I never did reach the “magic number” of 105. But this is probably a good thing because even when I weigh 134 pounds, I have a body fat percentage of 17%. That is quite low. In fact, the models in Europe are now required to maintain a body fat percentage of 17% or more.
At different times, depending on my life circumstances, I have varied in body fat percentage. Like almost all American women, I have felt better about my body when I am at a body fat percentage less than 24% (23-24% is considered the high end of healthy). I wish I could tell you that this was not the case, but I have been strongly influenced by the tsunami of advertisements that have come across my eyes since the day I was born. The good thing is that since I love to exercise so much, I have always been pretty fit, even when I have been my heaviest.
I can honestly say that I do not want to be ultra thin. I don’t think that is beautiful, but see it as a sickness. And yes, most of the top models, many actresses, and some popular singers are ultra-thin. (I don’t want to give examples because I don’t want to slander.) I have always preferred a more fit look, with a degree of muscle tone as opposed to the skinny, bony look. We have to remember that if a person does not keep her weight at 80% of the ideal, she is anorexic (unless she has a medical condition which causes her low body weight). But anorexic women almost always deny they are anorexic. That is the nature of this eating disorder.
Like most of you, my body has varied in body fat percentage depending on many factors. I am glad to realize that if I weighed 105, I would be anorexic and I have no desire whatsoever to be anorexic. At various times in my life I have achieved a low body fat percentage, but due to my curvy figure, this brings me a lot of attention that I dislike. I sincerely believe that I carry about ten to twenty extra pounds to protect myself from this unwanted attention. But okay, I will also admit that I really enjoy food! (Friends and family are seeking a 12-step program for my chocolate addiction at this very minute!)
After struggling for years with SLE lupus and ankylosing spondylitis, I have developed a great appreciation for my body. I remember a whole month when I could not walk at all due to arthritis. The whole month I spent on the couch. To use the restroom, I had to roll off the couch and crawl on my knees. I had steroid injections in my feet and went on methotrexate (a low dose of chemotherapy) so I could walk. At one point, I moved to Phoenix due to my arthritis. My heart cried many tears because I had been athletic since I was about seven. For a while I could hardly use the bathroom myself. I was 28 years old, didn’t drink much or use drugs, and always treated my body well. At one point I was nutrition major and ate much better than most people. So developing two chronic illnesses sent me into emotional shock.
Nowadays I feel extremely blessed that I can move well and walk. I can’t ski or hike or backpack much anymore, but I am so grateful that the Lord has given me the ability to swim, kayak, and take part in many other fun activities. My latest passion is water aerobics. If you thought it was for old ladies and sick people, think again. Princeton researchers discovered that competent swimmers can burn 420-700 calories an hour doing water aerobic (25% more than land aerobics). But the real deal is that water aerobics is so fun, I start to get giddy every time I think about it. And that is what it’s really about, isn’t it? Not so much the end result as the joy in the journey.
As the sun sets on my forties, I still struggle with body image bandit but often win the battles. As far as “getting there,” I realize that will not happen until I go to heaven and live with Jesus because we live in a fallen world. Part of this fallenness, in America, means that we are saturated with images that scream “To be thin is to be beautiful, and beauty is everything.” In the meantime, I invite you to join me in the war against the body image bandit, who is the father of lies and tries to get us to believe that we are ugly. We can do many things to fight the bandit, and I will offer helpful suggestions along the way. The first is to make a commitment to stop looking at beauty, fashion, and celebrity magazines which poison our minds with people that are so thin, they are actually sick.
I thank God that he has created us all in his image, and that we are all beautiful, unique works of art. Let’s celebrate this and embrace the bodies the Lord has given us, and thank him for what our bodies can do.
“Man looks at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”
I Samuel 16:7
© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies: Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere and Fannies: Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, 2007 – 2047. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies: Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.