The topic of body diversity is very near and dear to my heart. One of my biggest pet peeves is this idea that ‘fit’ people have to look a certain way–and that certain way, more often than not, is skinny. Here’s a newsflash…not all thin people are fit and not all heavier-set people are out of shape. Fitness, comes in all shapes and sizes.
I’ve been a runner, weight lifter, fitness competitor, trainer and nutrition expert for well over 20 years. In every sport I’ve competed in–with the exception of fitness competitions–which I HATE by the way– I’ve competed with several types of people including people who were extremely fit but didn’t fit the typical mould of what we often consider to be healthy or athletically inclined in our society. Take runners for instance, most people when they think of distance runners, think of Kenyans or Ethiopians with rail thin bodies. This maybe true at the elite level but I’ve trained with many runners that have participated in marathons, ultras and triathlons that didn’t fit that typical standard but were extremely fit.
In a recent study, researchers found that metabolic fitness—which is defined by having healthy insulin production, good cholesterol levels, low level of triglycerides and normal blood pressure—was more important than weight in determining health. Don’t get me wrong, whereas weight is important, I think many of us are way to hyper-focused on the numbers on the scale.
Body fat can be difficult to measure, especially given the extreme variability of body shapes, body sizes, and fat vs. muscle distributions. In other words, every body is unique in it’s own way which is another reason why we should stop comparing ourselves to other people. Two women can posses the same body fat percentage or weight and look completely different. For instance a very tall 35 year old thin woman might weigh 155 lbs while her 35 year old counterpart though much shorter and appearing to look a lot heavier might weigh the exact same as her. Muscle and fat distributions differ from person to person.
Our uniqueness is a wonderful part of being a human but also makes it extremely challenging to quantify health or fitness in a way that conveys one meaning for all people. While it’s tempting to compare our bodies and body fat percentages to other people’s, it’s important to remember that like all things in life, we can really only compare ourselves to ourself.