I am an Average Girl. I am 5'5'' tall, and I weigh around 165 pounds. I usually wear a size 12 or a size 14, depending upon the brand or the day. All the charts and measures cite these numbers as "average" for American women. (The only not-average number is my breast size, 36 DD+.) I am comfortable here. And yet, this "average" picture is also "overweight."
Since 30% or more of Americans are above average when it comes to weight, this should not be surprising. Obesity is certainly a problem in a culture of overconsumption, maybe even an epidemic, but if this picture of "average" is also "obese" (as it is by some calculations), then we need to seriously reconsider our scales and charts and definitions, particularly the BMI (http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/) which has been a source of angst for many women. More, we need to reconsider the shaming of the "average" body.
I have always been "fat" and I was taught from a young age to lie about my weight. Today, my weight is more accurate at 167. Though it goes up and down, my body seems to just settle at 167 no matter how much I exercise. And I exercise a lot. Despite my "obesity," I am a fitness instructor. I often teach 10 classes a week--a mix of cardio and yoga classes. According to most fitness guidelines, I am far exceeding the average recommended guidelines for exercise. Exercise makes me feel good and it makes me happy. I don't exercise to burn calories. But I do exercise--consciously or not--to maintain my "average" weight. I have to.
I try to avoid the judgments of media and even though I know better, tools like the BMI chart can really mess with an average woman's head. According to this chart, I would have to lose about 20 pounds to be "normal." A normal weight range is 111 to 150 pounds, says, BMI. Just thinking about what it would take for me to lose 20 pounds, let alone to weigh 111 pounds, makes me want to curl up in a fetal position and cry.
Besides the obvious fact that these charts and calculations fail to take into account body type or breast size, they also judge and value bodies based on a simple ratio between height and weight. Sometimes I justify my BMI results by subtracting weight for my above average breasts. The healthier answer is that we need to not care what the BMI, or the media, or even some fitness professionals tell us about our "average" bodies. We are programmed culturally to fear "fat"; and we should be afraid, but only since fat-shaming is alive and well in America.
Despite the fact that I know that I am not "fat," I almost always feel like I "still" need to lose weight, perhaps because there are plenty of people and charts that put me in the "fat" category. I really, really have to try to lose weight. My body holds on to weight. Trying to eat mindfully--practicing "intuitive eating"--has delivered the most success, not in terms of weight loss but in terms of transforming my body image and disordered eating. Intuitive eating (http://www.intuitiveeating.org/) is a different way of thinking about food, and by extension, my average body.
Some of the principles are easy. I have always rejected the diet mentality and I hate the food police. I exercise, and I have discovered the satisfaction factor. Others are more difficult: respecting my fullness, making peace with food and, most of all, honoring my feelings with something other than food. But Intuitive Eating is a forgiving process. It is the only approach that makes sense to me, that allows me to be happy in my own body, to eat what I want to eat, to be who I want to be. I am happy being "average"; if I measure myself by the BMI chart, not only would I not be average, I also would not be happy, and I'd be very, very hungry!
Ultimately we need to change our own perceptions and then help other women, and girls, boys, and men, to do so. There are some tools at our disposal. Love Average is one site that works to change our misperceptions of ourselves and other women, and more and more of us are catching on. There is so much more work to be done--critiquing and transforming ourselves and our culture. Remaking these cultural markers--transforming our superficial measures--is where the battle goes beyond average.