So this morning at the gym, the trainer was trawling for customers and asked if I wanted a free body comp analysis. He entered my height (5′ 8 1/2″) and age (40) and weight (133 today, usually closer to 130). After the analysis, he informed me that I am BELOW the minimum acceptable body fat range. Anyone who knows me or has even seen my photo can see that I am a healthy weight—I’m a size 6/8, and I’m pretty sure no one would say I am too thin. (My husband informed me that I was too thin on two occasions in the past 20 years, when due to stress my weight dipped into the teens—he prefers women to have curves!)
Yet the LOWEST healthy range (“very lean”) on the body mass index says women should be 15%-19% body fat. I am 14.8%. They’d still be calling me “lean” at 24% body fat!
This weekend I have been researching and writing my nutrition manifesto, debunking 12 common nutrition myths (coming soon). Ironically, I’ve been writing about how the weight charts mislead people, because they are geared towards averages, and they are meant to appease America in its current state—the charts have nothing to do with health. Other first-world countries where people are healthier and thinner have different charts that reflect much lower weights. I know this will be a strong as well as politically incorrect statement, but the weight charts are worthless.
Dr. John McDougall (who isn’t right about everything and pioneered the “low fat” myth I’m also writing about, but who is right about many things) says an average, healthy weight for someone my height is 130. According to normal Body Mass Index chart endorsed by our government, I could be 35 lbs. heavier without even being “overweight.” That would be another 35 lbs. of fat, and I’d be a size 14! The average size for women in America is a size 12, and weight charts have shifted accordingly. Keep in mind that my size (6/8) is only slightly thinner than what the national average was 50 years ago.
Even more annoyingly, I then went to my appt. with the Red Cross today and was rejected for having a hematocrit of 36 (I got rejected a few months ago, too). A normal female hematocrit (red blood cell count relative to white blood cells) is 36-44 (another chart says 38-46), and new data says that having higher numbers in that range indicate health risks, and low numbers in that range are preferable. I’ve been borderline low all my life and used to get routinely rejected in college. By the Red Cross, I mean.
My theory is that since people who are dehydrated have artifically HIGH hematocrit, my habit of drinking 1/2 a gallon of water by 1 p.m. has artificially decreased mine. I’m going to go again to give blood next week, having drunk very little water. Which is stupid, of course, but I bet I test just fine and they take my blood.
I called the Red Cross to try to call their attention to the fact that new data says it’s healthy to be at the low end of the range. The lady still didn’t want my blood and told me to go home AND EAT MORE SPINACH! (I’m still laughing . . .)
Disclaimer: I acknowledge that eating disorders are real, and that there is definitely such a thing as “too thin.” (I’m just not it.) I also acknowledge that a perfectly healthy person without pockets of fat on the body could weigh more than 130 at 5′ 8 1/2,” for instance—many factors play into that number. Just don’t place much stock in the current charts.