Healthy vs. aesthetically pleasing

“You can’t judge someone’s health by their weight.”

This is mostly true.

Super-skinny people sometimes just have high metabolism. I know a handful of people who eat well and are very slender. (There is at least as much vitriol towards the very slender as there is towards the obese.)

Sometimes slightly chunky people are just built like that. Sometimes, they’re slender people with extra weight on them.

There’s conflicting research on whether a few extra pounds is healthy or not. I’m not here to make a judgement call on that one way or the other.

I’m not sure we agree on what “healthy” means, regardless.

We know that extra weight isn’t good for hips and knees (and probably other weight-bearing joints). Does that make an extra 20 pounds unhealthy?

We’re beginning to learn that obesity might not cause diabetes, but that the same underlying factors might cause both. I would argue that the habits that cause both create an unhealthy body and by that metric, obesity can be considered unhealthy.

Excess fat creates metabolic stress in the body. I would like to teach you about that, and I will, but I realize that I’m getting on a tangent, so we’ll come back to that in the coming days.

In the meantime, the point of the beginning was: skinny people might be healthy and might not be, slightly overweight people might be healthy and might not be. But obese people are not healthy. Regardless of what caused it, 50 or 100 or more extra pounds is not good for you.

That said, people have all sorts of unhealthy behaviors, and who are you (or I) to judge?

“Sitting is the new smoking.” Sitting for most of the day is bad for your health, even if you run marathons in your spare time. Can you tell by looking at someone how much they sit?

Drinking too much is unhealthy. (How much is “too much” is debatable.) Eating processed foods is often unhealthy (depending on how strictly you define “processed”). Consuming added sugars, whether in drinks or foods, is generally unhealthy, and sugar substitutes are, too. Artificial everything sucks for your body. Carrying anger is unhealthy. Social isolation, exposure to radiation, consumption of foods and drinks cooked in plastics are all unhealthy.

Can you tell any of these things just by looking at someone?

No. No, you can’t.

So we cannot determine if someone is healthy, even if they are healthy-looking.

Let’s pretend we can, and that there is a narrow range of “heathy weight.”

Within that range, there is a variety of shapes. Half a dozen people can be the same height and weight and look significantly different.

We can be beautiful (or ugly) at any size and any shape. It’s not inherent to being healthy or looking healthy.

Seriously, people. How often have you looked at a meal or a dessert and admired its beauty, and it was 100% unhealthy food?

Beauty and healthy are disconnected.

Obese people can be beautiful. I don’t think we should try to argue that they’re healthy, but those are two separate conversations — one that anyone can have their own opinion about, and one that is between that person, their doctors, and maybe their family or whoever else they have chosen to make part of that conversation. (Or maybe they don’t care.*)

And, like any other opinions about strangers, unless it’s favorable or it was explicitly and directly asked for, keep it to yourself.

Recap: aesthetics? You can have an opinion, and you can share positive opinions. Health? You have no idea unless you’re part of their health care team.

(And in real life, there is so much we still don’t know and so much we disregard, even health care teams aren’t always spot on.)

*I have not ever had a conversation with anyone who didn’t actually care about their health. I know many people who are stressed or shamed or guilty about it and are paralyzed and can’t make forward progress on it. Sometimes those people say they don’t care because it feels better than all the things they feel when they admit to caring (admit either to themselves or to others). But with the possible exception of people who are ready to die (for whatever variety of reasons), it’s been my experience that people do care, they just don’t always admit it or act on it.

Leave a Comment