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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Healthy Obesity?

I listen to a podcast called Fitness Rocks. One interview with Dr. Blair caught my attention when the guest said that his research showed that a better indicator of chronic illness was fitness rather than fatness. A person who was otherwise healthy, exercised, didn't smoke, etc..., but was overweight was not at a high risk for chronic illness. I am summarizing from memory. Being someone who would fit such a criteria, my interest was piqued.

I did a bit of looking around on the web. I find this article by the guy who was interviewed. To sum it up, he says that we don't need to worry about the number on the scale. We simply need to eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, exercise 30 minutes a day, not smoke, and reduce stress to lead a healthy life.

A few articles have appeared in response to him and some books that were written calling the obesity epidemic a myth. Here is one in Forbes and another in the Washington Post. These don't leave with anything conclusive. I found this article on the Mayo Clinic website and an article with Calorie Control which seem to speak against Dr. Blair's findings.

Can you be healthy and obese? Can you be fit and fat? It sounds like a oxymoron. I think it is to some extent. I think the point that Dr. Blair is making is a point that I have been trying to hammer into my own brain. The most important thing is fitness. The societal and political culture is so focussed on fat/BMI/numbers on the scale etc... that many people are trying to "fix" their weight by fad diets, risky surgery, anorexia/bulimia, and pills. People are trying to treat the symptoms rather than the disease so to speak. I am not sure that Dr. Blair is advocating obesity. I believe he is advocating fitness.

I think the wrong way to take his findings is to say that I am just fine being 200 lbs. overweight because I walk for thirty minutes every day. Most people who are overweight and obese are at risk for developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and the like. Why? Is it the fat or the factors that lead to being overweight? I don't know. If you look at Dr. Blair's recommendations of eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, exercising 30 minutes a day, and reducing stress, you have to wonder if someone won't naturally lose the excess fat anyhow.

I did watch a show last week called "You the Owner's Manual" which was based on the book. The one doctor showed several healthy organs and several fatty organs. The difference was dramatic. I have to think that the extra fat is not good for you.

Here I am, an obese man who ran 9 miles last weekend, am training for races this summer and a triathlon this fall. I eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. I can't say that I manage my stress well, but it's not out of control. However, I have lost over 130 lbs. by living a fit lifestyle. I don't take any special pills, I haven't had surgery, I am not on a fad diet, and I am definitely not anorexic or bulimic. In fact, I am not on a "diet" at all. I simply eat in accordance with my lifestyle. I will continue to lose the weight because I am focussed on fitness. Yet even now, I know that I am healthier and stronger than most people I know.


This leaves me with my final thought. I may be fitter than a many people. I may be fitter than many "normal" weight people. But, I could be fitter. Fitness levels fall along a continuum. On one end would be lean, athletic people. On the other end would be obese, inactive people. Where you fall in between has more to do with your lifestyle rather than the number on the scale. Although body fat is still a significant factor. This is encouraging because no matter where you fall on this continuum, you do a lot for your health by making a few healthy changes. You don't need to obsess about how fat you are. Instead, you can focus on how much healthier you are now that you have started walking and starting eating better.

Living Fit Is My #1 Job!

6 comments:

Sayre said...

My father's doctor has called my dad the "healthiest fat man he knows." That makes me angry because my dad takes that as an affirmation of his current state - which is closing in on 500 lbs! He's losing the use of his feet due to osteomelytis. He's strong, but not as strong as he used to be. Working in the garden has become a real workout for him - so he doesn't do it as much. Yet his heart rate is low, his cholesterol is in check, and his bloodpressure is normal. But all those measurements aside, you cannot tell me that he is HEALTHY. For one thing, the excess fat is causing sleep apnea, which nearly killed him last year. His oxygen levels were so low that he was on the brink of death. And THAT condition was caused by FAT. He's getting fatter, sleeps with a forced-air oxygen tank, and spends most of his time in the lazyboy. He is 68 years old. And I know I'm going to lose him soon because he's such a "healthy" fat man.

Yeldarb said...

You bring up some good points. Sometimes it doesnt seem as serious as it really is. Currently at 6ft5in tall and 330lbs I am certainly OBESE but sometimes I get this feeling that things WONT catch up to me. My cholesterol is right at 110, my blood surgars have always been under 100, my BP is generally in the 125/80 range and I am strong as a OX. Am I a healthy FAT MAN, NO, Am I healthier than many skinny men I know, YES... I know I can't run 9 miles but I also know I can jump on the bike and ride 20 with no problem. Dunno, gotta keep plugging away, its the only way. The one question that always brings me back in check is this; "How many 300 plus men do you see who are over 70 years old?" The answer is generally NONE...

Keep up the fight...

"The Captain" said...

Fitnessrocks is one of my favorite podcasts. Great job on all your weight loss. I still haven't given up on winning the 4th of July challenge.
Jeff

Kim Ayres said...

It's an excellent point, and makes me feelmore justified in the fact that I've been advocating being healthy from the outset. If you make the healthy choices, re food and exercise, then your body will naturally lose weight. Thin for the sake of it is not necessarily healthy and being underweight is worse for your health than being overweight.

Half Man said...

Sayre- Sorry about your dad and shame on the doctor.

Yeldarb- The good thing is that you are doing something about before the chickens come home to roost.

Captain- I think you were the one who turned me on to FR. Thanks.

Kim- You are right!

Clinton Walker III said...

I don't believe you can remain healthy and be obese. You can't confused that will being a plus size women and being healthy. You can be a plus sized women and have a low body fat percentage. You can also be slim with a high body fat.