Sunday, January 7, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, January 7, 2001

Family Matters
Many of us have been misdiagnosed as overweight

By Ka'ohua Lucas
Special to The Advertiser

"Mom, I’ve got to lose weight," my 17-year-old announced, pinching her stomach "fat" with her thumb and index finger and jiggling it for effect.

"Oh, please!" I snorted, rolling my eyes.

This is the one member of my family who has about 10 percent body fat, spends her Christmas vacation canoe-paddling for her school team, runs the 3-mile Ala Wai route in under a half hour, and thinks hiking Haleakala’s summit is "duck soup."

She needs to lose weight as much as I need a pair of shoes for each dress I own.

Oh, yes, I read about the study that recently appeared in this newspaper claiming 61 percent of Americans are overweight.

But as one reader was quick to point out, the study fails to look at body composition.

I certainly think genetic makeup has a lot to do with the amount of weight a person carries and the physical shape they are in.

Take for example, my dad, who was three-quarters Hawaiian.

He was fairly short and, perhaps by most "American standards," overweight.

He enjoyed eating and drinking just as much as the next guy.

But for all the celebrating he did, he remained as firm and as taut as a Hawaiian warrior, cultivating his muscles and agility.

One evening, while visiting with our next-door neighbors, my dad started to tease me about my 11-year-old body, which resembled that of a boy’s.

"Look at the way you’re built," he teased. "Straight up and down like a coconut tree."

"Eh, no act, Dad," I said, defending myself. "You’re straight up and down just like me!"

That did it. He was anxious to disprove my theory, so he ordered me to fetch a measuring tape.

I ran into the house, rummaging through our sewing kit in search of it.

He measured me first.

Laughing, he said, "19-19-19. See? What did I tell you?"

It was my turn.

I took the tape measure and cinched it up around my dad’s chest.

"Forty-four," I announced to the onlookers.

Next, I slipped the tape over his opu, or stomach.

"Forty-four." I looked up at my dad, whose color had visibly drained.

Then, I slid the tape around his hips.

I shouted, "44-44-44! You owe me bigtime, Dad!"

Back then, we were able to joke about our bodies.

Nowadays, everyone seems to be so uptight about physical appearance.

We worry about which athletic club to join.

We worry about choosing the right outfit to wear to the club we have joined.

We worry about those extra pounds we have gained over the holiday season.

If we were to go back in time, "dimples remained a girl’s best friend," wrote Mary Kawena Pukui, the noted Hawaiian scholar and author on cultural values.

"Mothers worried when their daughters were thin and gave them medicine to fatten them."

Thin was definitely not in, according to Pukui. "An ideally beautiful woman had a face as round and full as the moon."

Princess Ruth of Hawaiian royalty was known to eat 13 haupia pies in one sitting!

In fact, the Hawaiian word for fat is momona.

However, the word itself refers to large men or women who are "juicy or fertile," certainly a positive definition.

I’m not suggesting we ignore eating and exercise regimes and consume vast amount of delectable sweets.

But I do believe that many adults (and children) have been misdiagnosed as overweight.

I think that with a balanced diet and regular exercise, we can make the most of our genetic makeup and still lead a healthy life!

Two Hawaii parents, Lynne Wikoff and Ka¯hua Lucas, take turns writing the Family Matters column. Send comments to: Family Matters, Ohana Section, The Honolulu Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802; e-mail; fax 535-8170.

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