Healthy Weight vs. Normal Weight: Who’s to Say?


I had such a hard time deciding on a post topic this morning.  There are so many good/important things to post about. What finally won was another discussion of Oprah’s weight.

But no salacious comments here.

The question at hand is not Oprah’s up-and-down battle with serious weight loss but the measure by which many of us define success. Is it the government’s definition of ‘normal,’ which is defined by the body mass index?  Or is it a weight at which we feel well, function well, and at which a variety of health parameters (such as blood glucose or cholesterol) tell us we’re doing fine?

For a great discussion of this, check out the article by Paul Campos, author of The Obesity Myth, in Rocky Mountain News.

If you can get on board with this, I vote that we all give up talking about our weight (and weighing ourselves — toss out that scale!).  If we want to talk, let’s discuss our healthy lifestyle habits instead.   Positive = Forward.

11 responses to “Healthy Weight vs. Normal Weight: Who’s to Say?”

  1. Great post! I totally agree. I know where my body feels best and performs best, and when I gain about five pounds beyond that things stop working as well. But, I rarely weight myself!

  2. marsha says:

    Yes, Jen, it’s all about tuning in and trusting what our bodies tell us. They were built to do that, but all the dieting and weight loss nonsense Americans have been caught up in over the last almost 50 YEARS (ye gods) has taught us to do exactly the opposite. And it’s hard to go back to ‘normal’ when we spend too much time being otherwise. Thanks for your comments!

  3. shrinkingdad says:

    I agree completely. I’ve started trying to lose weight for like the millionth time, and for the first time I’m doing it without scales and without calorie counting. It’s fairly early days for me but it feels much easier.

    The BMI is complete nonesense on an individual level. Average BMI for a town or state might tell you something about the general health levels, but they are very misleading for individuals and I don’t see the point of them. My doctor once calculated my BMI and showed me a chart – when I realised what he was doing I just burst out laughing. He was trying to prove to me I was overweight. I was about 320lbs at the time so it was a classic “no **** Sherlock” moment. You don’t need a chart and a calculator to tell if you are overweight, you just need to take an honest look at yourself.

    According to the BMI pretty much every heavyweight boxer, linebacker, Rugby player etc would be overweight. New Zealand All Blacks had a winger a few years ago called Jonah Lomu who was 6 foot and over 250lbs. According to the BMI, he was morbidly obese. But he had about a 30 inch waist and could run the 100m in 10.2 seconds – and could keep running and tackling at world class level for 80 minutes. Wish I was that kind of fat!

  4. marsha says:

    Thanks for your sharing your experience, shrinking dad. You point out some important things. I checked out your blog and will try to check in regularly. Anyone reading this might want to also. Some good personal insight he shares.

  5. Matt says:

    Just came across this blog and love it. This is a great post. BMI is one of the most overrated terms in the weight loss field and doctors love it. Unfortunately doctors love a lot of things that they shouldn’t when it comes to healthy weight loss. Oh well, I think we are making progress at least.

  6. marsha says:

    Yeah, Matt. I, too see signs of progress. Although I’ve been in this field a LONG time (okay, I’m not THAT old), and change has been a long time coming. Hope is good. (I’m sounding like an Obama retread here. LOL.)

  7. Matt says:

    LOL Marsha, I must say you got me thinking about things. The ideas are flying in my head, as if I didn’t have enough going on in there already. I love some of the ideas you have here. Keep up the good work!

  8. Top 3 Online Programs says:

    Oprah is just another human being struggling with weight. It’s so typical to get off track when you’re busy.

    I think what is significant is that she’s getting back on track. That’s the clincher. For all of us. When we realize we’re off track, we get back on. It’s imperative to be gentle with ourselves and just move on. Pretty simple, ya? 😉

  9. marsha says:

    Re Top 3 Online Programs comment: The question is what people get back on track with. If it’s another diet, the odds are against them. They’ll be off track, on track, off track, on track ad nauseaum (if that’s how you spell it. :-)).

  10. I think that the BMI does not give an accurate measure of % body fat, but it is a starting place where many people (including doctors) begin. BMI calculations do not work for everyone. Bone density and muscle can skew results. But for the average Joe (or Josephine) who hasn’t been exercising much, the BMI can be a more or less accurate indication if you are overweight or not.

  11. marsha says:

    That’s assuming, Wt Loss Wonder, that you agree with the weight categories as defined by the BMI. Many experts do not, and it is not a matter of being distorted by muscle mass. It is a matter of statistics that show ‘overweight’ people have a longer life expectancy than ‘normal’ weight people. Not sure when it happened — the 80s? — the government overnight changed the dividing lines between categories of ‘normal’ weight vs overweight vs obese, and overnight it made a lot of folks suddenly fatter.

    Additionally, here’s an excerpt from an article that spells things out pretty clearly:

    Last week a report in The Archives of Internal Medicine compared weight and cardiovascular risk factors among a representative sample of more than 5,400 adults. The data suggest that half of overweight people and one-third of obese people are “metabolically healthy.” That means that despite their excess pounds, many overweight and obese adults have healthy levels of “good” cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose and other risks for heart disease.

    At the same time, about one out of four slim people — those who fall into the “healthy” weight range — actually have at least two cardiovascular risk factors typically associated with obesity, the study showed.

About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

View Author Page