeling young and vibrant than any amount of plastic surgery ever will. Focus less on cellulite and not having the ideal body weight that drive you crazy and more about not living crazily enough.
Firstly those height and weight tables can be very mis-leading when it comes to ideal body image. Because muscle weighs three times what muscle does, if you work out with weights, and have a higher proportion of focus on healthy muscle, you can still fall outside the insurance ideal and be labeled as unhealthy when that isn't even vaguely true.
As an answer to the inaccuracies of the height and weight tables came the Body Mass Index (BMI - divide your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters). A figure of 30 is the BMI level at which we are apparently obese and unhealthy.
But did you know that you can be both fat and fit and metabolically fit and healthy and that's what really matters. Fat people are NOT one gulp away from disease!
The most accurate of all the body measurement devices is % body fat. The problem is that even experts disagree with what the perfect percentages of body fat are. The most common ones I've found have been 15% body fat for men with women ranging from 18-30% body fat (depending on their stage of life) and even that is in question as increasing research shows that fat people live longer than the skinny.
For example check out this obesity research on ideal body size:
In a study of 1.8 million Norwegians over 10 years, the highest death rate occurred in underweight women and the lowest mortality rate of all was amongst those who were approximately 30% overweight.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia followed 2.3 million Americans. It's conclusion? Overweight people demonstrate a lower death rate than their peers who are underweight, obese or – most surprisingly – ‘normal weight.
(Hold on… isn’t this the level at which we’re told we’re obese and unhealthy?) But get this...even women considered ‘morbidly obese’ had lower death rates than the underweight group.
Want to live better longer? Sign up for our newsletter and receive our free ebook!