The Fat and Fit Myth Exposed.
This question has been the subject of some healthy debate around my gym of late, “Can you be fit and healthy and lessen the risk of a heart attack even though you may be overweight”?
So we have to bare in mind that recent studies have found, being overweight or obese at some point in adulthood may very well increase the risk of an early death.
These findings contradict the so-called Obesity Paradox.
“The obesity paradox is a phenomenon seen in previous studies in which overweight people seemed to have a reduced risk of early death compared to those who were of normal weight.”
So having read all this I thought it was certainly worth researching the “fit fat game” to see what floats to the surface as a lot of people are very interested to see the results of my research.
A “weight loss” subject like this is fraught with plenty of controversies, but, I’m game to give it a go especially if I am able to help even just a couple of people with my research, so here goes.
And I would love to hear your comments at the end as well.
Just one thing to get clear before we get started……..don’t get mixed up with the difference between being overweight, fat or obese.
The above book is written by Linda Bacon PhD Nutrition Professor at University of California, San Francisco, and here are a couple of her quotes for you to ponder: “We’re so stuck on the fact that the only way to mediate health is through weight” and another; “Healthy behaviors including nutrition and physical activity, matter more than weight.” Linda Bacon PhD,
Health at Every Size is quoted as being “the new peace movement.”
Linda also has this message for fitness professionals – it’s in PDF format and is well worth a read to get you thinking differently about this “overweight” topic.
As though by fate, one of the topics of discussion on my Quora feed recently was “Is it possible to be fat and healthy at the same time?” Have a read and see what a few other people around the world have to say.
Now picture this in your mind’s eye.
When you see or meet a person for the first time, do you automatically classify that person as fat or overweight and automatically think that he or she is not fit and healthy?
Not really a prognosis you should be messing with, is it?
Even though being overweight can be a sign of present or impending problems, it is not automatically correct to say that a fat person is unhealthy. Although I feel obesity is another story altogether as there can be many other issues involved.
According to many health experts, being overweight is having a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 25 to 29.9, and obesity is having a body mass index of 30 and above.
I have always had a real problem with BMI measurements.
The BMI calculation was proven a long time ago to be an ineffective measure and unfortunately, it’s still used today as a base in studies that essentially support a diet industry more than a healthy society.
To my mind, it is a guide but that’s it. A quick look at a person (especially if they stand in front of a mirror in their undies) will tell you just as much (if not more) and you won’t even need a calculator.
BMI alone cannot be used to determine the health of a person because it will only consider your height and weight.
A measurement of your waist circumference (at the belly button) will certainly tell you a whole lot more information.
For example, when I check my own BMI it says: Your weight appears to be above the ideal range. You should consider losing a few kilograms. You might like to talk to your doctor about whether you need to set yourself a new target for a healthy weight.
And another online calculator said, my BMI result indicates I am in the overweight category, and your waist circumference is in the ideal range.
No wonder people are confused. My doctor thinks so too.
The theory of BMI does not check muscle or fat a person may have (visceral fat or subcutaneous fat).
Just look at any fit front row football player……..you can describe him as obese by using a BMI scale yet he has low body fat and high muscle percentages.
So it begs the question, can someone be overweight or fat and healthy?
You can see it is a complicated question and open to plenty of conjecture which makes me wonder why I have even tried to write this article. I feel as though I am on a hiding to nothing but I will plough on and hope some good comes out of it as I love helping people who are trying to beat the battle the bulge.
After all, what I write on this blog is here purely to help my readers with your longevity, health and fitness and provide some constructive comment on everyday health and fitness issues which I have studied and observed over many years.
Something to make you think about how to have, and live, a better life.
It appears to me that though being overweight is linked to several health-related risks and lifestyle diseases, you can be fat and still be healthy…….happy too!
It is just a matter of how much before it starts becoming a major health risk.
One of the problems is, the degree of risk varies from person to person.
The result from recent research now has scientists thinking that being overweight can offer some protection to your health.
Due to fat deposits, people with these body types can easily get back on track when they fall sick. They have a shorter recovery period and usually have a very strong immune system.
So, if your BMI is not looking too good (like me I suppose), but you follow a healthy diet and you are physically active, you may be healthier than an individual who has a good BMI figure.
5 Fat Related Questions to Ask Yourself
1. Where is your fat stored? This is very significant.
Abdominal, or visceral fat, is considered the worst fat rather than when it is deposited around the butt area or thighs. This is because abdominal fat can easily compromise your internal organs.
