Thursday, March 18, 2010

We Are Beautiful, Its True

We Are Beautiful, Its True.

1 in 5 eleven-year-old girls search pro anorexia sites [1].
25% of the American population is completely sedentary [2].
Two thirds of America’s population is overweight or obese [3].
One third of America’s population is obese [3].
33% of African American and Hispanic children were overweight in 2001 compared to 25% of all Caucasian children [2].
Two out of every five women would trade 2-3 years of their life to meet weight related goals [4].
30% of women chose an ideal body shape that is 20% underweight and an additional 44% chose an ideal body shape that is 10% underweight [4].
Women overestimate the size of their hips by 16% and their waists by 25%, yet the same women were able to correctly estimate the width of a box [4].
Age groups 16-24 are the most likely to be underweight- about 1 in 6 men and women [5].
The average fast food meal is around 1,200 calories [7].
Chili’s Honey Chipotle Chicken Crispers (a personal favorite) contain 2,040 calories [8].
Cocaine is the only substance shown to be more addictive than the combination of sugar, fat, and salt in several studies on animals [9].
In a sample of Stanford undergraduate and graduate students, 68% felt worse about their own appearance after looking through women's magazines. However, the average woman sees 400-600 advertisements per day [10].
80% of 10-year-old girls have dieted [10].

The facts:

We’re told to be thin by the media and worship underweight women while we’re being fed clinically proven addictive food and calorically overdosing our bodies without even knowing it! So get rid of the guilt of being over[or under]weight. Weight related issues have reached epidemic [6] proportions, so if you’re having trouble, you’re in good company (obviously so, I’m overweight and I’m a riot). The odds are a little stacked that we will have weight related issues.

So- what’s the solution? Does a solution exist? Michelle Obama, is doing a great job getting the word out about several. I think starting- its empowerment and education. Yes, the odds are a little stacked against us, yes most people regain all of the weight they lose dieting within a year, yes this generation of children is the first expected to live shorter lives than their parents, yes- it may be a journey- BUT we have the power to change ourselves. To do that, we need a little information:

Some education:

We’ve all been told at some point that obsessing about your weight isn’t healthy. Well, fyi, being obese at age 22 isn’t a walk in the park for my health either. I’m not sure I knew my weight at any given point during my undergraduate education. I had always been thin, so why check? BMI? Is that a fraternity? Type of beer? Can I get it at taco bell at 2am?

The point is- while its easy and often negative to obsess about numbers- and there are plenty of numbers to obsess about (weight, BMI, blood pressure, calorie intake, points, to name a few), it is so sooo important to know where you stand in relation to recommended numbers. Being slightly overweight or even slightly underweight certainly won’t kill you, I’d even argue its not terrible to fall into those categories from time to time (or depending on your body type, maybe all the time); but being outside or far outside of what research has proven is good for the human body can hurt you- and your quality of life- in the long run. Not to mention, there are very few people who are happy with being overweight. Except maybe Donna Simpson but that’s another story.

Your BMI or Body Mass Index is one of the most basic “weight related” numbers. You can calculate your BMI here or you can calculate it yourself by using the equation:

Normal Weight
Over 30

(Don’t be ashamed if you’re higher or lower than normal- you can follow my BMI at the bottom of the page on my weight tracker and notice it says obese!!)

Not only is it important to know your weight and BMI to assess your health risk for acquiring weight-related disease, but also to help instill in yourself a proper body image. There will come a time when your body doesn’t work or look the same as it does now. If you have children- your body will change. I know- big shocker. Well, I’m here to let the cat out of the bag. Post weight gain, many women have an idea of what they want to look like, but no quantitative way of telling how far away from that goal they really are. The normal BMI range for a woman my height (5’5”) spans a full 30lbs. What’s my ideal in those 30lbs? The minimum? Its subjective.

Weighing yourself and taking a mental note of the range and attaching it in your mind to a picture of yourself during that time can be extremely helpful. I look at pictures of myself from high school around weight 118-123 lbs (when I thought I was fat) and can’t imagine being that thin again. I’d miss my boobs too much! But it doesn’t change the fact that I can visually see that my perceptions of myself are not always the greatest. That helps me to evaluate where I am now.

Another good thing to know is your Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR. It is the number of calories that your body needs to stay alive at rest (essentially what it takes for your body to run its organs). When dieting- its important to try not to drop below this requirement each day. I think most women have a BMR of around 1200 which is why that is the minimum recommended calorie consumption per day and also leads to the statistic that you should try not to loose more than 2 lbs per week while dieting unless under doctor supervision.

