When you see an overweight person, do you automatically assume they couldn’t possibly be fit? While carrying too many pounds can be a signal of current or future health problems, it isn’t necessarily that way for everyone who is overweight.
Health professionals define overweight as a body-mass index (BMI) between 25 and 29.9, and obesity as a BMI of 30 or higher. But BMI alone is not sufficient to predict one’s health and risk of death. BMI measurements rely solely on height and weight. It doesn’t take into account how much fat or muscle a person has. You have seen 300 plus pound football players that would be classed as obese using just BMI, but who have very low body fat. You have also probably known someone who is thin but not very muscular.
So can you be fat and fit? This is a complicated question with no black and white answer. As a group, overweight, but not obese, people tend to live the longest. This was the conclusion of a four decade long study of 100,000 people, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2016. The study found that the healthiest BMI was 27, even though this is considered overweight. Being overweight is believed to lend some protection to patients with medical problems including pneumonia, burns, stroke, cancer, hypertension, and heart disease, partly due to the fat reserves they have to fall back on when a major illness takes over their body. Overweight hospital patients typically have shorter recovery times, a stronger immune system, and less risk of arthritis or dementia.
Where your fat is located is important, however. Abdominal fat, or an apple shaped body, is considered to be worse than a pear shaped body where fat is deposited around the hip, thighs, or butt area. Abdominal fat tends to go deep into your abdominal cavity and can surround and even compromise your internal organs.
Some people call this the obesity paradox. Others call it metabolically healthy obesity. What is known is that weight is not a reliable indicator of overall health. One thing everyone can agree on is this: to be healthy, you need to meet the following requirements, regardless of BMI:
· Waist measurement of no more than 40 inches for a man; 35 for a woman
· Normal blood pressure (<120/80)
· Normal lipid levels: cholesterol less than 200, triglycerides less than 150
· Normal sensitivity to insulin
· Normal fasting blood sugar (<100)
· Good physical fitness level
In a perfect world, we would all be lean, fit, and metabolically healthy. But that is far from the case in the U.S, where nearly 3 out of 4 people are classed as overweight or obese. While being overweight is still considered a health condition that should be treated, focusing on restricted dieting and weight cycling is not good for your health either. Eating disorders, muscle mass loss, and a slowed metabolism are all potential side effects of trying to lose weight. Perhaps a better approach is to focus on healthy behaviors, regardless of what the scale says. The benefits of exercise go far beyond burning calories. Being physically active helps prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, some cancers, and osteoporosis. Exercise can improve your mood, reduce anxiety, and help manage stress.
Good nutrition is beneficial in so many ways. A diet high in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and lean meat and low in sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats has been shown time and time again to be preventative against heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and numerous other diseases. It is impossible to obtain all the various vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that are required for our body to function at its best by relying on heavily processed foods, vitamin supplements, or additives.
So if those last few pounds just won’t budge, don’t worry so much about it. Keep active, eat right and be healthy.