BMI Is Bullsh–

14 Sep

mindy_gif

We are data-centric creatures. As much as many of us cringed at the thought of algebra, we all love numbers. Numbers are definite. Two plus two will always be four. You will always be one year older on your birthday. It took two humans to create one human you. All of these things are facts for us to base future decisions off of.

Much like the BMI. Your body mass index is there solely to help you make future decisions. But recognize that the BMI is also bullshit.

Think of it this way: A 5-foot-8, 140-pound woman and her 5-foot-2, 115-pound friend can easily wear the same size 4 dress. How? Because the way our bodies are shaped help determine what fits, not necessarily the numbers involved with it. Your size 10 jeans from the Gap may fit like a dream. Buy those jeans in the same cut from Levi’s and you’ll probably need a different size. It’s not that your body changed significantly. It’s just that the jeans were made differently.

This point was proven further earlier this year when Body Labs released its BMI Visualizer. The visualizer creates a 3D composite of a person’s body based on three factors: gender, height and weight. That’s it. Like most BMI calculators, it doesn’t take into account activity level, fat vs. muscle mass or mass distribution.

When I did my visualizer, it looked nothing like my current body shape. For example, this was taken a few weeks ago before a race.

IMG_2289

This is what it says my body looks like.

visualizer

Obviously, there are a few differences. I’m short, but I’m not that squat-shaped. I’ve got a tummy, but not that much of a gut. It got the pear shape right, though. The Visualizer also doesn’t look like I work out much, which we all know is a flat-out lie.

The folks at Body Labs took several body scans of people with similar heights and weight and came up with different proportions for all of them. How is this possible? Because the BMI is bullshit.

visualizer_all_bodies

Don’t worry so much about what the BMI is telling you. If you are truly concerned about your health and weight, stay in contact with your physician. Have your doctor refer you to a nutritionist. The best way to monitor your weight is to take care with your caloric intake. Cutting calories will help you lose weight faster, exercise will help you shape your body.

If you really want to concern yourself with a number, calories should be your No. 1 priority. Calories fuel the body, but you don’t want to top off your tank. Get enough to get you where you need to be, not so much that you’re just sitting around on useless fuel. Then worry about he amount of fat, next cholesterol then sodium. The thing is that you need all of these things, but in moderation.

The BMI is a tool, not the toolkit. Think of your health as building a house, and the BMI is your hammer. You still need wood, a level, nails, screwdriver, etc. The hammer is useless without everything else.

Advertisements

Just Have Fun With It

10 Sep

have_funI’m an editor at a newspaper. When I began my career at a small publication outside Atlanta, I had one of the perkiest bosses known to man. This was strange for two reasons: 1) I don’t really like perky people and 2) perky people aren’t usually found in newsrooms. We’re a grumpy, cynical bunch.

Whenever I’d come across a story that just didn’t make sense or a headline that was giving me trouble, she’d say, “Just have fun with it.” At first, this annoyed the hell out of me. I’m in my early 20s working late hours at a cruddy newspaper writing headlines for sometimes shoddy work, and she wants me to have fun with it. The hell?!

One day, I decided to let go of my grumpy, cynical armor and “just have fun with it.” I started writing better headlines. I started making sense of non-sensical copy. I even started to warm up to her. She’s really a nice person, and we’re Facebook friends to this day.

I took that mantra of “just have fun with it” with me when I began my weight-loss journey. In the beginning, it was absurdly difficult. I’m the woman who had at least three tubs of ice cream in the freezer at all times, complete with fudge sauce just in case. I kept boxes of brownie and cake mix in the cabinets because you never know when you need to bake a cake. I would come home after my late shifts and wind down like most people: fix a plate, watch some television, cuddle with my dog and go to sleep, only to start the cycle all over again.

Taking an active role in my health not only shook up my routine, it wasn’t a lot of fun. Burgers are more fun than kale. Television marathons are more fun than actual marathons. But the “fun” things weren’t doing me any good. I had to find the fun in order to continue on my weight-loss journey and achieve my goals.

My first step was playlists. Nothing keeps the body moving like a good playlist. Everyone has their preference. Mine goes somewhere between Beyonce and trap music. Either way, I need a good beat from a familiar song to keep me moving. And if I’m humming along to some Mike Will Made It beat, then I won’t be so focused on the sweat dripping in my eyes.

The next thing I did was make sure to try new things. It’s so easy to fall into a rut (see above with the burgers and TV). The gym, while beneficial, can seem like a scene from “Office Space,” with the fluorescent lights, horrible music and monotone instructors. I try to keep my gym visits to once or twice a week. In between, I’m running, at spin class (much different from being on the machines in the gym), swimming, yoga, etc. I avoid doing the same workout two days in a row so I don’t become too used to a routine and to shock my body with another workout.

