Are You Overweight?

Some people who weight too much don’t recognize that fact. Other people have the opposite problem. They always think they’re too fat even though they’re fine the way they are. Forever trying to get rid of pounds unnecessarily, they often drive themselves, and their families, crazy.

The fashion and film industries have made millions of Americans, especially women, nearly hysterical about their weight, to the point where it jeopardizes their emotional and physical health. For example, growing numbers of slender young women who want to be even thinner than they are caught in a vicious cycle of starvation, binge-eating, and punishing purges. If they eat a “big “meal or splurge on a high-calorie dessert, they may induce themselves to vomit or run 10 miles to work it off. This syndrome’s name is bulimarexia and it becoming increasingly common. In the extreme, some young people develop anorexia nervosa and may starve themselves to death because they think they’re fat.

Besides your height, your body build helps determine your ideal weight. A large-boned person should weight more than one who is delicately boned but of the same height. The best height-weight charts take your “frame”-large, medium, or small-into account, or indicate a range of weight for different types of build. Another important consideration is how much of your weight is lean muscle and how much is fat.  It’s fat, not pounds, that makes you overweight. A lean man carries about 5 to 10 percent of his body as fat, whereas a man who is moderately obese has 20 percent of his weight as fat. For a woman, for whom it is normal to carry a greater percentage of fat at any weight, leanness means about 10 to 20 percent fat, and moderate obesity, 30 percent fat.

You can get a rough idea of how much you carry having someone pinch your flesh between two fingers on the back of your upper arm midway between your shoulder and elbow. With your arm hanging relaxed at your side, have your assistant grasp the loose flesh between thumb and forefinger. As a general rule, if when squeezing slightly the distance between fingertips is more than inch, you’re probably carrying too much fat. Keep in mind that at any age, females have more fat than males, so the pinch test on a woman should produce a somewhat larger skinfold thickness than a man of the same age.

But few people need measurements to tell them they’re overweight. Instead, remove all your clothes and take a long, look at yourself in a full-length mirror. Turn slowly, appraising your body from various angles. Look for flabby protrusions. If you’re carrying too much “baggage”, you’ll know it right away.

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