Define “obese”

According to the NY Times, I was obese 6 months ago. I weighed 138lbs on my 5″3 body with 33.6% body fat. I wore a size 8-10. That, according to this NY Times article, is obese. If this is obese, than I worry about what the rest of the world can be labelled!

According to the article, my ideal weight is 115lbs – a weight I haven’t been since I was 14 years old and a weight I doubt I’ll ever get to eating and exercising normally. This is a weight I could technically get to only if I were to severely restrict my calorie intake and exercise fanatically. Is this something the NY Times wants to encourage? Can you see the headline – Get anorexic says the NY Times!?

They work it out by saying that for women, you should start with 100lbs for the first 5 feet of height and add 5lbs for every inch above that. Subtract 10% for small frames and add 10% for large frames. But otherwise, every 5″3 woman should weigh 115lbs. Talk about societal pressure.

When they talk about body fat, the ideal body fat percentage for women – all women are the same according to them – should be 20-21% and the average woman is 22-25%. Anything above 30% is ‘obese’ – and that’s a direct quote.

I know that I had fat to lose – and still do – but at no stage of my weight loss journey would I have considered myself obese. Two years ago, when I weighed 150lbs, I was overweight, but not obese. And I don’t want to live in a world where 138lbs is considered to be obese. That, in my opinion, is a world where newspaper disguise themselves as experts and exert pressure for all women to become anorexic, or at least perpetuate the body image issues that we all face on a daily basis.

Making blanket statements is always dangerous. I don’t believe that the BMI scale is the be all and end all either as it doesn’t take body fat % into account at all, but neither should be be so quick to label people as obese based on one number. If 138lbs is obese, what is 170lbs? 250lbs? Where does the next label start? Does 170lbs become morbidly obese in this new NY Times world?

There are plenty of negative influences out there and body image issues abound. It’s completely unnecessary to introduce new labels and new issues for women already bombarded with weight-loss and unattainable shapes and figures. The NY Times should back off creating impossible goals and discouraging the average person from trying to be healthy.

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3 thoughts on “Define “obese”

  1. Wow, the NYT article was a bit off in all aspects, including what you mentioned in your post. I believe in people achieving their weight goals, but I do not believe health is measured only through weight.

    I was also a bit surprised at the suggestion in the article to not eat meat more than once a day. I’ve never heard of that!

  2. I’ve never heard of most of a few of their “recommendations” – no more than 4 eggs a week is old advice that’s been reviewed since the 1980’s! Most nutritionists I’ve spoken to recommend a protein with every meal and, unless you’re eating very fatty meat, meat at every meal is not a problem.

    When it comes to the numbers, I take issue because I think that making sweeping generalisations is very dangerous.

  3. I agree with you that it is ridiculous, the image the media tries to say women are suppose to be. Weight is only a spoke in the wheel of health, not the hub. The fashion industry is as bad as the media. Check out my blog the Fitness Game http://coachtu.wordpress.com, I think will see agree with the way I look at health and fitness.

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