Self Help Comes from the Self

Today I found out that, for the first time in a while, I am not obese.

This definition comes from the NHS BMI calculator – check out if you like. Take heed of this warning, though – Body Mass Index is a lying son of a bitch.

“but it’s a proven medical concept!” – Oh yeah? Got any healthy mates? Athletic ones? People who maybe use the gym twice a week year round? Go check out their BMI. You’ll find they’re overweight, probably obese.

This is because the calculation is a simple algorithm that takes height, weight, age and gender and plays it off against an average plucked from some study or other about weight variance across the general populace. Until it includes everyone on Earth, it won’t actually be accurate, and doesn’t have more than a three point scale for lifestyle and activity – which, by the way, had no effect on my rating beyond changing my daily calorie range.

This is part of a larger problem of people using so called ‘professional’ or ‘scientific’ methods of finding out if they’re fat. If you’re fat, you’ll know. There are degrees of fat – when my thinner friends complain about it I point to my gut and say, ‘Oh yeah?’. This isn’t helpful – they too can point to excess skin or flab with ease because, and brace yourself for this, there are very few perfectly healthy and fit people in the world.

I know someone who exercises regularly, can run for miles and is pretty gorgeous. She calls herself fat whenever she has any excess skin anywhere and honestly worries about how much she eats in a completely unnecessary manner. When I get annoyed at this, she gets upset. We’ve talked about it a lot and I think I’ve found our problem.

I am fat. I know this. It’s unavoidable if you look at me; I am have a belly, I’m overweight and it’s not because of rippling musculature.

She is fat. She has excess skin where she knows she shouldn’t, her abs vary in visibility depending on how much she works out, and sometimes she eats way more than she should do.

You are fat. You’re not perfect. If you are, you shouldn’t be reading my blog. Get out of here and go eat some McDonald’s and wait two inactive days before coming back. Then you’re welcome to read on, you rightly-narcissistic Adonis!

Very few people are fat. That’s a literal statement; you are fat, and nothing else. I don’t know anyone who is that way. A percentage, sometime higher than healthy, sometimes dangerously high, but never an integer. It is not binary, it is a scale. This is part of why we can all point to ourselves and say, with conviction, “I am fat.”

We can do this because we are taught how to identify fat using poor, inaccurate and usually unrepresentative methods; BMI is but one example of this. Scales are a simple method of misleading yourself – what does being twelve stone actually mean? The media bombards us with images, often conflicting, of what the ideal form is – both men and women. And while we can agree that Ryan Reynolds and Natalie Dormer are pretty damn fine examples of what “extremely attractive” is, they aren’t the only examples. Some might even say they aren’t the best examples (heretics) – and thus debate continues, and we continue to be misled.

Do I need a rippling musculature? Washboard abs? High cheek bones? Limbs that could have been sculpted by Michelangelo’s most fervent dreams? My girlfriend says not, my brothers and some friend shrug, other friends nod, the media and film nods enthusiastically while proffering products meant to achieve it, the internet is about as helpful as the foxes in my garden. Who knows? Who can I believe?

Me.

I haven’t written a diet post in a while because I’m in some turmoil. I’ve lost the need to lose weight, or at least exercise, because I’m happy. I’m comfortable. I am content. And it’s glorious. But do I deserve it? How can I tell? Physically, health-wise, am I actually adequate – nay, desirable? If you didn’t get the answer from the above examples, it depends who you ask and how much you can believe them. And who is the only person who, at the end of the day, has to tell the truth – or at least will be caught in a lie?

Me. I am. So I look at myself, internally and externally (that’s right boys and girls, completely but naked starkers. Enjoy that image – and no, I’m not sorry) and ask what I like, what I don’t, what I want from myself. And There’s a lot less that I’m unhappy with than I thought.

The aforementioned gut aside, I’m in a pretty good shape (purely visually. My fitness has suffered during my philosophical sojourn) and I know what I have to do to lose the last, reluctant and recalcitrant bit of me I don’t want to look at. Lots of movement. Running, cycling, sports, swimming, lifts, stretches, walking, whatever. The more things I do, the more I lose and the more I gain. I am proud I have come to this new level of acceptance, although it took some painful truths and admissions, and I am better for it.

I will be even better once I take action on these new realisations. I have my motivation back, and it wasn’t thanks to some self-help book. It wasn’t thanks to some personal trainer. It wasn’t thanks to a celebrity diet, an internet craze, some new pile or work regime. It came down to me doing what I did three years ago; I was honest with myself, and took the time to really look at what I wanted from and for me.

Do the same, if you’re worried about your weight. It’s scary, it’s painful, and it’s difficult. But it’s the only way to make a difference. And the next time you think ‘God I’m fat’, stop and make yourself think, ‘Am I really? If I am, does it matter? Let’s check”.

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