Last year, I wrote about the disconnect between how thin or fit we look and how healthy we actually are. Most of this is driven by a worldwide focus on weight and weight loss, which has led to a mistaken belief that being of ideal weight automatically implies good health, a belief further reinforced by the beauty industry that drums into our heads every single day that an ideal weight and a flat tummy are goals you should be striving for.
The problems start with the definition of overweight and obesity, which are based on BMI (body mass index), which is a flawed unidimensional parameter that does not take into account the body composition, the amount of fat and lean mass and all the other factors that go into determining where you actually stand with your weight and health.
As Ivan Illich said in his book, “Medical Nemesis“, the moment we create definitions and cut-offs, we start categorizing people into normal and abnormal and create artificial situations that slot people into different categories and allow society, institutions and governments to exert undue control over our lives. If you are overweight (say BMI of 28), you are considered to be unhealthy (even if you are not) and everyone, from your doctors to your friends to the health insurance company, will keep pushing you to lose weight, and even believe they have the right to comment on your appearance, without your permission, even if you are otherwise healthy and fit. This again comes down to do the mistaken belief that a BMI < 25 equals good health.
This is what the weight loss industry thrives on. While morbid obesity clearly needs management with bariatric surgery and weight loss medications, those who are overweight (BMI of 25-29) and obese (BMI of 30-35) and even those who have an ideal BMI are constantly pressurized into special diets or programs that promote weight loss as the ideal way to increase healthspan and lifespan.