This is part of the Healthy Weight Management Series of articles, tips, blogs and videos which is available on the Sunset Coast Hypnotherapy Facebook page .

Can you be healthy while overweight?

Can you be ‘fit’ while ‘fat’?

Commenting on the idea that anyone who is overweight should lose weight, Nadja Hermann states that:

I respect anyone’s decision to set other priorities and happily accept being overweight or obese. Just because you can change a situation, it doesn’t mean you must. That said, it’s important for that decision to be an informed one (1).

Nadja Hermann, The Guardian, 5 January 2019

Does being overweight directly affect your quality of life? It may not be apparent until a few years have passed. But just because the effects of being overweight are not showing doesn’t mean that they are not there.

Girl sitting on top of mountain with arms outstretched

Research studies on effect of weight on health

One study analysed data from healthy and overweight people (2) to find the long-term consequences of obesity with the specific aim of examining so-called “healthily obese” people. A comparison of healthy people (with normal weight) and healthy (but obese) people showed the obese group had a significantly higher risk of dying or developing cardiovascular disease. The conclusion was therefore that the belief you can be “fat but fit” is just a myth.

Another study (3) followed ‘healthy’ obese subjects over 20 years and found that their risk of becoming ill was eight times higher than that of the healthy normal weight group. The risks included diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, sleep apnoea, arthritis/joint problems, fertility problems, asthma, back pain, incontinence, gout and stroke. Over half of the ‘healthy’ obese subjects became unhealthy during the 20 year period.

Excess weight can also make you more susceptible to sleep apnea, joint pain, and arthritis and increase your resistance to insulin, which can lead to diabetes (5).

A paper published online on March 16, 2018, by the European Heart Journal studied almost 300,000 people (normal weight, overweight, or obese) without heart disease. After four years, there was a direct correlation between higher body mass index (BMI) and a higher risk for heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure (5).

In fact, they discovered that the risk increases the more fat a person carries around his or her waist. Within the study, those men who started with a 32-inch waist and a BMI between 22 and 23 (which is considered healthy), and those who added five inches to their waist size raised their heart disease risk by 16%(5). (BMI is calculated by dividing your weight (in kilograms) by your height (in metres squared).

It is also worth stating that the BMI may not be accurate for those who are muscular, of short stature, or elderly. For instance, someone who is 5 feet 10 inches and 220 pounds with 12% body fat would be considered obese based on BMI standards. Obviously, someone with 12% body fat is not obese (6).

A study in the Feb. 28, 2018, JAMA Cardiology found that the longer you are overweight, the shorter your life. Middle-aged men (average age 46) who stayed overweight shortened their lives by almost six years compared with those who maintained a normal weight.

It is important to be realistic about our physical fitness, both so that we don’t injure ourselves, but also so that we have a realistic idea of how far we need to go if we want to become fit. In 2013, USA leader of the fat-acceptance movement, Ragen Chastain,  completed a marathon and published an article about it (4). She covered just over 40km in 12 hours and 20 minutes. Her average speed of less than 3.5km (2.2 miles) an hour is much slower than normal walking speed. The marathon had officially ended hours before she crossed the finishing line – the stands removed, the organisers gone. The last participant to complete the race, several hours before Chastain, was a woman in her 70s.

According to the National Institutes of Health’s 1998 report, Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults, people who are overweight can be considered healthy if their waist size is less than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men, and if they have no more than one of the following conditions:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • High cholesterol

However, they should not gain additional weight and preferably should lose some weight (6).

Steven Blair, of the Cooper Institute in Dallas,  says that people who are obese but fit (according to cardiovascular measurement such as stress tests) have death rates half that of normal-weight people who are unfit. In addition, improving your fitness level usually results in increased muscle mass, which means your body burns more calories all the time (6).

The good news is that if you take off the excess weight, many of the health issues listed above are reversible, even with just a modest amount of weight loss, according to Dr. Jorge Plutzky, director of preventive cardiology at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital (5).

Healthy eating and regular exercise are good for your health whether or not they lead to weight loss. Losing as little as 5%-10% of body weight is linked to improved cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels. Improving your habits — especially eating more healthfully and getting regular exercise — are more important than the numbers on the scale(6).


Are you interested in a personalised weight loss program? You have the choice of the Virtual Gastric Band program (which runs over 4 sessions) or the in-depth Pathway to a Healthier You (which runs over 8 sessions).

If you would like more help with weight loss, or simply wish to find out more information, please email me (Lisa) on sunsetcoasthyp@gmail.com, or call 0403 932311. I will do my best to answer your questions, and to help you decide if I am the best therapist for you. All with no obligation.


References

(1) https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jan/05/truth-obesity-five-fat-myths-debunked

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24297192

(3) http://www.onlinejacc.org/content/65/1/101

(4) https://danceswithfat.org/2013/12/03/my-big-fat-finished-marathon/

(5) https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-you-be-overweight-and-still-be-fit

(6) https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/can-you-be-fit-fat

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