So that’s the basics- but I’ll bet you’ve heard most of that at some point or another. I know that a lot of overweight people, myself included, can rattle those off from memory- and they are all over pro-ana sites trying to lower caloric intake or have the lowest BMI. So clearly its not all education we need.

Maybe its an attitude adjustment:

Gaining 20lbs in four months when I started birth control a few months before my wedding was emotionally numbing.* Needless to say- the pill is a goner for me, but even after stopping, the weight stayed put- kind of rude in my opinion. I spent a lot less time on my looks because in my opinion- it was hopeless trying to look nice when all anyone would see would be the fat. I was emotionally shut off about it because in grad school working long hours and then studying the rest- I didn’t have time to change it. It hurt. Not acutely, but a little all the time. The remarks from friends and family about my weight were searing- even when they were given with good intentions. Those kinds of feedback don’t motivate. They can even be disabling.

What changed for me was having others (ahem, Jamie and Matt) tell me that I am amazing, that I am beautiful, and that my inner spirit is resilient. It made me want to do amazing things- and in this day and age having a healthy body image is an amazing thing.

Releasing blame I put on myself for not loving me the way I was/am or blaming myself for getting there in the first place was a big part of it. They say its harder to loose weight when you’re stressed because your body retains more toxins. Disliking how I looked, hiding from cameras, and untagging facebook photos left and right was stressing me out!

On top of all that mojo- I listened to an amazing woman. Arlene Blum- the first woman to lead an all women’s hike up Anna Purna, the woman who carried her two year old through the Himalayan trail, the kick ass scientist I want to be- came to UVa and told me about superwoman things she had done and is continuing to do! Well, if a 55 year old can kick ass and take names, then I can too. I want to run a marathon. And I’m going to. Not just one day- but I’m going to run a half marathon this year.

We need to look around at our friends and enable them. Women are awesome- and dead sexy (way better naked than men)! That’s the message we need to be sending. Well, that we’re awesome, not that we look good naked. Teaching us how to love ourselves is tantamount to success- and guess what- it’s A LOT easier to make time for people you love than for people you’d rather not be around. That led to me making time to lose weight and eat healthy. Tell others they’re awesome- and why. The Girls Inc commercial, Dear World, that makes me cry intermittently on hulu comes to mind. Empowering women to realize their potential and have self defined goals is key to battling the skewed body image we seem to have.
Lawyers, teachers, engineers, astronauts, photographers, hikers, climbers, mothers, sisters, stinky lady/bulldog, fiancés, one campaigners, hospital workers, historians, doctoral students, UN support, service workers to free slaves, comedians, masters degree recipients, wives, wardrobe consultants, friends and inspirations. These women define for me what true beauty is and I bet each of them at some point has been unsatisfied with her appearance. These are my amazing women.

Do I even need to mention that it has been less than a century since women were allowed to vote? We can change the American story of body image for ourselves and for our children in the future. We are beautiful, its true.


* Don’t feel bad if you don’t have a medical reason for gaining weight- I would still be over 30 lbs overweight.

The Sunny Side of the rainy day:
The steady increase of obesity in America has stalled over the last 5 years! Go America!

6. Fifth Phase of Epidemiologic Transition: The Age of Obesity and Inactivity. Gaziano, Michael. JAMA. 2010, 303: 275-276. (Published online recommend this article. January 13, 2010)  
9. The End of Overeating, David Kessler.
10. This is an awesome resource for body image related stats and advertising.


  1. Great post! Although I don't care for that pic of me, I will embrace it because we are beautiful!

  2. Excellent post! I got to your blog through GirlBoyd (a college friend), and am so glad I did! I have been struggling with my weight for years and have had a similar epiphany. As I began medical school three years ago, I told myself that it was important not only for my own health to lose the weight, but also as an example for my patients. I'm still on my journey, down about 100 lbs from the beginning, but still a few points to the obese side (I'm a tall gal - you'd be amazed how well I dressed that large large body and how fortuitously it was distributed). Over the last few months of working in the hospital for the crazy long hours you see depicted on TV, my downward journey has begun to plateau if not start reversing. Thank you for your post. It's a reminder to me of the reasons I began this journey. I have got to stop getting in the way of my own success and remember what it looks like to truly care for myself (think fewer cupcakes and skipping work-outs; more of the non-food rewards, exercise, time for myself, extra $ allotted to make healthier choices, etc.). Keep up the good work and traveling mercies for the rest of your journey :) Bravo to you for your message!

  3. Fran- Thanks for the encouragement! Love GirlBoyd's Blog. She did my makeup for my wedding. She's really great. I'm hoping to get some guest posters on here soon about their weightloss and exercise journeys (and plateaus). Do you mind if I keep you in mind for it?

    Glad you enjoyed the post!


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