2. Can someone be slim but unhealthy?
Yes, you can be slim but unhealthy because being underweight is a health risk.
Where your fat is stored, how you exercise, and your genetics are some of the factors that can tell if you are healthy or not, irrespective of your weight. Knowing where your fat is stored can certainly determine if you are healthy.
The fat found under the skin, subcutaneous fat, is not bad for your health, but the visceral fat stored inside the belly and normally found around the internal organs is very bad for your health.
Health experts in the UK conducted MRI scans on various people to evaluate how fat is stored. In the study, they found out that 45% of women and 60% of men with a normal BMI had higher levels of visceral fat.
This means that people who only check their diet but do not exercise are at higher risk of having visceral fat, regardless of their weight.
3. Should a person be overweight but fit, or slim but unfit?
Numerous studies show that working out more often is important in reducing visceral fat, even if you cannot see any changes in your weight. Being fit can help stabilize some of the health risks associated with visceral fat.
People who are physically fit and normally active, but overweight, can actually be healthier than others in the healthy weight range but physically unfit.
But it is important to note that if you are overweight, some of the health problems associated with excess body fat will still remain even if you are not physically fit.
Recently I came across this informative Harvard Health article headed Can Fitness Counter Fatness?
The researchers examining the “fit but fat” paradox found that being active is somewhat protective compared to being inactive but ultimately does not offset the other negative effects of having overweight or obesity problems.
4. What should you do if you are overweight or obese?
Losing some weight to get into a healthy weight range based on BMI may not be practical for everyone.
The most important thing to do is to eat healthily and remain physically active.
Being physically active will help you avoid weight gain, and reduce any physiological effects of excess weight. You should also consider the emotional element.
You need to be in an environment where you are not bullied, and a place where you can enjoy what you are doing. When you are confident about what your body can do, you become motivated.
5. What are the risks of being overweight or obese?
Most of us understand that being overweight has numerous health risks such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
However, as long you are living a healthy lifestyle, including nutritional eating and physical activities, generally speaking you are good to go.
You should also check your family history for any chronic diseases, avoid smoking, drink moderately and always check your waist circumference which needs to be less than 102cm for men and 88cm for women.
5 Tips on how to stay active and healthy.
1. Have a workout diary
Health experts have confirmed that most people do more exercises than expected.
So rather than trust your memory I recommend you have a diary so you can record your physical activities every day. You will also be able to plan ahead and evaluate your progress.
2. Get involved in cardiovascular exercises
Get involved in exercises that will make your heart pump a bit faster. Cardiovascular exercises are good for the heart and can help the body to use more energy.
If you hate jogging, you can try swimming, skipping, dancing, Tai Chi or join a gym class.
3. Do some regular strength training – especially women over 60
Weights and other strength training workouts can help you to develop body muscles.
This will also help to burn more calories. You can decide to get involved in garden work or other physical activities but this may not be so involving as resistance exercises. Using the weights or joining a gym class may be a wise idea.
4. Increase incidental exercises
Find opportunities that can increase your movements.
For example, use office stairs instead of a lift, park your car at the far end so that you can have a walk, go talk to your co-staff who is at the far end of the office rather than chatting him or emailing her, and think of going to the printer rather than sending someone.
5. Exercising more is beneficial
Always think of how you can exercise more. Can you increase the time you spend exercising, or the frequency, or by trying a new technique in the gym.
Every person is unique and that’s why there is no one size fits all solution to weight loss.
If you are still confused, it is good to know you are not alone.
Useful information about weight management, dieting, and general health is persistently emerging even though the popular formula of Calories in minus Calories out will remain the basis of most weight management programs.
It is wise to note that we all burn calories and workout differently. Again, when you add in genetics, you can see how difficult it is to come up with just one weight loss formula for every person.
The most important thing to remember is that physical activities and healthy eating are good for your health whether you are overweight or not. In addition, losing a little weight can boost your health without automatically looking at your BMI.
Even though this is not a reason to encourage excess weight, you need to know that what you eat and how you exercise is more significant than the figures on the scales.
So, in the end, can you be Fat, Fit and Healthy?
My research certainly confirms that – as has long been thought – an increased BMI combined with an excess in waist circumference, is linked with a bigger risk of heart disease and many other lifestyle diseases.
I find, most people tend to eat food just for the taste it offers, not the nutritional value.
“Healthy eating = healthy aging.” – John Falkinder
Maybe Dr Aseem Malhotra has the answer, “There is no such thing as a healthy weight, but a healthy person. That is what we should all be aiming for.”
