Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Preventive Medicine

Nobody understands fully what represents ideal body weight. We can estimate the average weight by using the following schedule: 100 pounds for the first 5 feet of height. If you are a woman, add 5 pounds for each inch over 5 feet, and if you are a man, add 7 pounds for each inch over 5 feet. This figure will approximate the ideal average American weight.

It has been determined that at certain percentages over the average weight, there is a proportionate and predictable increase in disease and discomfort. Most people feel more youthful and limber when their weight tends to the lean side. Many people also experience a clearer mind when the weight is lower. Records indicate that thin people tend to live longer and suffer fewer disabling diseases than do fat ones. Nevertheless, there are notable exceptions of fat persons who live into advanced old age, but then some people who smoke also live into their eighties and nineties. These cases should be considered exceptions rather than the rule.

It is a fact that Americans often begin to worry about themselves when they begin to get thin. There has been a certain mindset that the thin person is not healthy. Observations made of Americans’ ability to accurately evaluate the status of a person’s health pointed to this error in judgment. The American will judge a thin person, by his appearance alone, to be older than he actually is, a fat person will appear to an American observer to be younger than his actual age. Further, the American will judge a healthy, thin person to look sick, and a not-so-well fat person to be in excellent health. We still believe that fatness is equated with wellness, and that thinness means undernourishment, loss of appetite, and an underlying serious illness. It seems desirable that objective signs and symptoms be used to determine weight levels at which accelerated aging occurs. By chemical tests on the blood, urine, saliva, etc., the thin person ages at a slower rate and his blood chemistries maintain a more ideal level than do those of the fat person. Such objective tests as balancing skills, muscular strength, endurance, and other physical feats give the edge to the thin person. Charts on length of life and freedom from disease reveal the same thing.

What can be done then when friends and relatives begin to tell the person who has developed definite thinness, because he has adopted a more healthful life-style and is losing weight, that he looks sick, his appearance is “terrible?” First, determine if the person is actually feeling better and maintaining strength. If they have lost weight to the point that they no longer feel as strong as previously, it may be that their health is not as good. Is the weakness from weight loss, or is it from another factor such as inactivity? If that can be determined satisfactorily, the person should relieve his mind and cheerfully respond to the harbingers of evil that he “never felt better in all of his life and never had better health.” They should develop a sense of humor about the thoughtless comments of others. If the person feels that he is not as strong as he had been previously, it would be well to consider the following questions:

1. Have you increased your exercise with the stimulus types of exercise such as jogging, swimming, bicycling, etc., to the point that it might be of itself a reducing exercise? If so, cut back on the amount of strenuous exercise done.
2. Has some emotional crisis in your life, with resulting anxiety or depression, cut down on your ability to assimilate food products, or increased the rate at which you metabolize your nutrients? If so, settle these matters in your personal life so that they will not interfere with the benefits that should be obtained from your food.
3. Have certain nourishing foods from the four essential food groups been dropped (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts)? If so, it may be necessary to add back some foods such as potatoes, bread, nuts, etc.
4. Do you chew well, take small bites, and eat slowly? If not, you are missing a blessing both in satisfaction from your food, and benefit therefrom. You must train yourself to take small bites and chew until the food becomes a cream in your mouth. On the other hand, you should not dawdle at the table, as such a course often leads to nibbling, a custom that can cause thinness because of selective overeating. There is a saying: If you want to lose weight, don’t eat; fast. If you want to gain weight, don’t eat fast.
5. Get a complete physical examination with a chemistry profile and a complete blood count (CBC) to relieve your mind and the minds of others concerning your health.
6. Be regular in all of your habits, especially bedtime. The majority of growth hormone is produced at night, before midnight while you are sleeping. Just getting on a good schedule could add pounds to your frame.

It is not necessary to be unduly concerned, or to write letters to various health counselors concerning your weight. Many people are genetically predisposed to be thin on a normal, even abundant diet. Set your sights accordingly, and let the mind relax. Such a course of relaxation may in itself be sufficient to cause the person to maintain weight at what may seem to be a desirable level.

For more information contact:
Uchee Pines Lifestyle Center
30 Uchee Pines Road #75
Seale, Alabama 36875
Tel. 334-855-4764

Posted in Counseling Sheet, Health