The world (media) is telling us repeatedly that we must have very low body fat to be happy or good looking or fulfilled or whatever. Ok they generally don’t come out and say it with words but they sure do with images.
Body Image. Is this a girl thing? Studies show it’s not just a girl thing. Guys just don’t talk about it! (1) We all care to a certain point what are bodies look like. Don’t think so? Have a pool party and see how many guests show up and freely stand around in their swimsuit or get in the pool other than kids or the one guy you know who spends his life at the gym. Heck, I spend a good portion of my day at a workout facility and I don’t feel comfortable shirtless! If I was super ripped, I still wouldn’t feel comfortable with my shirt off for the possible polarizing effects it might have on my friends not as lean as me. It shouldn’t be this way but think about the only time you see someone shirtless (dudes) or in a swimsuit. Their bodies are typically near “perfect”. The amazing thing is that even those people are frequently insecure about their body image. We rarely see men or women on TV or in any other form of media that don’t have the “ideal body”. Sidenote (went to Padre Island for Spring Break when I was 20 and found out that the partiers on MTV Spring Break had been screened, the bodies I saw didn’t resemble the ones on TV!)
Here’s some stat from a few studies I found regarding this issue. There aren’t as many on adults as children but here they are anyway.
- 42% of 1st-3rd graders have been on a diet (Collins, 1991)
- 80% of children who are 10 years old are afraid of being fat. (source)
- The body type portrayed in advertising as the ideal is possessed naturally by only 5% of American females – National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
- An average US woman is 5’4” tall weighing 140 pounds; the average US model is 5’11” weighing 117 pounds – West Virginia Dept of Education
Want to find out how you feel about your body? Get a friend with a really fit body. You’ll most likely not want to be around them the warmer it gets or you’ll secretly hate them for their genes or dedication to their fitness goals.
What good does being dissatisfied with your body image do for you!? Doesn’t carrying this burden around with you only cause harm to you? I would advise daily to remember and be thankful if you have a well and fully functioning body. Should you pay no attention to your physical form? No. Use it as a clue to how healthy you are. Aim for a healthy bodyfat percentage not a ridiculous one (See Chart at bottom). Also, don’t mistake a heavier set person who exercises for being not as healthy. BODY FAT DOES NOT DEFINE ONE”S HEALTH! The majority of times those two can be linked together but you cannot measure ones’ fitness from body fat alone. I’ve met a decent number of people that had surprisingly healthy blood panels despite carrying an extra 50-100lbs. of fat. On the flip side, I met a guy once who had very well defined abs but had never been in a gym and his core was really weak when tested.
Fellas! Stop using the NFL as your height weight guide. Your weight should be closer to the guys on American Ninja Warrior.
The below table is a general guideline for bodyfat percentage for male and females. I do have an age adjusted one at my facility that I believe is a little more accurate.
In conclusion, I think the key here is balance. If you’re spending a ton of time in the gym and on your diet so you can try to attain a near unachievable body, stop. Dietary changes need to be moderate not extreme to avoid becoming an orthorexic (google it). Workouts done to achieve good fitness for health and to lower body fat to a healthy level, do not take more than 40 min. typically. Vanity will not disappear for most people but if brought into balance you will have more inner peace. Who doesn’t want that!