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THIS is what obesity looks like?!? - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

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THIS is what obesity looks like?!? [Jun. 28th, 2014|02:22 am]
Young Geoffrey
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  This is what obsity looks like? Photo: Young Geoffrey takes a break on the sidelines of the pitch, summer 2013. Photo by the Phantom Photographer.
  This is what obsity looks like? Young Geoffrey takes a break on the sidelines of the pitch, summer 2013. Photo by the Phantom Photographer.

I know it's been said many times before, at length and probably with greater eloquence, but sweet Jesus don't we make a fetish of numbers! Give some phenomenon a number with a decimal point — say, for instance, 30.2 — and we leap to embrace it as a Significant Truth, as Science, no matter how shaky its foundation nor how often that particular scale has been debunked.

I'd meant, some three or four weeks ago now, to update my personal blog with a little bragging amid a more general report on the State of Young Geoffrey's Corpus.

Y'see, I've been cycling quite a lot again, since the snow melted, and when I went out for my first soccer game in a couple of months — and a 90-minute game it was, not a mere 60! — I was really pleased to note the improvement in my fitness. I not only jogged across the field at half-time to find the bathroom (and jogged back), but was surprised when the game was over.

"That's it?" I called out, "I thought there was another 20 minutes to go!"

"You've got the energy for another 20 minutes?" one of my team-mates, a 20-something named Paul, asked me. And when I said, "Yeah, I think so," I realized I was pretty sure that I did.

It was, to put it mildly, an awesome feeling for a once-heavy smoker, and I whooped and hollered as I cycled my way home for the sheer joy of movement.

I wanted, too, to discuss the fact that the psoriatic arthritis I first mentioned a couple of years ago seems to be in remission. Concerned some enzymes in my liver were a little high (I hadn't cut back quite as much on the beer as I'd been supposed to, I admit it), my specialist told me to take a week's break from the Scary Powerful Drug he'd put me on, Methotrexate. So I did. And, when I felt no sign of pain returning, I took another week off. And another after that, and so. Six months later I still hadn't taken another dose and, when I saw said specialist for a follow-up, he shrugged and said to keep on keeping on, so long as I felt okay. "Start taking again and call for an appointment if the pain comes back. Otherwise, come back in year."

And that, more or less, would have been that. Young Geoffrey feels pretty good, he's playing soccer with 20-somethings, thank you very much, and he feels both vaguely grateful for (and maybe just a little bit smug about) his good fortune.

Image: Photo of Taylor Townsend, September 5, 2011, by Robbie Mendelson, courtesy of Wikimedia.org  
Detail of photo of Taylor Townsend at U.S. Open Juniors on Sunday, September 4, 2011. Original photo by Robbie Mendelson, courtesy of Wikimedia.org.  

Unfortunately (or not) for the state of said personal blog, I came across a couple of items that combined to complicate my report. Three or four weeks later, I don't remember which came first, but I don't suppose that really matters much. One was personal, the aforementioned 30.2, a number that applies to me. The other an item I read about a young, female, African American tennis player called Taylor Townsend.

Though I am by no means a professional athlete, nor a woman, nor black, nor (if the truth be told at all) even all that young any more, Taylor and do share something in common. We are both, at least according to some standards, fat.

In fact, though my blood pressure is excellent and my resting heart rate typically clocks in at just over 50 beats a minute, I carry some extra flesh on me. If there is a 6-pack to be found on my abdomen, it is well-insulated, or perhaps, as my sweetie puts it, it is disguised as a one-pack.

Image: Young Geoffrey's BMI rating: Obese, via hall.md.

To add insult to injury, the internet, via a 150 year-old measurement that is still, apparently, accorded a not insignificant diagnostic respect by laymen and medical professionals alike, has informed me that I not only jiggle a little, but that I am, in truth, obese.

Not pleasantly plump, not chubby, not carrying around "a few extra pounds", but obese. A big fatso, a lardass, a Homer J ...

And presumably, so is Taylor Townsend, who (by the way) made it to the third round at the French Open a few weeks back.

Would my knees thank me if I dropped 20 or 30 (or even 40) pounds? Presumably. At one point in my 20s I got myself down to about 145 pounds and if I still felt like the chubby kid whose clothes all came from the Husky racks, photographic evidence from that era shows I was pretty close to lean. If I'd been playing soccer and cycling 2 or 3 thousand kilometres a year, I probably would have been.

Would Taylor Townsend's knees thank her if she dropped a 10 or 20 or 30 pounds? Presumably. But would dropping that weight make a better tennis player? Maybe not: Teen Tennis Prodigy Taylor Townsend: 'My Body Is A Total Gift'.

Despite the subject's own answer, my instinct is to say yes in answer to that last question, but really, what do I know about the best "fighting weight" for a particular 18 year-old African-American woman called Taylor Townsend? Presumably knees are always calling for a lighter load to lug around, but the rest of the body is, or at least can be, a hell of a lot more complicated.

What isn't complicated, and the reason I'm going on so god damned long about this, is that far too many of us and, I believe, too many doctors and other ostensible health professionals who ought to know better, look at a person's BMI, at the number and presume it means something, all by itself. Because ... number! With decimal point!

By all means, check heart rate and blood pressure; measure body fat; maybe see if you can pinch an inch ... But don't look at a height/weight ratio and think it means something! It might, for those who have a typical European's body type and who carry an average amount of muscle tissue and have average length arms and legs. For the rest of us: for real athletes and chubby weekend warriors, for the naturally skinny and new mothers alike, it isn't even useful as a ball-park figure. It's worse than useless, in truth, because it's liable to be mis-interpreted and to create all manner of useless anxiety — or unwarranted self-confidence.

