The Two Percent

The best avenue is to start to appreciate the functionality of our bodies,” is Rachel Begun, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says. “It is just amazing I have legs that can carry me from one place to another … that we have mouths that allow many of us to be able to speak. There is so much we can just appreciate and marvel at in our bodies.

The above quote is from an article I read today on CNN.com about the fewer than two percent of adults in the U.S. that are underweight. It’s an issue that most don’t realize even constitutes as a health problem. Let’s face it; with America’s attention currently focused on obesity, it’s hard for most of us to sympathize with someone whose body is a certain size. It’s hard for most of us who count calories, monitor their intake, and spend hours a week trying to ‘work off that slice of pizza’, but we all need to be aware that this two percent exist and it can be a real struggle for them.

“Fewer than 2% of adults in the United States are underweight, according to 2007 to 2010 data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics. To be considered underweight, individuals must have a body mass index of less than 18.5. A woman who is five-foot-six, for example, would weigh 114 pounds or less.”

The sad reality for most of the 2 percent is that if they’ll most likely be accused of an eating disorder before any other reason, thanks to our culture’s beauty standards. “She must have an eating disorder if she’s that thin, right?” I know I’ll be the first to admit that I usually jump to quick judgment whenever I see a woman of a certain size. In fact, not too long ago I had repinned the photo below on my Pinterest account.

A very good question...

I was really proud of myself for sharing this and really felt like it conveyed the right message. Not too long after this, an old high school acquaintance posed the question: While I admit that our beauty standards are skewing towards the unhealthily thin range, isn’t it just as bad to say that very thin women are not as attractive as curvier women? As soon as I read it, I knew she was right. I myself have friends and know women who have naturally thin builds and who probably wouldn’t appreciate being told they aren’t as attractive as a fuller woman.  (Especially if they work hard just to keep their current weight on.)

Anyway, check out the article and if you are in this two percent category, check with your doctor to ensure your low weight isn’t linked to a serious medical condition.

My Healthy Tip of the Day: If you are trying to gain weight, remember it’s about quality, not quantity. Your body is going to respond much more if you consume foods that are higher in nutrients, rather than calories.

Charley Horse, You’re Cramping My Style

 Growing up I was an Irish step dancer who often experienced numb toes and horrible leg cramp wake up calls at 3 a.m. Unlike most dancing, Irish step dancing focuses solely (no pun intended) on the movement of the feet. It requires isolated control of the lower legs and is often compared to having a stick hidden in a rather unpleasant location. This isolation, combined with constantly keeping the feet turned out, often leaves dancers with odd-looking calf muscles that appear to wrap around the side of the leg. Without proper stretching, this strain on the muscle can result in cramps or “charley horses,” which is what I experienced quite often. I remember waking up to the sight of my toes curling down, making me look like I belonged in a horror film. I’d fling myself out of bed in an attempt to stretch the muscle, but I was almost always too late. My mother often suggested I eat a banana a day to help with the cramps, but I chose to endure the pain as a badge of honor. (I was a moron.)

Does anyone else experience sleep-awakening leg cramps?

Imagine the cramps this style of dancing produces.

Well, let me just answer that: yes, lots of people do. According to a CNN blog article by Dr. Lisa Shives, sleep awakening leg cramps is a form of sleep disorder and the list of possible causes is quite diverse.

Although I personally think this look gross, get your daily intake of potassium in any form possible.

  • Diabetes (side effect, not prognosis)
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Electrolyte imbalance (chug a Gatorade!)
  • Low potassium levels
  • Dehydration (which is probably the most common.)

If cramping is severe and the above don’t seem to be contributing factors, consult a physician to differentiate leg cramping from a more serious condition, such as akathisia (movement disorder characterized by a feeling of inner restlessness), myelopathy (degenerative condition that pinches the
spinal cord), peripheral neuropathy (damage to nerves of the peripheral nervous
system), or disorders of calcium imbalance.  

Although these seem like scary outcomes, Dr. Shives believes most cases are from a simple lack of strengthening and stretching of the calf and feet muscles.

