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Opinion

Weighing up BMI bemusement when you’re heavy but healthy

Sam Delaney is insecure about his weight after being asked to reduce his BMI. What to do if you feel the balance is right already?

I don’t usually weigh myself. What’s the point? Owning scales would only make me anxious. The size of my body is just another source of worry among all of the others. I have generally monitored the fluctuation of my body shape via the fit of my clothes. As long as my jeans still just about do up in the morning, I figure there’s no need to panic.

But last week I was weighed at the GP’s for the first time in several years. Turns out, I weigh in at an impressive sounding 102kg. Impressive, that is, if I were a heavyweight boxer formed of sinewy muscle. But I am, in fact, a slightly spongy 47-year-old dad with a wobbly stomach.

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I typed my details into an online NHS thing which told me I had a Body Mass Index of 29.1 and had to lose a whopping 5kg to reduce my risk of diabetes and heart disease. It was disheartening. 

It was also surprising. I exercise four or five times a week. I go for long runs and also work out with a personal trainer in the gym. I don’t drink alcohol. I am vegetarian. I have long since made many of the lifestyle changes most doctors would recommend to anyone trying to take control of their weight. And yet here we are. 

I am insecure about this stuff. When I was a kid I was pretty podgy for a few years. I’d like to say this was ‘puppy fat’, but the truth is that I ate loads of chocolate biscuits and rarely got up off the sofa between the ages of 10 and 14.

The teasing and cruelty that went along with my childhood tubbiness cut pretty deep. The exact wording of insults delivered by bullies, friends, relatives and – perhaps worst of all – secret crushes about my plump appearance still ring vividly in my mind all these years later. 

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This was back in the Eighties when sensitivities around weight issues and body image were pretty non-existent. It was perfectly fine to tell someone you wouldn’t date them because they were too fat. Even my absent father once told my mum, struggling to raise me and my brothers alone, that I was too fat and she must take measures to address the situation. For some reason my mother reported this conversation back to me. 

It’s hard to get over that stuff. Of course you can have a high BMI and still be healthy and beautiful
and confident. Objectively I know that’s true because I can see it in other people. But it’s a story that I
struggle to tell myself internally with any conviction.

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I have been slim for most of my adult life. In my late thirties I started drinking way too much and put a bunch of weight on. Then I got sober at 40 and started exercising. Since then I’ve felt as if I’d got the whole balance right. 

I am not particularly rotund. I am 6ft 2in, and the height manages to hide the weight quite well by stretching it all out lengthways. I’m not massively keen on regarding myself naked in a full-length mirror to be honest (who is?), but I manage to look at photos of myself without feeling too disgusted.

I feel fit; certainly, a great deal fitter than I did 10 years ago. Plus, my blood pressure is healthy and my cholesterol levels are low. Maybe the BMI index is just a scam designed to nurture fear and insecurity in the civilian populous so that we feel ever more dependent on a matriarchal state? You know, like the credit rating system, or Isis.

Yes, I have a habit of second helpings at dinner time. I go through phases of rampant chocolate consumption. A Friday night takeaway is comfortably the highlight of my week. So I realise I am not exactly living the Mark Wahlberg lifestyle. 

But seriously, what more does my body want from me? 

Read more at samdelaney.substack.com
@DelaneyMan

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