Do I try to lose weight or get healthy?
Can you be overweight and still be fit?
Can you be overweight and still be healthy?
Let’s look at the 1st scenario: overweight and fit. The answer is “it all depends”. It depends on the fitness criteria used to define “fit”. Are we talking about cardiovascular fitness, or strength, or stamina, or sports performance, or endurance, or body composition (i.e. % body fat), or BMI (with additional criteria not even listed here)? So could someone be overweight (as defined by a BMI over 25) and meet the criteria to be labeled as “fit” in one or more of the above categories?
Most definitely. I’ve observed overweight athletes who, based on particular performance standards, might be labeled super fit. Or someone with a body composition that puts them in the overweight category be able to score very well on a cardiovascular evaluation. So again, the answer really lies in what defines “fit”, however it does appear that one can be even mildly to severely obese and still be “fit”. York University researchers in Toronto conducted a study that supported exactly that (BMC Obesity2017; doi:10.1186/s40608-018-0183-7)
What about the second scenario? Can you be overweight and be healthy? The same issue applies here as well; what standards are used to define “healthy”? Often we use what I call the “Doc’s office numbers”: blood pressure, cholesterol, body temperature, pulse. Or is “healthy” better defined by physical ability? For instance, the ability to physically (and should we include mentally in this as well perhaps?) orchestrate all of life’s physical demands without assistance? Or is that defining “able” but maybe not “healthy”? Or is healthy simply being disease free? I have certainly known overweight/obese people who are disease free (or at least as far as they know or can currently be detected) and perfectly “able” to live productively.
But we want to look beyond the numbers here…..and beyond both fitness and medical criteria. Can a body that is carrying more weight (particularly fat weight) than it was intended to carry, really be at its optimal state of good health? Because we know that even a 5 pound weight loss, for an overweight/obese person, makes a significant difference in the workload on the heart and joints, it seems an obvious contradiction to me to say that someone is “healthy” when they are overweight or obese. As an example, the largest most comprehensive (12-year) study on this subject, found that a 30- to 44-year-ld male who is 5’10” in height, and just 13 pounds over his ideal weight (179 vs. 166 pounds), had a 20 percent greater risk of dying from a heart attack. If he is 30 pounds overweight, his chances of dying of heart disease increase by 50 percent (January 1, 1998, N.Engl J. Med).
That brings us to the real issue here: do we pursue weight loss or do we pursue good health? This is a very important question. Being a health coach, personal trainer, and weight management specialist I’m here to tell you that a huge shift is necessary. We talk about it, and we even profess it, unknowingly falsely at times, that we’re trying to be healthy but we’re really going for weight loss. Let me be clear…losing weight is a noble goal and it is the single best thing someone can do to get healthy. But what I’m addressing here is the need, particularly in this country, to shift the intent from losing weight to getting healthy. I’m professing that the way to get to and maintain a healthy weight is to start focusing on the creation, implementation, and maintenance of healthy habits. I contend that this major shift in focus will create big changes, not only in the general health of the average Amarican, but that it is the answer to the end of yo-yo dieting and that is the promise of a much highter likelihood of not only getting to a healthy weight, but of keeping the weight off…for good!
Join Millie Betts, health coach and weight management specialist together with colleague and international presenter, author, whole-self lifestyle wellness educator and practitioner, Teri Gentes for a provocative and empowering one-time workshop on what long-term research proves is the best approach for sustained weight loss and longevity. Workshop will be at GreenFare Organic Café on Wed., Aug.1 6:30pm. We’d love for you to join us there for an optional, specially prepared buffet dinner as well. To purchase tickets: https://LoseWeightFeelGreat.eventbrite.com