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In fact, it turns out that higher muscle mass correlates with reduced risk of illness and death. (Well, risk of death is 100% but they mean sooner rather than later.)
A meaningful gauge of being overweight for your build and fitness is your Body Fat percentage. The simplest way to do this is to have somebody use the body fat caliper method on you. That does not measure intra-abdominal fat deposits, but it assumes a correlation. Your doctor's nurse knows how to do that. There are other ways too. (An easier way is to study yourself naked in a mirror.)
This site has two charts, one depicting "ideal" fat percentages based on fitness, and the second based on age. As an athletic female, I like to be around 25-30%. Seems disgusting for your body to be 30% lard, doesn't it? It can be fine for a slender lady, though.
Just for fun, no ab exercises will give you 6-pack abs. Killer abs are all about fat. "Good abs" are visible in men at around 8% body fat, and in women around 12%. Those are either highly-athletic (ie well-beyond "fit" percentages) or otherwise verging on anorectic. I will not recommend any %s lower than those, even for models and ballet dancers, and, generally, feel that those %s are too low for regular fit people. 20% is fine for a regular fit male who plays sports and works out.
Below the fold, photos for comparison of men and women with varying body fat percentages.
Do not be fooled. For most cancers there is no "rise". Cancer is mostly a disease of old age and we live longer. But the rate of most cancers is the same. It is likely that when you read about any "rise" in cancer that the person writing it knows better but uses statistics to prove his biases or worse to sell you magic herbs and supplements.
There is BMI obesity which is almost a useless designation and there is actual obesity. Most "obese" people are genetically obese. They cannot help themselves anymore than you can change your eye color if you wish really hard. If you are not "obese" more than likely you couldn't become obese if I promised you a million bucks to do it. If you are obese more than likely you could not get your weight to a normal weight and keep it there if I promised you a million bucks if you could do it.
HFCS and vegetable oil doesn't make you obese or fat whether you are using the old measurement or the new less useful BMI standard. Your genes determine what your body weight wants to be. You can change it, diet, work out, cut things out of your meals, etc. But as soon as you return to normal living your weight will return to what your parents genes predetermined for you.
The above pictures show, as I expected, that a woman can have a higher BMI than a man for the same appearance. I would say the man with 30% and the woman with 40% are the first of each sex that appear noticeably fat.
Thanks for this, Doc. I always appreciate your thoughtful and eminently sensible takes on “health,” physical, mental, spiritual. I’m old (upper seventies) but I ride my bike about 12 to 16 miles almost every day and I’m still an active volunteer firefighter. But, as you’ve noted before, it still comes down to calories, and I’m an indiscriminate eater. It’s amazing (well, perhaps not so amazing) how we can fool ourselves looking in a mirror, so I depend on those telltale holes in my belt. Informative. Humbling. Prodding, too.
Ralph Kinney Bennett
Again, BMI is a lousy indicator. Generally health is more determined by what your mass consists of than how much of it you have. Body fat percentage is a much better indicator, but isn't as easily calculated.
another guy named Dan
Using your chart I'd say the ideal woman's figure is anywhere between 35% and 45%. It's nothing but personal preferences, though. You can be healthy, able, and live a long life within that range.