Another way to keep the fun quotient high is to have a buddy. I have my workout nanny. You could have a friend who looks up to your good works. Or a relative who, well meaningingly, makes snide comments about your appearance and you want to shut them up. Or you and your significant other share a passion for CrossFit. Whatever it is, it’s best to have someone in your corner. There’s a reason there are people on the sidelines at races cheering people on. Because when you’re on a never-ending hill, it’s nice to look up and see someone telling you to keep going.

There’s fun to be had on this journey, especially when you reach your goal. Take it serious enough to understand how your body reacts to different workouts and diets, but not so seriously that you can’t find the joy in it. Just have fun with it.

Getting the Message Across

8 Sep
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 11.10.50 PM

Comedienne Nicole Arbour

When I began this blog, it was to document the journey I’ve taken on my road to weight loss. It has been up and down the entire time. It was when I realized that it would always be up and down that I knew I could speak to others about this process. I was never morbidly obese, but I did have conversations with my doctors in the past that revolved around the need to take better care of myself. It was hinted at by friends and family members that my weight had taken a turn. But it wasn’t until I decided that I needed to take better care of myself that it clicked with me.

Not once did anyone curse me out about my body. Not once did anyone make me feel like I was less than a real human being. I still dated, I still hung with friends, I still went clubbing and dropped my 200-pound butt like it was hot. Losing weight was more about ensuring a better future for myself and feeling more confident within myself than it was about pleasing others.

And that’s where I have a problem with “comedienne” Nicole Arbour‘s  viral video that fat shames people she believes aren’t making the right decisions for themselves. Nicole, who is a slender woman, devoted six minutes and eight seconds in what she claims is satire to demean, dehumanize and shame people whom she considers fat. She compared overweight and obese people to Frankenstein’s monster. She claimed that a family she’d seen at the airport received preferential treatment not because they were disabled but because they were overweight. What annoyed me most is that she says fat shaming is not a thing, at lease not to people who don’t have a medical predisposition to weight gain.

Good for her that she realizes some people are different.

Let me set some facts straight: I do not, nor will I ever condone fat shaming. Having been on this journey for so long, I understand the pitfalls that come with trying to lose weight. I know what happens when you hit a brick wall after working so hard. And I fully get that it takes much longer to learn to maintain healthy habits than it does to embark on them.

What people like Nicole fail to realize is that prejudging, shaming and dehumanizing people who are fully aware of what they look like doesn’t help them. When was the last time a negative comment from a stranger positively affected you? When was the last time being called fat, disgusting, slow, or “Jabba the Son” made you want to do laps around the park?

Telling people what you don’t like about them and hiding it under the mask of “I accept everybody” isn’t just lying, it’s hurtful. Passing it off as comedy and satire only makes the jokester look like the true asshole. Nicole says in her video that only racial minorities, people with disabilities and the LGBT community are the only ones who are discriminated against. Everyone else (I’m looking at you women, religious community, poor, etc.) has no right to complain, especially overweight people.

Overweight and obese people are judged and commented on every day. Walk down the street and you’ll hear people commenting on another person’s size, possibly within earshot, every other block. It’s one of the last ways to criticize people that is still socially acceptable. And it shouldn’t be.

People like Nicole and John Burk, who released a similar video earlier this summer, need to take a good look at their methods of encouragement. If you want a healthier society, make a better effort to work within that society instead of ridiculing people you know nothing about. If you see an overweight person struggling, talk to them instead of berating them. Give then your personal trainer’s card. Offer your own services. But don’t be the dick who continues to beat people while they’re down.

#WorkThatBody2015

24 Aug

tracee

There’s this thing that happens on your weight-loss journey where you really start to feel yourself. You start taking notice of the physical changes in your body and gain a new admiration for your skills. You know how to control your portions. You’ve mastered the art of balancing your fitness regimen with your calorie counting. You’ve perfectly tamed your crave monster.

And the results are showing in your stride, the cinch of your waist, the draping of your clothes. In essence, you look hot.

You admire your good works, as you should. You can receive the compliments that are lauded upon you for your new approach to life. You walk with your head held a little higher because you are owning this.

This is one of the perks of sticking with your health-minded plan and gaining new comfort and confidence in yourself. Admiration for the renewed you comes with the territory. The only downside is that it can be coupled with exploitation.

