The time has come for the world to re-think how it looks at ideal body weight. This may seem to be a minor point in the overall scheme of things in the realm of health, but I am beginning to realize that how we approach the matter of body weight might just be the holy grail in the prevention of disease and disability.
I am mostly referring to the problem that too many of us have in the so-called overweight category. They are plenty of people who never have to give their weight much thought during their entire lives and those who struggle to gain weight and my comments do not directly apply to them.
Ideal body weight is an individual matter. It is not something that can be codified and put into some sort of skillfully designed indexing system. The mainstream medical community has been lulled into thinking that the calculation of body mass index (BMI), where a person's height and weight are parlayed into a category, is a good enough measure to determine whether or not someone should lose or gain weight.
Sure, there are many sensible health professionals who understand that BMI is just a point of reference and that looking at the individual is the most important thing to do. But BMI has become so institutionalized that too many people may not look beyond it and realize that there is more to ideal weight than a number in a weight category.
If we are ever to understand how to find an ideal body weight, if such a thing exists, we have to create a new way of looking at what health means to each individual. My concept of good health may not be the same as yours. And you and I may both be 5 feet 6 inches tall and have similar body types, but that does not mean we should both weigh the same.
This is where things get tricky because I do not believe we can or should codify ideal weight. What we need to do is to look at our own bodies and consider the history of our bodies, both genetically and from an historical disease perspective.
If someone has a strong family history of osteoarthritis and they have developed significant spine and knee pain then their ideal body weight may not be the same as someone without those problems. This means that the person with arthritis needs to find out what weight results in the least amount of pain.
This is not an easy thing to do and it is very difficult for many people to lose weight and to lose enough to really make a difference in how they feel about themselves and how they experience bodily discomforts.
Finding ideal weight is a process and it something that will have to be worked on and fine tuned during a lifetime, but if someone is mindful of the concept and they are able to make it a part of their daily life the rewards will be tremendous.
The next step is probably the most difficult. Diets are a waste of time, so if someone is overweight and looking to seriously change their life then they need to change the way they interact with food. The phrase, "Eat to live, not live to eat," sticks in my mind.
If overweight has been a long-time problem then we have to establish a new relationship with food. I would suggest fasting for a day or two and only drinking water. (I realize that may not be possible for some and other less extreme types of semi-fasting might be just as good.)
Many schools of mind-body purification call for fasting on a regular basis as a way to detoxify the body. It also forces one to think about food in a different way and could be looked at as some form of meditation that can serve as an attitude adjustment.
Once a person has figured out some of the changes that have to be made they have to muster the most will power they have ever had and try to make it work on a daily basis for the rest of their lives.
It is not easy, but if a person wants to have some degree of control over the quality of their life then it must be done.
Richard Davis is a registered nurse. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.