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Monday, September 14, 2009

What is healthy?

Just going through my morning news, when I caught this headline.

Half of all fat people think they are healthy.

What does this mean?  Being a headline, you know it's a play on words.  With size bias being so rampant in our culture, my automatic interpretations tend to mentally add things like "but they're wrong..."  Using the phrase "think they are healthy," seems to imply that what they think does not reflect the reality.

Then the article itself opens with...

One in six obese Australians and more than half of the overweight population wrongly believe they are a healthy weight, a new survey has found.

Ah ha.  Right.  It's not actual health they're talking about.  It's a "healthy weight."  And, of course, these people are wrong to believe their own weight is a healthy weight. 

The tendency to judge ourselves against other people, rather than scientifically based weight guidelines, was ''normalising'' obesity, said the Heart Foundation, which commissioned the survey.

 Scientifically based weight guidelines?  The BMI, the article tells us, which is a totally useless measurement of health and was never originally intended to be one?  And of course, there's the dreaded "normalising" of obesity.  Because heaven forbid anyone should think themselves normal.

The survey of 1200 people found one in four people who are considered obese using the body mass index (BMI) rate their health as being very good or excellent, and one in five believe their risk of getting heart disease is low to very low.

So here we have a survey, where people are asked to rate their own health.  Did anyone follow up with these people and actually test their health indicators?  No.  It's completely self reported. 

So I ask you, who would better know what an individual's health is like?  The person filling in the survey, or the person reading it without ever having met, seen or examined the people surveyed?

Because the people surveyed are fat, as defined by the BMI, the people doing this survey seem to be concluding that they MUST be unhealthy, therefore any who claim their health to be very good or... dare I say it... excellent, must be delusional.

Let's look at this for a moment. 

I am fat.  No question about that.

Blood pressure?  Good
Cholesterol?  Good
Blood sugars?  Tending to the low side of the numbers, but still well within the "safe" range.
Diabetes? (T1 or T2)  No, and no family history
Liver function? (yes, I've had that tested.  It's not normally tested for, but I had been put on a prescription with a possible side effect of liver damage, so it was being monitored.)  Good
Heart?  Good with no family history of heart disease.
Lungs?  Aside from my chronic cough, healthy, with some tests rating me healthier then average.  In fact, according to the tests, I shouldn't have a cough.
Allergies?  None that I know of.
Cancer?  No.  The only direct family member to get cancer in my family is my grandmother, who was killed by an undiagnosed brain tumor.  She was in her 80's and, according to her medical check up the day she died, she was in good healthy - except for the "snakes" in her head that she kept complaining about.  After her dr's visit, she lay down for a nap and never woke up.

I also don't smoke, don't drink, eat a variety of foods in moderation, and get as much exercise as I am physically able to.

Based on my family history, I'm going to be a fat woman in my late 80's when something kills me.  So I've got another 40+ years to go, yet.

What problems do I have?  Aside from the cough already mentioned, I have post traumatic osteoarthritis in my feet and knees. Probably some arthritis in my fingers and right wrist.  Tennis elbow in my left elbow that is still bothering me.  All of these are related to injury or over use, and are not caused by being fat.  Most predate my weight gain, so if there's any association to make, it would be that they have caused some weight gain due to restricted mobility.  The lump I found in my breast?  A cyst posing no health risk, though it will be monitored.  Again, unrelated to my weight.

Based on repeated medical tests and examinations, I can honestly say that my health is very good.

Any guess what?  My risk of heart disease really is very low, for two reasons. 1) family history and 2) I've never gone on a diet, therefore my heart has never had to go through the stress of yo-yo dieting.

Yet, according to the people who did this survery, the mere fact that I am fat means that I should not believe my own health to be good in any way.  In spite of all evidence to the contrary, the very fact that I am fat should mean that I am unhealthy. 

By extension, being thin should mean healthy, and we all know that thin people never had heart attacks, strokes, get cancer or diabetes, have high blood pressure and cholesterol levels...

Uh huh.

Thanks, but no thanks.  I'll deal with my real problems, not imaginary ones because people who know nothing about me think I should, simply because of my weight.

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