The BMI of Olympic Athletes... actually really normal!

Friday, February 26, 2010

As I close in on my goal weight, I've been thinking a lot about how I know what's a healthy weight for me. I have a medium frame, so I finally decided (especially after my ribs started to get more obvious than I think is attractive) that I should definitely stop at 127 rather than at my original goal of 125. To be honest, I think my original goal was 125 just because my mother used Spark and got down to 125, and I thought I needed to do at least the same since my mother is a little taller than me. But the reality is that my mother has a small frame, so 130 looks like more weight on her body than it does on mine, and my "happy weight" (and healthy weight) is going to be a bit higher.

But maybe it goes deeper than that. Before I started using Spark, I think I always had it in my head that 125 was "skinny." I didn't realize just how much weight is subjective... someone my height could look skeletal at 120 while someone much shorter could look a little chubby. One of the amazing things about Spark for me has been how honest people are about their weight on here. I was never overweight, but I was embarrassed to put down my weight of 140 when I started here, perhaps in part because all I really had as comparison was the fact that when my mom gets to 140 she feels she has really gained too much weight.

After a few days, though, I decided to be honest and post my weight and goals in my ticker. Seeing everyone else's tickers-- and looking at their spark pages and seeing just how awesome some people look at 160, and how my 140 doesn't look like the 140 of someone shorter than me, has made me really internalize the message that the number on the scale is just a number. BMI is better, but 130 on me is going to look better than 130 one someone with a small frame. In fact, I would probably look skeletal and scary at 120, even though that is technically within my "healthy" range. And yeah, I have moments where I wonder why I couldn't have gotten a small frame like my mother and my sister... why I can't have a body that can sail down into low 120s with curves left over. So yeah, I'll never be in size zero jeans, but I can look great in size four.

I think one thing that makes this number game tricky is that nobody really talks about their weight. I mean, yes, I do know the weights of some of my girlfriends, but when I would hear how much they weighted I think I would forget to calculate in the fact that they are taller or shorter than me. So maybe we all latch into some idea of what number = skinny and hold onto that when it isn't necessarily accurate for our body and our bones. Also, I frankly don't believe that some celebrities are as skinny as we're told they are. Maybe the camera adds 10 lbs, but I also think people love to quote incredibly low numbers for healthy-looking celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, which feeds into this idea that we have to have some amazingly low weight to be "slim." I doubt celebrities are any more honest about their weight than most of us, and besides, I think a lot of them are shorter than we realize.

Anyway, the original point of this post was that, for some reason, the height and weight of Olympic athletes are posted on the Yahoo website, so this is one other place where we can go to see how much real (albiet super incredibly fit) people weigh. I saw Spark articles about how olympic athletes weigh more and so aren't featured on the cover of magazines, and frankly I didn't really believe it... I mean, I think curlers and speed skaters aren't featured on the cover of magazines because, well, their sports aren't all that well-known. They're amazing athletes but not celebrities. I don't think skinniness is the secret to magazine covers that people like to claim it is... if it was, I bet we'd still see supermodels on the cover of magazines rather than actresses.

So here are some BMIs that I discovered when I spend a half hour looking at the Yahoo site:

US Skiier Lindsey Vonn: 5'10", 165 lbs-- BMI = 23.7, on the upper end of normal weight. (And she was not only on the cover of magazines, but posed in a bathing suit!)

US Skiier Julia Mancuso: 5'6", 141 lbs-- BMI = 22.4 (And she totally looks skinnier than that!)

Canadian Ice Dancer Tessa Virtue: 5'3", 110 lbs-- BMI = 19.5, at the bottom end of normal weight. She was the Canadian ice dance gold medal winner, and I was curious about her because she looks SO slim (and we hear all the time that figure skaters are under pressure to be unhealthily skinny). Her BMI is actually just into the normal range, and she probably has a small frame, so despite the fact that her body fat percentage is probably super low, I think she's healthy.

US Ice dancer Tanith Belbin: 5'6", 115 lbs-- BMI = 18.6. I hope this was BEFORE she gained the 10 lbs that she said helped her compete, not after... if it was after, I can see why she didn't have the strength to lift herself before! Yikes!

US Figure Skater Mirai Nagasu: 5'2", 110 lbs-- BMI = 20.1. And she's so cute!!

US Hockey Player Angela Ruggiero: 5'8", 190 lbs-- BMI = 28.1, which is technically on the upper end of overweight, though she totally doesn't look it (it's probably mostly muscle!). She also graduated from Harvard and was on the Apprentice, so she's pretty awesome.

US Snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis: 5'6", 146 lbs, BMI = 22.6. (She's a totally beautiful girl who looks great when she isn't in the baggy snowboarding uniforms, too!)

Anyway, I guess what I love about this is that these are real, beautiful, healthy women. And no, they aren't getting passed over for endorsements or magazine covers because of their weight... in fact some of the girls with higher BMIs are the most sought-after. And yeah, the figure skaters are really skinny (though mostly in the healthy range) and yeah, muscle weighs more than fat, but at the bottom line these are just examples how how great people look at different weights... and how powerful our bodies can be when they're healthy. How you don't need to have a BMI of 17 to be attractive, which honestly I think is one of the messages we get when we're told, over and over, about how painfully skinny celebrities are.

I don't know if this message has a real point except that I love our honesty about our weights here on Spark, and I love the images of beauty at all weights that we get from olympic athletes. I don't even buy into the idea that our culture only rewards people of tiny weight-- I think a lot of women weigh more than we realize. Just a few things I'm mulling over as I figure out my happy weight.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Real women aren't perfect. Perfect women aren't real. Plus, we come in so many different shapes and sizes. Excellet blog. Thanks for reminding us about our own individual happy weight. emoticon
    3881 days ago
    And for the record, you actually look amazing in a size 2.
    3916 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/10/2010 9:35:58 AM
    I LOVED this blog. Being a medium framed gal myself I'm having to get used to the idea that I might look too thin at my goal of 120. You'll have to help keep me in check, k? Haha. Wishing you the best of luck finding that "happy" weight of yours!
    3926 days ago
    Great post! Thanks for doing that checking out of the Olympic athletes :-). And you'll be pleased to know that for the last 3 weeks I've *maintained* my 125 status-- I'm *not* going lower :-). And your dad says that I still have nice curves and some extra padding here and there-- no skeletal look here :-). Yes, the frame-size is very important-- and the fat/muscle percentage, too. I've often read that many athletes can have seemingly 'high' BMI's, when it's more a reflection of the density of their muscles.

    Yes, the *honesty* is very nice here on SparkPeople-- and the emphasis on *healthy* living, and developing energy, stamina, strength, and overall fitness... and good sensible wholesome eating habits that don't toss out whole major categories of food. And also a recognition that everyone's body *will* look and be *different*-- we're made differently, shaped differently, and that's ok. Vibrant good health and energy are indeed what brings a sense of beauty. I'm amazed that at 58, I actually feel healthier and more energetic and fit than when 25. The encouragement to be *consistent* and keep at finding fun ways to add fitness in throughout my day (say, I've taken to using a stretchy band for upper body strengthening while reading things online at time :-), and doubling my 'aerobic housecleaning' approach :-) ), is especially a help to me. And the encouragement to try NEW activities and not just get 'stuck' in doing the 'same old, same old'.

    It's also great having my *daughter* on the site too :-).

    Love you lots!
    Mom :-)
    3927 days ago
    Yes! Right on, and AMEN! I couldn't agree with you more. I believe it's fitness, good health, and above all, CONFIDENCE that makes people of any size beautiful. Nice post!
    3927 days ago
    Very interesting, thanks for the research!
    3928 days ago
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