Getting Healthy for Good: What’s your number?

By Laurie Marshall

tootise-rolls.jpgI recently read an online article by this guy who writes a lot about being healthy. I believe he’s also the editor of Men’s Health magazine.

The article was about how to make good choices this Halloween season (yes, it’s an entire season at our house…) and made some comparisons between one candy and another candy based on sugar and fat and calorie content to help us brainless candy-eaters choose the best options.

He was saying things like “chew gum instead” and “eat 3 small Tootsie Rolls instead of 3 miniature Twix”. Like they even compare. Please.

Anyway, this guy started his article out with some words that were probably meant to catch our attention. It’s called a “hook” in writer-speak… a sentence or two that will make readers want to stick around for the entire story you’re trying to tell. Well, he definitely got our attention. His “hook” was about the “fun size” term used for some candies:

“Fun size? I don’t think so – unless it’s fun to be a size 16.”

Yeah, I know, right? The heat coming off of the comments section could have powered Halloweentown for several days. Of course, I had to keep reading, so the hook worked on me. But I was able to pick through what he said, keeping the one or two useful bits of info, and dump the rest. As I scanned the comments made by a LOT of women who are a size 16 it made me think about the correlation between our country’s obesity epidemic and people’s self-perceptions.

I am 5’9” – fairly tall for a woman – and I wear a size 16 pant. I am not miserable in my body, and I do think I’m one of the most upbeat people I know. I also believe I look pretty good 345 or so days a year… average for most women, I’d imagine. So, for me, it’s fun to be a size 16. BUT: I do know that according to the charts out there I’m at the very top of the “overweight” scale. If I were a few inches shorter I’d be obese. Obese. It’s not a pretty word. It makes one think of the individuals who are bedridden and featured in those terrible TLC shows about weighing 600+ pounds.

But obese starts a lot smaller. And it’s just a fact that those of us who are obese are making it tough for our bodies to operate at their maximum efficiency. We are not at our potential best. Check out these stats:

  • High blood pressure and stoke are twice as common in obese people.
  • Evidence is strong that obesity increases the risk of breast cancer (after menopause), womb cancer and kidney cancer.
  • Obesity may also increase the risk of colon cancer.
  • Gall bladder disease is three times as likely to occur in middle-aged obese women.
  • Diabetes is four times more common in middle-aged obese people than in middle-aged people of normal weight.
  • Coronary heart disease is twice as common in obese men under 45.

Now, I do not think that this guy was smart to call out a majority of the population of our country (average women’s size in the U.S. is 14) and imply that if they are happy in their bodies at a size 16 or larger they are wrong. And I do know that some people can wear a size 16 and still be healthy and fit and run a lot further on a treadmill than I do. But I think that if we, as moms, as women, as citizens of this world, want to be here, and be healthy, and make the most of our lives, we have to at least be honest with ourselves.

I may never get much smaller than a 16. I’m hoping to get into a 14 by the end of the year, or at least by the time I go on a cruise next spring. But it’s not my size I’m concerned about when I consider eating dessert or stare at the ceiling in the morning deciding if I want to dig through the clean clothes to find my athletic bra. Well, it kind of is (cruise!!), but it’s also – and mostly – that I want to live a really long time.

I want to be around long enough to watch my son, who just turned six, turn forty. I want to play with great-grandchildren. I want to travel around the world and have at least two more careers. There’s just stuff I want to do, and I can’t do it all if my body is not operating as well as it should.

Don’t let people tell you that you should hate on yourself because of your size – that’s a completely personal issue. But do promise yourself that you will be healthy, active, and aware of the risks you’re taking by not doing all you can to take care of yourself. Love yourself enough to care.

And eat the Twix. It’s Halloween!