If your doctor looks at your BMI number and not at you, find another doctor.

This isn't, by the way, intended to by some fat-positive message either. To be honest, though my sweetie thinks my "roundness" is "cute" (and thank god for that!), I don't. I don't much like the figure I see in the mirror and would love to trim down some. But all the real indications are that any weight problem I have right now is aesthetic and cultural, not medical.

So, come Sunday afternoon, I (and my belly) are going to "bounce across the field" in all our enthusiastic glory after a little round soccer ball. Wish us luck!

Right. It's nearly 04:00 and I need to be at work for a 12-hour shift by 13:00 hours. Time for something really offensive to take us into that good night ... Take it away, Bruce McCulloch!

This entry was originally posted at http://ed-rex.dreamwidth.org/261751.html. Comment there using OpenID, or here as per normal.

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: mahnmut
2014-06-28 05:59 pm (UTC)
Don't pay attention to those standard labels that they like putting on people. The only thing that matters is that you feel comfortable in your skin. Anything beyond that is just bullshit.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2014-06-29 04:47 pm (UTC)

About that comfort thing ...

Since I'm not (nor am ever likely to become, given my age and inclinations) a serious athlete, but would still rather look down at chiseled abs than at the "one-pack" I actually have, I'm afraid I'm going to have to settle for "acceptance", rather than feeling "comfortable". But I can live with that.

Welcome, by the way. I presume you got here by way of abomvubuso.
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[User Picture]From: mahnmut
2014-06-29 05:16 pm (UTC)

Re: About that comfort thing ...

I did! And I find your fascination with football... well, fascinating. :-)

Glad you added me back!
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[User Picture]From: sinnamongirl
2014-06-29 05:07 am (UTC)
No, seriously, I'm so sick of the BMI thing. I've dropped about 25 pounds in the last year, but the first 10 pounds were a massive struggle - because I was putting on muscle, so was in that weird stage where my clothes were suddenly a size too big, but I'd barely lost weight, and yet I could suddenly carry things that I hadn't been able to carry before.

And this was my goal - weight is an easy number to track, for comparison sake, and BMI is therefore an easy number to track, but I would be just as glad to have lost 0 weight and yet packed on massive amounts of muscle. 180 and able to lift a horse with 1 hand? YES PLEASE. 180 and barely able to walk up stairs? No.

So when I was at the doctor appointment the other day, she asks if I have diabetes. I say no - though it hasn't been checked in a bit, my A1c runs around 5.2, which is great... but, even after that 25-pound loss, I'm a bit chubby, and she eyed me when I said no, I'm not diabetic.

And as much as I need this care because I have literally no other resources for health services, and as much as I liked her otherwise, that burned me up a little. My BMI is currently about 28.4, which puts me in "overweight" versus "obese," but I haven't had a muscle to fat ratio test, ever, and I can absolutely guarantee you that my muscle to fat ratio is much more amazing than it's ever been, and so if I'm still carrying a few extra pounds, so be it. I don't eat the best, but I eat relatively healthily, I exercise, and being "overweight" does NOT automatically mean I'm a diabetic, or anything else.

hisshisshisss.... And, yeah, basically the BMI thing is ridiculous. But it's fast and easy and lets doctors off the hook for an in-depth evaluation of physicality, and all that. It's super, super annoying.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2014-06-29 04:55 pm (UTC)

Diabetes?

So when I was at the doctor appointment the other day, she asks if I have diabetes.

Could that just have been a routine question? (Though, when you see a new doctor down there, don't they make you fill out a form listing your known medical conditions, etc?)

... being "overweight" does NOT automatically mean I'm a diabetic, or anything else.

No, it certainly doesn't. I know a man now in his 80s who drives his girlfriend (75ish, adult-onset diabetes, controlled through diet and exercise, not insulin) crazy because he does everything wrong.

He is fat, he eats like a proverbial pig (loves his ice-cream!), gets very little exercise and yet ... heart rate, blood pressure, almost all of his vital stats are in the awesome range, and not just for a man his age.

Genetics can be a real bitch.

Back to the BMI, though.

But it's fast and easy and lets doctors off the hook for an in-depth evaluation of physicality, and all that.

Only bad doctors. I'm pleased to say that, though my GP has told me it would hurt me to lose a few pounds, she's never mentioned the BMI and she seems to take my blood-work results seriously: no questions about diabetes or anything like that.
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[User Picture]From: sinnamongirl
2014-07-03 11:37 pm (UTC)

Re: Diabetes?

Yeah, they ask on the questionnaire itself, and granted as a free clinic she may not have looked at the history, but she did that sort of eye-flicker, mouth-purse, and skeptical "hmmm...." when I said my last A1c had been 5.2. There's the possibility I'm being defensive, of course, but it seemed, well, skeptical. I used to type a doctor who would always say something like "Patient is surprisingly not diabetic" for anyone he considered even mildly obese, and that may be something I'm hyper-alert for and defensive about. But, eh.

Good for your doctor! I'm so tired of running into the BMI thing... especially as I have been working out the last few years, so my weight is down (like 20, 25 pounds), but it didn't go down at all at first, and my muscle tone was way better, so I figure a fat to muscle ratio would be a better indicator, you know?
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