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You are currently viewing archive for January 2011
Posted By Bakari

As I mentioned in the main "Be Healthy", I found when writing it that this subsection of overall health was just too large to fit comfortably in with the rest (no pun intended). While not one of the basic fundamental pillars of health any more than any other specific ailment, given that the majority of individuals in our culture have unhealthy body fat percentages, maybe it is actually worthy of its own essay. Just keep in mind that everything to follow is meant to be considered from within the context of the main "Be Healthy" essay. (Since blogs are listed with the most recent entry on top, the main essay is immediately below this one. If you have not already, read that one first)
Having below a certain percent body fat does not automatically make you healthy!

*I've been using the term "weight" for the sake of simplicity, and out of laziness. We've all gotten accustomed to talking about weight. The common charts list something called body mass index (BMI) which considers only height and weight. Arnold Schwarzenegger weighed 260lbs when he competed. That gave him a BMI of 33. In other words, he was technically morbidly obese. However, he had a bodyfat percentage of only around 6%! The average American is around 25%(male)/35%(female). The average American is right on the border between "overweight" and "obese"; judged not by weight, but by the amount of the body which is composed of stored fat. A healthy fat percentage is nearly half of what most of us are, about 12%(men) / 20%(women) - women naturally have more fat than men, even when perfectly healthy. Our friend Arnold, obese by BMI standards, had half the bodyfat of a average healthy person at 6%. Muscle weighs more than fat. If you are trying to get more healthy, (not just look a certain way) you are exercising in addition to dieting. If you are exercising (at least if you are doing it right) you will gain muscle. Since muscle weighs more than fat, the number on the scale may actually go up, even while you need to use ever tighter holes on your belt to keep your pants from falling off.
Weight means nothing.
It is excess fat, not excess "weight", that contributes to a host of diseases, lack of fitness, and lack of longevity. Everyone has heard the list.
Two much more meaningful measures are fat percentage and strength-to-weight ratio. The first can be measured most accurately by being weighed while underwater (fat floats, muscle does not). More feasible and convenient, you can approximate body fat percentage at home with a tape measure and any of several free online calculators.
They take different measurements, so will give you slightly different answers, but they will give you a good general idea of your fat percentage...

[as my readers are no doubt aware, this blog server has a character limit. The rest of this essay can be read here:
It has some fancy things in it: charts, pictures, even a cartoon! I spent a lot of time putting together information from a lot of sources - but if you don't want to take my word for it, I list those sources at the end. Read. Enjoy. Put into practice! Be healthy, my friend]


Posted By Bakari

The word "Health" has become almost meaningless.

This is due to a number of factors, but one of the chief ones, I suspect, is marketing.
It helps to sell things as "healthy" if there is no clear idea what that actually means.
I will resist the temptation to get into that whole topic...

What I do want to do is try to remove some of the abstraction, by breaking it down into its constituent parts. While the term itself eludes a single precise definition, there's a list of components that are part of it, and those parts are reasonably concrete.


-A lack of, resistance to, and/or ability to recover from, infection (by viruses, bacteria, protozoa, fungus, or parasite)

Even a healthy person may get the occasional cold, but they will get better more quickly
-A lack of, resistance to, and/or ability to recover from, (non-infectious-agent - such as diabetes or angina)
-A lack of, resistance to, and/or ability to recover from, injury
-Longevity (how long you live)
-General fitness*
-Mental/emotional health - I wholeheartedly acknowledge that this is a very important part of overall health; however there is so much to cover just considering physical health that I won't mention it here any further than this sentence.

Many people seem to get obsessively caught up on just one or two components, sometimes to the complete exclusion of considering the others. And as a result there are raw-foodists who can't do a single push-up, athletes who eat junk food, people who take all manner of drugs and vitamins, and others who take herbs and supplements and "superfoods", both thinking health can be reduced to just what you ingest.


When someone, be it a friend or an ad or even a doctor, claims that X food, Y herb, or Z activity, is "good for you" or "unhealthy" or whatever, ask exactly in what ways does it contribute to health? Which of these elements does it affect, and how? Personally, I suspect that extremely few of the millions of things passed off as healthy stand up to that sort of test.


Just to complicate things again, some of these components can sometimes conflict with others. For example, while strength leads to resistance to injury and pathogens, the process of exercise itself is sometimes the cause of injury, and intense exercise (which is the only effective kind) tends to lower immunity (although only temporarily). Similarly, exercise lowers the risk of most non-communicable disease, but at the same time higher metabolism rates accelerate aging.


Since some components can be considered in conflict with each other, it would be hard to say in absolute terms what is the healthiest a person can possibly be. None-the-less, there is clearly a range, from someone who is sick all the time, can't walk far without being winded, and dies at 50, to the people who are still running marathons at 70 and live to be 100.


[this blog space came free with my website.  It isn't very good.  It has severe character limitations.  The rest of this entry can be read here: ]