The new you that you’ve come to appreciate is also being ogled and objectified by people who know nothing about you. This may have been the case for your old body. But maybe now you notice it more. The leers, the suggestive gestures or even a random camera snapping pics (trust me, this happens).

How do you balance your new found confidence with not letting others taint your experience?

That’s the question that came to me when reading Tracee Ellis Ross’s blog post accompanying the tribute video she made for her mother, Diana Ross. Tracee has long been an advocate of women being comfortable within themselves without needing outside validation. From her Love Your Hair campaign to this #WorkThatBody2015 post, Tracee has been pushing women, especially women of color, to “feel the joy” of being inside their own bodies.

Tracee, who even says herself that she’s often encouraged women to shift our gaze from how we are seen to how we are seeing and, more important, feeling,” felt joy and pride in watching her mother prance, dance and shake it out to “Work That Body” a generation ago. And it’s that joy and confidence that filtered through her into the tribute video.

Just because her mother was in a leotard and pushing her tush to the camera didn’t mean she was begging to be ogled.

I saw a woman feeling joyful in herself as a whole being; she didn’t seem to be presenting her ass or saying look at all the ways I can make myself look appealing to YOU. She seems to be saying, “this is ME feeling good and I am strong and sexy and joyful in ME”!~Tracee Ellis Ross

Understand: finding joy in yourself doesn’t mean to have to shake it, whip it, nae nae it or even drop it like it’s hot. It’s about having the confidence inside shine through. Dance around the house naked. Put on your favorite shade of lipstick or gloss. Dress up super cute and take yourself out on a date.

Feel good and strong and strong and sexy in you!

A Period in Time

17 Aug

kiran-ghandi-1-435There’s this thing that happens when you run. It’s called sweating. Those of us with overactive glands tend to look like we’ve just gotten out of the pool or some demented wet T-shirt contest.

For people like myself, we sweat everywhere. Think of every nook, cranny and crevice on your body. Think of the skin behind your knees. Think of the roll on your back. Think of that area on your neck that your earlobe tends to graze. Now think of your body temperature the last time you had the flu. That’s where I sweat. And many of my fellow pavement pounders do the same.

Now, think of women. Think of those of us who say, “Screw you, Mother Nature! You sent your monthly visitor to mess up my routine and to that I say, kick rocks.” But your period can’t kick rocks. It’s a thing that has to happen. So you can choose to wallow in the pain with a tub of Talenti, or you can run though it. I usually choose to run through it. (No judgement if you choose not to, though. Those cramps can be debilitating.)

Here’s the thing when fighting Mother Nature: she can be an ornery bitch. She will find ways to continue to make you uncomfortable. Sanitary items will move and jostle. Your breasts will ache more than usual just because today’s the day your sports bra decided to act a donkey. You’re so bloated you feel like running 10 more feet will make you explode. But you do it anyway because most times the aches and pains are just mental. Or they subside after your body has a chance to focus on new challenges.

We are all warriors in this battle of the bulge. And that’s why I can’t be too mad at our fellow road warrior Kiran Ghandi who decided to run a marathon without any sanitary aid. I’m a little mad, but not too mad.

If you haven’t read Ghandi’s story, she completed the London Marathon sans tampon, pad, cup, sponge, hell even a balled up piece of toilet tissue (trust me, it works in a pinch). She completed 26.2 miles with blood running down her thighs. This coupled with the body sweat couldn’t have made for a comfortable run.

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, wouldn’t a tampon or pad have been more uncomfortable for such a long run?” The answer is a resounding no. NO, no, no, no, no! Runners who’ve been doing this for a while know just what kind of sanitary aids to use so they don’t impede their time or comfort levels on a long run.

No, Ghandi chose to have the lining of her fallopian tubes shed down her running pants to show solidarity for women and girls around the world who don’t have simple access to feminine hygiene products. She chose to be unhygienic to raise awareness about hygiene.

“You see, culture is happy to speak about and objectify the parts of the body that can be sexually consumed by others,” she told People. “But the moment we talk about something that is not for the enjoyment of others, like a period, everyone becomes deeply uncomfortable.”

And she’s right. There’s an organization called Days for Girls that is dedicated to educating and getting girls access to free feminine hygiene products. Girls can miss sometimes up to two months of school because they need to stay home. This creates a long list of problems in the long run. So kudos to Ghandi for helping to shed light on this issue.

Could I have done it myself? Probably not. I don’t like the feeling of being without a tampon. I’d be concentrating moreso on my discomfort levels than on my breathing and pace. But now that this issue is in the spotlight, hopefully more people will pay attention to the simple needs of others.