And finally, according to Linda Bacon PhD, fat isn’t the problem.
Dieting is the problem because diets don’t work. It is my opinion that we should simply forget about losing weight and focus all our energies on healthy habits.
A society that rejects anyone whose body shape or size doesn’t match an impossible ideal is the problem.
A medical establishment that equates “thin” with “healthy” is the problem.
Read the book – Health at Every Size.
Cheers – John – your Active Ageing Mentor and Coach.
P.S. Help a friend discover better health…..like and share. Thanks.
P.P.S. Because of the controversial nature of this subject, I would love to hear your views and comments on all the information I have gathered for you here – thanks.
Fit and Fat Research: Here’s some references and links from my research plus plenty more good reading about the question of being “Fit, Fat and Healthy”.
Links to the Science of “Fit, Fat and Healthy”.
‘Fat but fit’ people may still be at risk of heart disease: “The concept of being ‘fit but fat’ is a myth, researchers say,” ITV News reports after a European-wide study involving 17,640 people looked at associations between body weight, metabolic health and heart disease.
Lassale C, Tzoulaki I, Moons KGM, et al. Separate and combined associations of obesity and metabolic health with coronary heart disease: a pan-European case-cohort analysis. European Heart Journal. Published online August 14 2017
Links to the best Fit and Fat Headlines:
‘Fat but Fit’? The Controversy Continues – For some diversity of opinion, I recommend you read a few of the hundreds of comments attached to this article and discover some of the many reasons and excuses people give for being overweight. It really concerns me how some people think about their bodies and their state of denial.
Here is one encouraging comment from the article, “For the very large number of people who are overweight or mildly obese, I don’t think it’s doomsday if they can keep themselves out of the low fitness level,” – Dr. Lavie.
No, Having a Little Extra Fat Won’t Make You Live Longer – this report covers a new study suggesting that the obesity paradox might be explained, in part, by something rather simple: how much muscle mass a person has. A simple explanation that makes good sense and is worth a read especially if you have some issues with the shortcomings of the BMI method of measurement.
New study: Being fat and fit is actually impossible – it finds ‘metabolically healthy obese’ people are still at risk of heart failure: We’ve all heard the term “healthy at any size”, but a massive new study has found people who are overweight but fit, are actually not healthy at all.
It is Not Possible to be ‘Fat and Fit’ Major Study Finds – The major study analyzed the records of 3.5 million Brits over a 20 year period. Independent, May 17, 2017
Harvard Health – Is it ok to be fat if you’re fit? This article starts off by saying, “Research suggests that physical activity may cancel out some of the bad effects of being overweight or obese.”
Harvard Health – Can you be overweight and still be fit? They tell us here that excess weight carries health risks. But the question they pose is – how much is too much? The idea that someone can be “fat and fit” – that is, overweight but still healthy — has been around for some time. But don’t be fooled.
Concept of being ‘fit but fat’ is a myth, researchers say. ITV News, August 15 2017. The story and corresponding results surrounding this myth have been extracted from the study led by experts at Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge.
‘Fat but fit’ still risk heart disease. BBC News, August 15 2017. They reveal further evidence that fatness and fitness don’t go well together.
How ‘fit but fat’ is a myth: Overweight people are still at greater risk of heart problems even if other markers suggest they are healthy. Mail Online, August 15, 2017 – a story that challenges the concept of healthy obesity.
Model Ashley Graham Shares the Awful Comments She Gets When She Works Out. With over 5 million followers on Instagram, this is a ‘must-read’ for all you ladies out there who have weight issues and suffer from self-doubt about your body image.
A Global Message from Leading Plus-Size Fitness Experts and Athletes – I also like this one as it covers one of the many misconceptions that exist about plus-size people, the notion that they don’t care about fitness is one of the most narrow-minded.
The Power of Everyday Activity. Questioning things like how much exercise do you need to do to reach an optimal level of fitness and how harmful is it if you choose to be a couch potato?.
Scientists now think that being overweight can protect your health. – An interesting dissertation on why being ‘overweight’ means you live longer: the way scientists twist the facts. A great overview of why we need to be smart and realize that any reference to things being ‘black or white’ when it comes to being overweight, is probably dangerously misleading. A good read to finish up with.
Healthline – Is There Such a Thing as ‘Healthy Obesity’? Here we find a new research paper that states the term should be retired. Other experts say the assumption obese people are unhealthy causes a variety of problems.
Cheers – John – your Active Ageing Mentor and Coach.
P.S. Help a friend……like and share. Thanks.