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To think one can't tell how healthy another person is by looking at them?

(38 Posts)
Amaxapax Sun 13-Jan-13 17:36:41

I don't post much, but I read a lot of threads and have been grateful to have been educated about hidden disabilities, which has certainly helped me to be less judgemental in social situations.
Recently, however, I have read a number of threads regarding weight in which posters describe a person and say their weight is unhealthy, or give broad brackets of acceptable weights, indicating that a higher weight is unhealthy in a sort of blanket statement.
Am I being unreasonable to say that, just like you can't always tell if a person is disabled just by looking at them, you also can't tell whether or not the person is healthy? Imagine two women. One is within a 'healthy' BMI. The other is classed as 'overweight'. The heavier one woman works out regularly, eats meals cooked from scratch comprised primarily of lean meats and veg and has a couple of glasses of wine one Saturday night. The small woman drinks more frequently, eats heavily processed food, primarily carbohydrates, though not necessarily exceeding a reasonable caloric intake. She doesn't exercise. Which woman is healthier? Why do we feel it's acceptable to comment on someone's health based only on appearance?
I appreciate that some people are quite obviously affected in health terms by their weight, and I'm not talking about those who are morbidly obese. For those in the 'overweight' category, however, it seems unfair to make comments about their health without personal knowledge, especially given the existence of research indicating that there are some health benefits associated with being 10-20 lbs overweight, particularly in comparison to being a similar amount underweight.
So, AIBU to think people should stop commenting on a person's health based solely on their appearance?

LuluMai Mon 14-Jan-13 00:33:17

No you can't really. Two years ago I was a size ten surviving on diet pills, coffee and cigarettes. Now I'm a size 18 who eats a healthy diet (but also eats a lot of junk, I'll admit). My size isn't healthy but my lifestyle wasn't healthy when I was slim.

mercury7 Mon 14-Jan-13 01:12:39

it is surely self evident that you cant measure all parameters of health or disease just from appearance, but there is some degree of correlation between appearance and health.

Also, a persons level of health is a result of several different factors which interact in complex ways, not all of which are fully understood

weegiemum Mon 14-Jan-13 01:26:47

People judge me I'm sure when they see me hobbling/staggering. I'm 5'9 and 16 stone or there abouts.

What they don't know is I'm wobbling due to a neurological disability that badly affects my balance, gives me numbness and affects my "position sense" - I can't clap my hands with my eyes closed, if I'm standing and close my eyes, I fall over!

But in the last year I've lost 7st, despite the disability I've also become more active (yes thank you torturors physiotherapists). So I actually look overall healthy - good skin, great hair, good colour, bright eyes and wet nose etc.

But when we moved GP practices on our house move, the practice nurse weighed me and then (without checking) asked if d ever considered losing some weight!!

I've been accused of being fat, of being drunk or on drugs (no wonder I take a walking stick with me often when I go out!), of being lazy. It always hurts, but you kind of get used to it!

GothAnneGeddes Mon 14-Jan-13 01:41:10

YANBU and I am so pleased there has been sensible comments so far, some people on MN are gleefully sizeist.

KentuckyFriedChildren Mon 14-Jan-13 02:42:23

I totally agree. I am about 11st and 5'3 (although you cant guess it as I'm only a size 12) and I have encountered medical professionals who say that I must be unhealthy down to my weight alone. I have several debilitating medical conditions, which can leave me on my back some days, but for the most part I push through that and on average walk (slowly) around 15-20 miles per day and generally eat quite healthily. BMI isnt always a good indicator of lifestyle. I personally think my daily cocktail of drugs has more to do with my weight than anything else. I do have a bit of a sugar habit, but I try to counter the calories in other ways, and am trying to cut that out too.

KentuckyFriedChildren Mon 14-Jan-13 02:43:11

Oh and hi weegie is dd feeling better? Did you make it to your appointment?

Twattybollocks Mon 14-Jan-13 07:01:43

I have a friend who looks perfectly healthy, but in fact has chronic leukaemia. To look at her you would never know.

chickydoo Mon 14-Jan-13 07:16:27

I work in the health /fitness/well being industry.
If I see a group of people together before a class, just by looking I can usually tell what shape they are in health wise ( often before they move)
Quite often it is the over skinny who are worse than the over weight.
Poor posture, round shoulders, terrible muscle tone, stiff body type. Upper chest breathing, dry hair, & either very dry or spotty skin. The way people stand gives a lot away too.
When people begin to move so much more is revealed. ( I have been looking at people for 15 years, I usually can tell what there health and fitness levels are like on the inside just by looking at the outside)

Gruffy Mon 14-Jan-13 08:00:11

Not to do with weight but your title hit home to me, people are aways telling me how well I look when in fact I suffer with M.E and it is a struggle to get out of bed some mornings. I am in constant pain with it.

Even the few people who know about it get a skeptical face when I tell them I am having a bad M.E day, because I look fine. It makes me feel shitty, almost makes me doubt myself, like I am making it up. Very frustrating so YANBU!

cory Mon 14-Jan-13 08:10:55

So what about people who have beautiful movements, skin elasticity and hair due to connective tissue disorders which also cause chronic pain and anxiety?

Dd on a good day looks stunning: moves like a dancer, not a superfluous ounce, lovely skin and hair etc. But is only able to function on a cocktail of painkillers and anti-depressants.

(A somewhat clumsy consultant once tried to comfort her with the thought that her skin won't age at the same rate as other people's. Not much comfort to a 10yo in a wheelchair)

chickydoo Mon 14-Jan-13 08:29:46

As a sufferer of a connective tissue disorder too, I am fully aware of how it can mask underlying issues. Hyper mobility ....big give away, lack of muscular strength due to being exhausted. Very elastic skin. Joints going beyond their natural movement without the muscle to back it up.
If a dancer comes in to the room, I know 9 times out of 10 there will be injury issues.
Sometimes people with connective tissue disorders can look beautiful & fit & healthy to an untrained eye, but the body gives a lot away. When I was a teenager I was there too.

Amaxapax Mon 14-Jan-13 08:32:50

See, I think most posters on MN are quick to come to the defense of someone, saying they might have a hidden disability and the rest of us aren't in a position to judge them for, say, using a disable space, and I agree with that.
My issue comes from the fact that there is seemingly not a problem with looking at a person and declaring their weight as 'unhealthy', without any other knowledge. I have read so many comments, particularly since the New Year, judging others for their weight, declaring people unhealthy and generally taking a really dismissive tone towards anyone who isn't slim. I think it's dangerous because it vilifies those who are overweight. I'm a teacher and I hear children mock each other all the time about size. I try to tell pupils that you can't tell how fit or healthy someone is by just looking at them, but their attitudes are already ingrained.
For reference, I used to be overweight and am now just inside my supposed 'healthy' BMI. I have to work incredibly hard to stay within this weight, including exercising at least four times a week and eating a diet that consists of little more than lean meat, veg and a small amount of dairy. I am massively disordered around food and see my weight as a moral failing, hence why I've been ruminating on the subject.

soontobeburns Mon 14-Jan-13 12:13:54

Im morbidly obese. 5ft and 18st 7lb but i have never had any health problems due to it. In fact I have low blood pressure.

I run around a lot as a youth worker (especially on residentials where im mountain climbing, abseiling etc) and I eat healthy.

Yes I could be better of course I could butwhat I mean is you could look at me and think im so unhealthy yet im not.

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