I’m mad. I’ve been mad about this for years. And I’m too mad to not write about it anymore. In fact I wish I could go up to random strangers in the street about it, because that’s how mad I am.
Do you know what a healthy woman weighs?
Do you? I bet you don’t. I bet you have no idea. And you know why? Because if you think you do, the woman in question is probably lying.
Okay, yes, that’s probably an accepted reality, but I want to take it a step further and say that even healthy women, athletic women, strong women, lie shamelessly about their weight. To the point where I just might eat an entire chocolate cake by myself because I must just be clinically obese by comparison.
Did you know that as of this very moment, Maria Sharapova is reported to weigh 130 pounds? Yes, this Maria Sharapova, the one who is over 6 feet tall, has won every single tennis grand slam at least once, the one who screams like a banshee when she hits a tennis ball.
Do you know what her BMI would be if she really weighed 130 pounds and was 6’2″, her reported weight? 16.69. That’s almost 2 whole points less than 18.5, the usual limit for being a healthy weight.
But, as my mom put it, we refuse to believe that a “healthy” woman weighs more than 150 pounds. No matter what she looks like, no matter how tall she is or what she does for a living. On the daily show, a guest on/pundit from ABC is quoted as saying that the problem with women in the military is that “A marine who’s 6’4″ and 240 pounds” and needs to be carried to safety can’t be when the marine next to him is “5’4″ and 115 pounds”.
You really think a woman can get through basic training and still weight HALF what her male colleagues do? Do you? DO YOU? The reality is that while in some circumstances she might, my guess is she would have had to put on a significant amount of muscle to get through. Or probably never weighed 115 pounds to begin with.
But it’s not just pundits or Wikipedia that this affects. It’s everyone. A few months ago I visited a friend and went with her to visit her work; she works as a sporting goods/bike shop. While there, her coworker described another employee, who I think was about 5’9″ or 5’10” and also a competitive skater. The girl in question, who was very thin, had hurt her mouth and needed to go in a liquid diet. “She’s probably going to lose about 10 or 20 pounds!” He cried. “She probably only weighs about 110 to start with!” I actually tried to correct him and said, “You know, if she has all that muscle I bet she weighs at least 10 or 20 pounds more than that.” “Oh, no, I’m sure she can’t weigh more than 120” he corrected me.
Because as a woman, I can’t possibly have any clue what women weigh.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not trying to say that I know what other women weigh any more than I know what other men weigh. However, this idea that even a healthy woman can’t weigh more than a really scrawny man is detrimental. Women are expected to have breasts and butts and hips. We’re told we need to have “curves”. And yet we have to somehow fit all that into a certain number of pounds, like some sort of deranged algebra problem.
Weight+Curves+Makeup+Hair always has to = less than you could possibly imagine. And if it doesn’t, lie.
If you wonder why girls under 10 are dieting, why there are so many magazines devoted to weight loss, why everything in the store comes in “diet” as well as regular (even water, I feel like), this is one of the big reasons.
It’s why women in Hollywood can lose 20 pounds left and right (I’m looking at you, Kirstie Alley and Jessica Simpson) and yet still maintain their enormous chests. Because they never were honest about what they weighed in the first place, and they’re not starting now- they’re just throwing numbers at you and waiting to see which one gets you to buy their product.
It’s why women like Mayim Bialik can consider themselves fat- she has referred to herself more than once in her blog as “the fattest woman in Hollywood” while looking like this:
If you’re wondering about a proposed solution to this, it’s simple and not really new.
Weigh yourself if you want, use it to measure your own progress, but stop telling other people like it means something.
We should measure our fitness success by things like finishing more crunches, running farther, eating more vegetables and still not getting hungry. By how our pants or skirts fit and whether or not we can eat lunch without our waistbands feeling tight. Because when we compare ourselves to others, we lie to keep from falling short; and when we lie, we all fall short in the end.