Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pictures Can Be Deceiving

She's a bit chunky, don't you think? She could probably stand with losing a few pounds. Better for her health, and all that, right? She's 5'2" tall and weighs 140 pounds. You did the BMI calculation and she's ever so slightly overweight. And let's not forget that the BMI is used by all kinds of organizations (including the ever-powerful insurance companies) to remind us of how dangerous and nasty it is to be overweight.

Sorry to tell you this, friends, but if you were half as healthy and in half as good shape as Canadian air force major Meagan McGrath (pictured here), you'd be doing just fine. So far, she's climbed Mt. Everest (2007), completed the Marathon des Sables, a 245-kilometre race in the Sahara Desert (2008), and oh yeah, she saved the life of one of the Nepalese climbers accompanying her down from the summit of Everest. This coming November, she'll be pulling a 285-pound sled loaded with supplies over 1,130 kilometres, trekking from the coast of Antarica to the South Pole.

There were a few other photographs of McGrath in the Toronto Star article on her this past Sunday (paper version). None of them were particularly flattering to the eyes of people who are used to judging a woman's beauty by how thin she is. I admit, to my great chagrin, that just looking at the pictures before reading the article, all I could see was a slightly pudgy woman who apparently liked sports. I cannot tell you how embarrassed I feel over how superficial my first reaction was.

In our quest to lose weight, we often forget two things:
- Thin does not equal healthy. "Thin" just looks right to us because that's the only visual message we get in the media.
- There are all kinds of body types, and all these kinds of body types can be healthy or unhealthy.

I have really searched my soul, and though I can give you all the stock reasons why I want to lose weight (all related to health and well-being, of course), I know that in my heart of hearts, I've always wanted to just look really good. If there wasn't that "carrot" of people saying how fabulous I look, I honestly wouldn't be quite as motivated. There, I've said it. And though I'm not singling out one single person in the whole world, I think that if we're being 1,000% honest with ourselves, looking great and wearing tight pants instead of mumus is the top reason why we want to lose weight. Not the only reason, but one of the top ones.

How many people would chose healthy, strong Meagan McGrath over Kate Moss? When was the last time you saw a McGrath-clone strutting down the catwalk? It's a sad commentary on our world.


  1. I'll step up and admit that I do want to look good. Maybe it's vain and all, but you are right, there is the visual factor. For me though, I didn't set a "goal" when I started losing. I just lost until I felt good about myself. It could have been a few sizes up and I still would have been healthy and looked good. But this is where I felt comfortable, and have been able to maintain.

    McGrath is amazing! She is a prime example of why that BMI calculation shouldn't ever be used exclusively! I saw on someone's blog where they had a slideshow of people who would be considered overweight/obese by BMI standards. It was amazing, because everyone of those people looked just fine!

    Thanks for this thought provoking post!

  2. Great post - There's a mom in my group that is an amazing fitness instructor (Body Pump, Kickboxing, etc.). However, she's got big hips. It's just her body type. I'm about a foot taller than her and when I get to my goal weight I'll look good next to her, but not in a million years could I out-do her in fitness. Body type isn't everything, for sure.

  3. Great post! So true that looks can be deceiving. I admit, I am one of the vain ones in that I also want to look good. Overshadowing that thought though is the fact that I just want to feel good and be healthy. Both physically and mentally.

    Strangely enough some of the thinnest people I know are also the most insecure ones. I am always startled to discover that other people besides myself have these deep seated insecurities.

    Again, thanks for the great post. I'll be thinking on this one for the rest of the day!

  4. Loved this post - both for the inspirational picture of McGrath and also for your honesty about wanting to lose weight to look good. Me too. Probably 99.9% of all of us trying to lose weight feel the same.

    So great to see a picture of a strong woman!

  5. Oh sure I want to look good! I'm one of those people who will never fit into the BMI confines, especially when I'm fit and toned. But by golly, I'm going to get as close as I can. I'd rather be McGrath than Kate Moss any day!

  6. I'm half as fit and healthy as she is :-)

    Thanks for commenting on my column! In all seriousness, no one is making anyone conform to the BMI. I never use it. I think most people know when they have reaxhed my, tongue in cheek, Fat Adiposity Tolerance. I think BMI started as an actuarial statistic. Maybe that's where, lies, damn lies, and statistics all started :-)

  7. I thought that was some really powerful stuff. I think about all those sick looking women on women's magazines... how the ideal can be so unhealthy makes no sense.

    Foolsfitness- Alan