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Monday, April 12, 2010

Should I listen to the "average" info?

I have my B.A. from a 4-year college - which actually took me 6 years to get, but who's counting - but I swear, the amount of research, reading, looking up, and soaking in of information I've learned on this healthy journey is WAY more than my years in college! There's so much info out there but since the beginning, I've always wondered something:

Should I, your non-average American, be following the "average" info out there?

I am an Asian-American and according to the United States statistics, I am a minority in this nation. And a woman nonetheless. The U.S. has health stats and figures (and websites!) that differ for women from a minority group so should I be looking up health info for an Asian-American woman rather than follow all the "average" weight/BMI/RMR/calorie intake/body fat % stats we usually go by?

I've always wondered that but I ask now because I've been going at this for over a year and half now and although I've lost a lot of weight following the "average" info, I've come to a point where my progress has stalled. I know I've had an off week here or there, but to date, I haven't lost ANY weight since the beginning of the year. Also, according to my monthly 4-point caliper readings done by two personal trainers at my gym, I'm 34% body fat. It's not that I'm in denial or don't believe I still have fat to lose (I KNOW I do!), but when I look at other women with a body fat % of about 30%, I don't think my body composition is anything like theirs.

I'm no scientists or health care professional, but it would seem that my stats would differ slightly than what the average - dare I say it, Caucasian - woman's stats are.
(I don't want to offend anyone but I'm not sure what the politically correct term is for the majority of people in the U.S. I've seen white ethnic American or European American, but Caucasian seems to be the most common so I'll stick to that. Again, I don't mean to offend anyone.)

The best analogy I can think of, which may not be a good analogy at all, are dogs - or any type of animal. We know dog breeds range from sizes to different body compositions, which is why each breed has different feeding requirements/amount of exercise/health stats. They're still all dogs in the general sense, but each breed is different. Couldn't that be the same for each race? I mean if the average Asian woman only grows to 5'2" but the average Caucasian woman is 5'5" why do we follow the same guidelines? Three inches may not be a huge difference, but I'm 5'0" so you're talking about a 5 inch difference from the "average". According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), all 5-feet of me is overweight with a BMI of 26.4. Add 5 inches to me and 5'5" me has a normal BMI of 22.5... that's a big difference.

I haven't done too much research into this, but from what I've been reading on the World Health Organization site, different countries/races have different BMI guidelines. INTERESTING!

Here's a chart I found for an adjusted BMI for Asian-Americans. For me, that's a 10-lbs. difference from the "average" BMI:

I'm still trying to find the credibility of these numbers but good to know I might be on to something.

And don't worry, I'm not caught up in BMI numbers cause I know they don't reflect body composition, BMI was the only example I could find differences in for minority/majority groups in America. But if BMI can be different, then maybe calorie intake, body fat % measurments, and other health stats could be different for the non-average American.
If anyone else has info or know of any good sites, PLEASE let me know.


PhluffyPrincess said...

Very interesting post. I completely agree about numbers looking different on other women. I go back and forth about this as well. I find that many Black women use what you've described as an excuse to stay overweight stating "those numbers aren't for Black people" or something similar. But then on the OTHER hand, race and body composition definitely make a difference. Hmmmm, so all that to say I am glad you are considering the differences, but I have no set conclusion! lol.

~HoneyB~ said...

Wow what an enlightening post! I had never thought of it before now but I bet your onto something.

Is it race though? Or just how your particular body is shaped? I am 5 ft 9 inches and at 137 lbs you can count the ribs in my back... that number doesnt sound small but on my body for some reason it is. My best weight is around 165 to 170... I am 3/4 White and 1/4 Native American.

Very interesting ....

Jeff - DangleTheCarrot said...

Let me ask this question ... once you find the percentages you are looking for how will it change what you are doing?

Once you reach an average percentage on some chart from some body composition study will you change your healthy lifestyle?

Basically I am wondering why it matters? IMO, it seems like all this searching could lead to paralysis from analysis.

just my .02

Anonymous said...

This is a great question! However, you seem to be assuming that there are some scientific stats somewhere that reflect actual studies reflecting health outcomes for different weights, etc.

I just finished a four year BS degree (in 5 years but who's counting)in nursing and got my RN degree. You can believe it or not: there is no good solid data to date on any of the questions you ask about. Some studies show that being overweight (in terms of current BMI charts, which were intended to reflect trends in populations, not to reflect ideal sizes for individuals.) In all sincerity, you may NOW be at the healthiest weight for you!

There simply are no hard and fast rules about what you as an individual (vs. and "average" person!) should weigh or what % of body fat you should, ideally, maintain. A healthy weight is one, I believe, that allows you to be as active as you prefer and to eat well without feeling deprived 24/7. All the fancy equations re metabolism, etc, are based on small dubious studies (of men!) and should not be applied to women, in general. I personally hate what the diet culture does to women, very few of whom can fit comfortably into the categories they read about and see (constantly) in the media.

My 2 cents. LOL.

You look fabulous in your photos and should just keep doing what makes you feel strong and healthy and happy--rather than aiming for some "ideal" that maybe 5% to 10% of the female population can fit into without sacrificing quality of life.

Take care! You are awesome!

Annie, The Amazing Shrinking Girl said...

Add to say that the last couple comments hit home for me. After I wrote this post (which I composed over the weekend) I realized that all this information doesn't make a difference. I think I was looking for an excuse to why I haven't lost any weight since the beginning of the year.. sad, huh?

I think my main point about this post was to lead back to the fact that I think I may be taking in more calories than necessary.

Yeah, I haven't been counting calories for the last several weeks, but before that I was sticking to a cal intake of no less than 1600 (based on the "average") but I was so worried about going below that 1600 number. I think I just to need find what works for me, even if it is a little lower than average. If it works for me and I can still continue to bring it, then that's what I need to do, right?

Boomer said...

Annie, I would just keep using your body fat stats and the mirror. No matter what your ethnic background, BF and the mirror level the playing field. What does make a difference is your metabolic rate. I know a lot of folks (myself included) that workout regularly with intensity and burn less calories per hour than the average. Just make adjustments for your personal metabolism. Since few of us have a "text-book" anatomy, there will always be large differences even within the same ethnicity. The good news is that you are healthier than a lot of other folks.

Barrie said...

Well done on what you have achieved so far! It is clear you want to live life the way you want to more power to you. We have looked into all the facts around diet and diseases and have come up with some startling facts! Check out our site at http://foodmythsbusted.com/blog where you will find lots of great articles and information which I believe you will find useful.
Keep doing what feels right for you!

Annalisa201 said...

ok, my 2 cents: Forget all those numbers - calories especially. Get HAPPY! Is this - the whole journey of health - all for a great looking body? Partly I suspect. What we all should be asking ourselves: Is a hot perfect body (Ha, "perfect" and "body" in the same sentence, what a joke) the source of happiness? And I suspect that happiness is what we're after, right? I think you may just be overly critical of your own body (aren't we all) and need a change of perspective... Just a hunch.

Get happy. Evaluate what makes you happy or happiest, and pursue it. For me, that is being close to God, doing right by my family, being spontaneous, exercising consistently is a big part of my happiness - but despite the fact that I was 1 of only 4 larger (not super skinny) girls in the fitness class I took a few hours ago, I was in fact the only one smiling and enjoying it I think (or from what I could tell, the look of exhaustion on other 30 women's faces). The point is, happiness should be priority, not bmi or calorie deficit, or ###s - Just promise me you won't lose yourself in this journey.

Sorry, maybe this is not what you need to hear, but it's something I needed to write, at the least, so I could get it in my own thick skull too.

Love ya Annie ;)