Holy Shitballs, Batman. I just looked up my “ideal” body weight. Ostensibly, the purpose of this was to bolster my planned article about how I think I’m overweight despite scientific evidence to the contrary. Instead, the result has turned the trajectory of this whole article on its head.
Popular culture and fashion magazines aside, our society is based upon the idea that there are, to certain questions, scientifically correct answers. Science is used as a purportedly “neutral” identifier of the ideal body type. But even scientific medical and psychological information can be challenged. For example, many studies have come to the conclusions that fat people can be healthy weight is not always controllable by diet and exercise; weight to a certain extent is predetermined by genetics; and that diets may be the reason people get fatter.
I have never been at a point where I was truly happy with my weight. As I have said before, the infestation of popular culture with dumb skinny bitches messes with my competitive spirit. I would like to think that I am smarter than the majority of them, and that I have willed myself through some of the most difficult experiences this country has to offer (law school and boot camp come to mind), so how can they figure out how to be skinny and I can’t?
Uncomfortable honesty time (ooooh, I really don’t want to type this): I am 5’4” and right now hovering at 140. This is about 5 lbs over what I typically consider my “healthy” weight, and 11 lbs more than what I consider my “race” weight (i.e. the weight I prefer to be when running endurance races, due to impact on my joints/ less to carry.) I am muscular and have always weighed more than I look. I wear a size 8 comfortably and a size 6 fitted.
The following are my “ideal” body weights according to these websites:
Whaaaa? Talk about failure. I am, according to the average of the above, twenty-three pounds over my ideal weight. This got me thinking: ideal for what? Certainly, a 97 lb woman would not be “ideal” for carrying wounded Marines, or full battle-gear. Could a 97 lb woman have the endurance to run an ironman? Or have a baby? As any personal trainer will tell you, muscles weigh more than fat. Thus, the scientifically “ideal” woman is…well… weak. Could it be that as women become stronger outside of the home, the “ideal” becomes smaller and weaker as a way to perpetuate women’s internalization of subjugation?
Slimness is one of the primary physical indicators of female success. Failure to be slender, in the eyes of society, is evidence of a woman’s failure to work hard enough. But body size is determined not only by diet and exercise, but by many other factors including genetics  age, gender, nationality, social class and environment. A very successful woman will likely still feel the societal pressure, while a similarly situated male will not. Think of it as the Oprah/Limbaugh dichotomy.
“Ideal” body images, and scientific “ideal” weights without reference to body composition, etc, add to the conundrum of failure by pitting a woman quite literally against herself. Assuming that all resources are to some extent limited, how much of our limited psychological resources do we consume battling ourselves over physical appearance?
 Ernsberger, P. and P. Haskew. 1987. Rethinking Obesity: An Alternate View of Its Health Implications. Journal of Obesity and Weight Regulation 6: 58-137
 Stunkard, A.J., and M.McClaren –Hume. 1959. The Results of Treatment for Obesity. Archives of Internal Medicine 102, 79-85.
 Stunkard, id.
 Bennett, W. and J. Gurin. 1982. The Dieter’s Dilemma. New York: Basic Books.
 Banner, L. 1983. American Beauty. New York: Alfred A. Knopf
 Stunkard, A.J., T.I.A. Sorenson, C. Hanis, T.W. Teasedale, R. Chakraborty, W.J.Schull and F. Schulsinger. 1986. An Adoption Study of Human Obesity. New England Journal of Medicine 314 (4): 193-97
 Atrens, D.M. 1988. Don’t Diet. New York: WIliam Morrow.
 Beller, A.S. 1977. Fat and Thin: A Natural History of Obesity. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, Ltd.