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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Tyra: My 2 Cents

Today, I’m doing something I don’t normally do – commenting on a situation I don’t have first hand knowledge of. But, I decided to sound off anyway - for two reasons. First, I’ve been getting asked about this almost daily (obviously this topic has touched a nerve for a lot of people) and, second, I think this debate has opened the door to talking about some really important health issues.

The question at hand: at 5’10” and 161 pounds, do I think Tyra Banks is fat? Absolutely not! But, that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s healthy either. Now, let me say – I’m a big Tyra fan. I absolutely love her attitude and really admire the work she does with youth (TZONE). But, as a health professional, some of Tyra’s comments in this week’s People magazine cover article (about her weight gain) worried me, particularly because she strives to be a role model to young women.

If there’s one message I could send to consumers it would be: being at a healthy weight doesn’t ensure health. I’ve met many, many people over the years who have a normal body mass index (BMI) and normal body fat percentage, but are NOT in good health.

In other words, it’s absolutely possible to be a normal weight and have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and a high resting heart rate. It’s also possible to be a normal weight and take in too much sugar, salt, cholesterol and saturated fat, and too few fruits, veggies, whole grains…. The difference (health-wise) lies largely in the quality of your overall diet, and how you take care of your body (i.e. are you thin but smoke, are you thin but get no exercise …).

The People article reveals Tyra’s “2 diets.” One is called Eating to Lose (what she did periodically to shed pounds before retiring from modeling), and the other Eating to Enjoy (her current way of eating). Now, if you read this blog, you know I’m NO fan of dieting. But Tyra’s Eating to Enjoy menu is also seriously lacking nutritionally (neither one is balanced or healthy).

In terms of weight, however, yes, Tyra is within the normal range. According to this NIH reference, a healthy weight range for women is about 100 pounds for the 1st 5 feet and 5 pounds for every inch over 5 feet, plus or minus 10% depending on frame size. That translates to a range of 135-165 pounds. And according to the CDC’s BMI calculator, Tyra’s BMI is 23.1, well within the normal range of 18.5-24.9.

Now, to maintain 161 pounds, Tyra probably eats somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 calories per day. But there are many different paths to 2,000 calories – some super healthy, some not so healthy. For example, here’s what one 2,000 calorie day could potentially look like:

1 McDonald’s Sausage Biscuit with Egg
Medium Coke

2 Taco Bell Taco Supremes
Medium Coke

1 slice Pizza Hut Pepperoni Stuffed Crust Pizza
Medium Coke

Total: 1,930 calories (needless to say, nutritionally, this day provides way too much sugar, saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fat, and sodium, and too little vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, healthy fats, and dietary fiber)

So Tyra, if this blog ever makes it’s way to you, kudos to your amazing attitude (I especially loved your comments about exercising to feel good vs. manipulate your body). And, I love your self esteem, self acceptance, and “I refuse to deprive myself” philosophy (I too do not believe in diets or deprivation).

But as a role model to youth, I hope you can promote BOTH a healthy weight AND a healthy way of eating. In other words, balance out some of your favorite non-diet foods (like sausage with gravy and burgers according to the article) with more health-optimizing, disease-preventing fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and plant-based fats - more like a shade of gray between the two diet dichotomies so-to-speak. Ok, off my soap box :)

Photo courtesy of Geek Philosopher
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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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