Monday, December 21, 2009

Sit Down und Eat!

If the professional media would do their jobs better, I'd see somebody saying what needed to be said, and I could keep my mind on happier subjects. Grrr. I may start a new feature about how this world needs people to talk sensibly and stop muddying the waters, and then I can sprout it off so everyone can ignore it more easily.

My day started with some research after Brittany Murphy's death. Because you want to know who else died at 32 of cardiac arrest? Karen Carpenter, the woman who inadvertently put anorexia on the map. Here's one of those cases where we probably won't have any trustworthy information until the print accounts come out, but the sources I've seen put Murphy at 5'5" and 105 pounds. Whatever other factors might be involved, that is just plain too skinny.

Once I got started, I was disturbed at how hard it is to find helpful info about healthy weight. If you look online for the health risks of being underweight, there's a sea of incomprehension, summarized generally as "OMG, how can being skinny be bad for you? That's not possible!"

This is the blurb about underweightness that I don't feel bad re-printing, since I came across it on a half-dozen health sites before I gave up looking for something more substantial in that direction:

"There are a number of reasons why someone may be underweight. Some people are just naturally thinner than others, because they tend to burn more calories or eat less. Other people may lose weight as a result of certain medications or an underlying medical condition. Sudden weight loss without trying can also be an indication of a health problem, so talk to your doctor.

"For some people, being too thin is a self-induced condition, known as anorexia nervosa. Anorexia is a condition where sufferers may diet to the point of near-starvation or exercise excessively all in the name of weight control. Though anorexia is a psychological illness, it can have serious physical complications, including heart and lung problems, osteoporosis, and, in some cases, death."

See what they're doing there? On the one hand, you're either just naturally skinny, or it's a medical condition. On the other, you have an extreme, clinically diagnosable mental disorder. Nothing about otherwise healthy people who DON'T FREAKING EAT. Many girls, and under-reported boys, are too thin, frequently because they're on dangerous diets and/or exercise regimens, without being close to technically anorexic (as I also know from my adventures in insurance, where all eating disorders are diagnoses with specific criteria).

If you search for the health risks of anorexia, you do find all sorts of information about the dangers, including to the heart, and the particular danger of cardiac arrest.

The problem here is that it's not the existence of an eating disorder as such that causes the health problem. It's not your self-image or your constellation of symptoms. It is the simple fact of not taking in enough nutrients to fuel the system, which is very dangerous for your health, especially over time. I wish the media would stop talking about anorexia and eating disorders and use some plain language for once: it is dangerous to be TOO SKINNY. Your heart doesn't care why you're too skinny. It doesn't know. It's just trying to work with what it has coming in, and if that isn't enough, there's too much stress on it.

Oddly enough, Kareena Kapoor, of the infamous "Size Zero," is also 32. I've found various sources for her weight, and the highest number I saw was 92 pounds. I've tested various healthy weight for height charts, and the lowest healthy weight I've seen for a small-framed woman of 5'4" is 111 pounds, although even Weight Watchers, who I'd assume would have different standards from mine, suggests 117. Get healthier, Bebo, before it's too late!

Full disclosure: yes, I'm a little vehement about this, because I know. I'm small-framed, of a nervous, high-metabolism temperament, and when I was skinny, I knew I was too skinny. I've never dieted a day in my life. Under no criteria could I have been considered anorexic, or diagnosable with an "eating disorder." I was just broke, and I wasn't making it a priority to take care of myself. And I didn't realize that the skinnier you are, the less margin there is. (Which all these skinny dieting girls don't either: skipping meals when you have a little padding is one thing, but skipping them when you're barely taking in enough to function in the first place is totally different).

I'm 5'6" and into my mid-twenties, I weighed about 95 pounds. I would wake up at night, and my heart would be racing, for no reason at all. It was very unhealthy, and I did not look good. People thought I looked sick. I am a million times better off with some meat on my bones.

I've made myself hungry, so yes! Time for bagel...

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