Monday, April 09, 2007

A delicate, feminine, lace-trimmed rant

When did a size 12 become "full-figured" and a 14 become "obese"?

What the hell is up with the BMI?

And where are the athletic-cut shirts for women?

I got into a little discussion the other day with some people at work. I'm closer to 200 lbs. these days than to 100, but I wear a (loosening) size 12. According to the BMI charts, I'm obese. According to magazines like "People" and "Vogue" (not like I'm saying they're bastions of intellectualism and feminist cred, but they are popular), I am "full figured". According to some of my coworkers, I am getting "too big" from weightlifting.

The only one of those three I can shut up immediately and effectively is the last, usually by simply picking the second-biggest person in the group and lifting them clean off the floor without visible effort. (The first-biggest person in the group is usually some general-surgery resident who was a nose tackle in high school. I don't need a hernia.)

But I'm still getting charged more by my insurance company because I fall into the obese category on the BMI charts. Never mind that my blood pressure is fine, that my cholesterol is normalizing, that I can and do run an eight-minute mile. Yeah, I could stand to lose 20 pounds, but that would still put me in the overweight-to-obese range for the government and in the holy-kamole-to-oh-shit range for insurance charts. To weigh what my doctor, my insurance purveyor, and the Gubmint would like me to, I would have to lose about sixty pounds. Which would mean that I would quit menstruating and probably breathing.

To give you an idea of the genetics behind my biceps, consider this: Beloved Sister "should" weigh somewhere around 125 pounds at her height.

She carries that much in lean mass *alone* on her frame. We're blessed.

Anyway, I'm getting bugged. My pants are getting looser at the same time my shirts get tighter, which means I can buy jeans (for now) at "normal person" stores, but have to spend the extra dough on "woman's" clothing in order to get something on top that will go around my chest. Or I have to buy men's large shirts and taper the waist down. If I want a dress, I have to order women's sizes in order to fit my chest and back, then alter them to be small enough for my waist and (sometimes) hips. Or I have to buy a "normal person" 16 or 18 and then alter the whole damned thing, because I'm short.

I want some women's shirts that are cut to allow for shoulders, boobs, and a back. I don't even care if they fit around my biceps; I just want to be able to go out in a T-shirt or button-down without looking like Sheena, Queen Professional Wrestling Slut From Hell.

I'd also like for the societal expectations for women's bodies to change enough that total strangers don't find it necessary to comment on my shape. It's nice when it's a compliment, but more and more often (especially if I wear a normal-person T-shirt) it's getting into "Good Heavens, what on earth do you *do* to get that big a back?" territory.

I'd also like for the coworkers who bug me about my muscles but love me to help them move heavy patients to shut up for a while.

Please note that I do not intend to quit lifting. There's something viscerally satisfying about putting on a shirt and having it strain across my back, even if I then get irritated about the fit. I love the fact that I now walk with that bouncy, tight weightlifter's walk, rather than with the tired-nurse tread that I see so often at work. I also love that I can do sixty reps on bicep curls with fifteen pounds and be just a little tired.

Plus, it's nice to be able to pick up people who bug me. I may, if I continue to make huge gains in strength and bulk, someday be able to shake them like a terrier would and then toss them over my (massive, rippling) shoulder.


Anonymous said...

12 became full-figured and 14 became obese around the time I needed to buy a size 22 dress to fit my chest and have yards of material snipped out of it to fit the rest of me.

The BMI is the standard height/weight chart filtered through a little math so you can't see how far off the recommendations are. (I can't believe your insurance company is going with BMI -- it really is a height/weight chart. They don't do body-fat percentage? Many Marines would fail a BMI test as far as I know. Can you complain?)

If athletic-cut means big in the shoulders and narrow in the waist, then no, probably athletic-cut shirts aren't made for women.

And my lean body mass is 127.9 pounds. Please.

Having 127.9 pounds of lean body mass gets me in trouble with the BMI charts too, but in normal life it absolutely rocks. The other day my 72-pound pit-bull mix wasn't going where I told him to, and I didn't have time to argue, so I picked him up and took him to where I needed him to be.

Anonymous said...

Sing it sister! I'm only 5'7", but I wear a size 11 shoe and have hands to match (size 7.5 surgical gloves). I really AM big-boned, and am genetically programmed to put on muscle. I wear a size 6 - 8, IF I can get the shirts to fit across my shoulders and be long enough in the arms. If a blouse fits in the waist, I can't close the buttons across the chest. I can't help that I am built like the Williams' sisters (Venus and Serena), but it makes finding clothes very difficult! Maybe I should just go into ortho...

Anonymous said...

If it's any consolation, this dyke thinks broad shoulders and a muscular back on a woman are DAMNED sexy. Doesn't make my shirts fit any better though.

Anonymous said...

I heard that "The Govenator" is obese by BMI standards.

Anonymous said...

I bet one of the sizes of this:

will fit you.

And *I* would KILL for your muscles!!!!

Friend Pens

Anonymous said...

Adding perspective: I entered nursing 40+ years ago. I was 5'10" and weighed 140. In order to get into school, I had to lose 15 pounds. Exercise alone didn't work so I played basketball like a fiend and ate like a gnat. I'd never had a weight problem before but that sure started one which continues to this day. We nursing students were required to 'weigh in' once a month. The evening before for the whole student body was a nightmare of laxatives, water purging, enemas, NPO, induced vomiting, etc. Checking in above weight meant no off campus privileges, but the third high weigh-in in a quarter could be grounds for dismissal. Today's measurements and BMI seem more reasonable than the weight hysteria we all went through. I still quake when I am forced to get on a medical scale.

Anonymous said...

Well, I also have the broad shoulders, 5'8" 170#, Juniors size 13 (my body frame not really a "woman's" body hour-glass figure here). Last summer before my travel position in Tennessee the agency sent me for a physical. I almost failed to get the position because the PA persisted in listing me as OBESE. He kept telling me over and over I was OBESE and needed to lose wt. My BP, HR and blood work...including cholesterol were all normal. He therorized that I may have a "hypoactive" thyroid, because I have a "thick neck". Nope, Don't think so I smarted off...I just like to eat! I also buy off the rack..but have to choose larger shirts. When I was younger and much lighter, I still had the broad shoulders...would just take shoulder pads out of all the garments.

The up side...working in the Rio Grande Valley, I stand over a head taller (usually more than a foot) than the Native population...and I am popular for picking patient's up out of the floor, pulling them up, getting them out of the bed...ect, why, because I am strong as a bull-ox.

Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn't Marilyn Monroe size 12, and considered sexy? And look what happened to Anna Nicole Smith in the quest for thin and sexy...dead at 39. That speaks volumes!

Anonymous said...

The last time I was "down" to what BMI said was my proper weight...was a month after my motorcycle accident! I was down to 195 lbs. 'Course having been on a vent, two chest tubes and that blue junk going into my feeding tube may have something to do with it!!!!!


Anonymous said...

A 12 is usually a size 4 in skirt and dress at most stores. However often dress making patterns will use the old school size system. Japanese seems to do a similar thing, since I'm an LL or 11 here, but a 4 or S in the US. Of course, the average girl is thin here, even when out of shape.