To read more about sleep-related issues from Dr. Shives, visit http://nssleep.com/blog.

My Healthy Choice of the Day: Sticking to my cottage cheese-filled pita and grapefruit for lunch instead of grabbing a slice of pizza from the break room. Gotta love that willpower!

‘Tween’ Body Image Issues

I obsess about health and I won’t try to pretend I don’t. I count calories and get nervous if there is cake in the room left unattended. However, I used to eat Big Macs and filled my weekly workout quota by bending over to tie my shoes, so I feel as though I’ve earned the right to obsess. Still, I do it right by exercising and trying to eat right every day, with the occasional blowout. (Ask my friends and family about my diet during celebrations. Entire casseroles have been known to disappear.) As I said, I wasn’t always like this.

When I was growing up, I didn’t think about what I put into my body. I, like most kids my age, got my exercise through hours of playing outside and swimming in the lake. My parents gave me veggies from the garden in the summer and I enjoyed many loaves of pumpkin bread in the fall, but never once felt guilty for eating Poptarts and Reese Cups for breakfast. I was young and loved life. Call me crazy for assuming all 10-14 year-old kids were like this.

I hate this vegetable so much I lied to my preschool teacher about being allergic.

While catching up with a friend recently, I asked her about a young female member of her family. She said she was fine, but that she was starting to complain about her weight. Now, I know this young lady, and she is the farthest thing from overweight. She’s young, beautiful, and active, which are all great qualities, in my book. However, she seems to think certain parts of her body are fat and apparently she isn’t the first young girl to think this way.
According to a recent CNN article, young girls like my friend’s family member are becoming increasingly body conscious at an earlier age. Now I’m only 23, so it seems strange that a generation not far behind mine is growing up with such different worries. (I mainly worried about catching a good episode of ‘Daria’.) The report found that the average age for the onset of anorexia is now between 9 and 12 and according the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, more than 60% of elementary and middle school teachers reported that eating disorders are a problem in their schools. So what’s the deal?
“For one thing, kids today hear a lot more about weight and body shape than we heard in childhood. They get anti-obesity messages at school (which can sometimes backfire, making perfectly healthy children paranoid about ice cream and other “fattening” foods), are bombarded by weight-loss ads on TV, see six-pack abs on the covers of magazines and idolize stars in teeny-tiny jeans.
Our culture serves up such a vast smorgasbord of body judgments, is it any wonder that so many kids are unhappy with the way they look?”
The article also pointed out the correlation between body issues and sports, due to their competitive nature. Whatever the cause, eat disorders and body image-related disorders are serious and can sometimes be fatal. How can we help prevent this?
“We can’t protect children from unhealthy cultural messages or prevent the inevitable changes of puberty, but we can teach them how to respond in healthy ways.”
This is where organizations like Girls on the Run come can help. With a mission to inspire girls to be healthy and confident and a vision that every girl knows and activates her limitless potential, this organization combines training for a 5K running event with healthy living education. This after school program is open to girls in grades 3-5 and encourages girls at all fitness levels. My county has a wonderful program, operated by a wonderful Council Director, Laurie Abildso, who goes above and beyond to help keep this nonprofit program afloat.
Even though I’ve volunteered with this program for a little over a year, I still never realized how prevalent this issue really is. So I want to encourage everyone to help fight this problem by talking to any young girl you may know about being healthy and beautiful, inside and out. It’s so important to remind our youth (boys can have issues too!) that what they see on television and online is a very distorted view of the world and being healthy and active is one of the most beautiful things of all!
For more information on the Girls on the Run of Monongalia County program, check out http://moncountygotr.org, visit them on Facebook at Monongalia County Girls on the Run, or contact me! This is a great cause and we are always looking for volunteers.
[For the full article on CNN.com.]
My Healthy Choice of the Day: Choosing to be guilt-free over indulging in my Cinnamon Chex cereal a little too much last night. (I’ve got to feed my body now that I’m running again!)
**I apologize for the lack of spacing. WordPress is being sensitive tonight.