Pretty = healthy?

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running barefoot

Shouldn’t your physical health reflect your psychological health? What is physical health? Is the “ideal physique” also the healthiest? What people consider to be a “healthy” BMI has changed dramatically throughout history. In fact, the fat percentage considered to be “most attractive” is significantly lower than what appears to be the healthiest.

There is No Scientific “Optimal” Body Fat %

How lean we should be? There is still no unanimous answer. Many average body fat % recommendations are based on observational studies, but no official scientific document has been published yet. Therefore, there is no validated level of body fat considered to be “optimal”, and the terms “overweight” and “obese” are based on BMI, not body fat %.

What is Most “Attractive” is Not Necessarily Healthiest

Our idea of what is beautiful comes, in part, from our culture, ethnicity, lifestyle and even climate zone. Looking at western perceptions, women with an intermediate level of body fat have been rated more attractive than women who had a low or high level of body fat. Also, a low waist-to-hip ratio (around 0.7) and BMI of 18–19 kg/m2 is perceived as more attractive in females. Yet the BMI linked to lowest risk of death is around 23.3 kg/m2 (1). As you see percpetions don‘t seem to match what is optimal from a health perspetive.

These sociocultural pressures on women to focus on their appearance have generally been higher than pressures placed on males. In today’s filtered Instagram world, women at any cost try to control their weight and outer appearance, usually forgetting about the potential damage they could be doing to themselves.

You Come First

While EBT often talks about how to burn fat and build muscle. These goals should always be placed secondary to your own health. Caloric restriction, by for example carbohydrate reduction, combined with strength training and cardio all help with body fat reduction while stopping loss of muscle mass, but even though there are possible ways to make someone look better in the mirror, the most important message from this article is to take a moment and realize that your health and well-being always come before a number on the scale or a new personal record. Sociocultural demands are constantly changing, trying to make you prove yourself to them. The only person you need to keep happy is yourself.


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  • 1098/rsbl.2013.0255

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