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What is Normal, Anyway?

on 13 December, 2014

I stumbled onto a page about BMI. How I did that, I’ll never know. It was an interesting article, which for the most part, I wholly disagree with.

But the comments were more entertaining than the website. One woman proudly declared “In my fifth decade and am 5’6″ and 161 pounds!” But the real kicker was her follow up. “Don’t tell me it is about metabolism or big bones or genetics. Just put down the food and go for a walk.” Or words to that effect.

Never one to let an opportunity for a snarky comment, I followed up with a cute remark about how she was technically 4 pounds from being bumped into the ‘overweight’ category. Four friggin’ pounds. That ain’t enough to be calling out the majority of America. Not by a long shot.

But that got me to thinking. There has to be something that prevents at least part of the overweight and obese in this country. I mean, think about people who have a real vested interest in being one of the “beautiful people”.

I’ve been watching this new Amazon Prime series called “Alpha House”. The star of the show? John Goodman. One of my all time favorites from way back when he was Dan Connor on “Roseanne”. And to think this well respected and talented actor is obese?

Surely someone like that, someone who’s career depended – at least in part – on how they look would be able to take the weight off and keep it off. Right? How about Kathy Bates? Consider Kirstie Alley. Or Kathleen Turner? Once knock down, take-your-breath-away gorgeous. Surely, simply eating too much and not exercising didn’t lead to any of these people from gaining weight. Right?

So, you look at my family. I have photos that go back as far as my grandparents’ grandparents on a farm in southern Sweden and guess what. They are big people. Not enormous, but considering that they were farmers and worked hard from before sun-up until after sun-down, surely it wasn’t that they weren’t getting enough exercise. And somehow I doubt too much ice cream and cake wasn’t part of their daily food intake and led them to their hefty demises.

From birth – being a premie (5 weeks early) I was a skinny kid. My “graduation from kindergarten” photo is almost one of those stick figure girls, with a triangle for a dress and two lines for legs coming down from it.

girl-clipart-stick-figure-Rcdoeykc9Somehow, from there I managed to acquire the Benson physique. I always felt like I was so much bigger than my classmates. Although in hindsight, I was about 140 pounds at high school graduation. What I wouldn’t give to be that size again!

But, like I said, I am a Benson, and we’re hairy and hefty. We are descended from Vikings. Well, at the very least we’re descendent from cold weather living, so I think everyone was blessed with an extra layer of fat. There’s no denying it, look at any of the photos of my family. Even my mother’s side of the family, which hailed from northern Germany, I come from a long line of “stocky” people.

And speaking from experience, I know what it takes to be a “normal” weight. When I was 27, I (along with millions of other people) did the Fen/Phen diet. I went from 206 to 138, loosing an incredible 68 pounds over the course of 8 months. Went from a size 11/13 (12/14) down to a size 5/7. You wouldn’t hardly recognize me. And how did I manage that? Other than the Fen/Phen, it was 500 calories a day and walking between 5 and 10 miles every day. And running stairs at the hospital I worked, on the sixth floor.

That wasn’t normal. Or right. Or healthy. It was an obsession and one that was obviously not good for me or my body. When I came off the ultra-restrictive diet, I managed to easily regain about 30 pounds. Even so, I felt good pretty good, but without the ultra-restrictive diet and the excessive exercise program, the weight crept back about 5 pounds a year.

Doesn’t seem like much, but when you think that it has been 20 years since I lost all the weight – well, I am right at about 100 pounds overweight. Just five little pounds a year.

Not to mention, my knees are shot (no cartilage in either knee), have continuous headaches – or as I have been diagnosed as having cluster migraines – and shoulder and back pain from the weight I carry out front. But with all of that, I guess the logic would be that I am just another lazy, couch-surfing good-for-nothing.

Nope. It is because of genetics coupled with injuries. And much as I have tried dieting of every kind over the years, nothing worked (with the exception of the prescription speed). And I don’t have to be on camera or in the public’s eye, like some of the wonderful folks I mentioned above.

So, get off your high horse, if you’re lucky enough to inherit “skinny” genes or an (over) active metabolism. Or a love of green vegetables and a dislike of calorie laden foods. Just be happy for yourself. You don’t need to run around making fun of others who haven’t been so lucky on the spinning wheel of gene selection. Just go quietly and enjoy your luck.

For it may be you next when you’ve made it through another holiday season and gain 5 pounds. Because that puts you squarely in the category of “overweight”.



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