Weight Goal — Can You Be Overweight and Healthy?
Getting to the Weight of the Matter
When you hit your weight goal, you are more productive, alert, and on point. It’s well worth the sacrifices you make to get there. In fact, it’s more than just a sacrifice to avoid unhealthy foods and exercise to keep your body in shape; it’s an investment in your well being. It’s not easy. We recognize that. But the paybacks can be tremendous. The benefits of a healthy weight are clear, but does that mean that being overweight always makes one unhealthy?
There is an overwhelming presumption in our country that if an
individual is overweight they are also unhealthy. Research clearly
supports that being overweight is
a major health risk factor, contributing to an increase in cardiovascular disease, diabetes
stroke, and many types of cancer. So can we assume that if you are
hauling around extra pounds that classify you as overweight or obese, it
will destine you to a future filled with illness and disease?
An intense debate has emerged in the last few years amongst obesity researchers, asking the question, "Can people be overweight but still be healthy?"
Is the number on the scale the only thing that counts, or should we
take other factors into consideration? Scientists are now dueling over
the relative importance of "fatness vs. fitness" when it comes to
determining the health of an overweight individual.
A small but vocal group of researchers have been challenging
conventional wisdom. They argue that not only is it possible to be both
fit, but fitness is actually a more significant measure
of health than body weight. The first major fatness versus fitness
study was conducted by researchers at the Cooper Institute, a nonprofit
fitness organization in Dallas. In a study of 22,000 men ages 30–83, the
researchers measured subjects' body composition
(the proportion of fat to muscle) and put them through treadmill
tests. They concluded if you are fit, being overweight doesn't
increase mortality risk.
Steven N. Blair, who heads the Cooper Institute, defends the role of
fitness as a major determinant of health regardless of one's weight.
"We've studied this from many perspectives in women and in men and we
get the same answer: It's not the obesity—it's the fitness," Blair said.
"Fitness can substantially reduce, if not eliminate, the high risk of
Results of studies done by Mary Fran Sowers and Judith Wylie, obesity
researchers at the University of Michigan, showed that thin, unfit
people can develop heart-related problems
that fat but fit people often do not. Kelly Brownell, Director of the
Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders, concluded in a 2003 study
that heavy people that are fit have a lower risk of heart disease
than thin people who are unfit.
However, others are concerned that sending this message will be
misunderstood, giving overweight and obese individuals the message that
weight doesn't matter; an excuse to accept the extra pounds as
unimportant and not to be worried about diet as long as they exercise.
"Being overweight has a clear association with important health problems, and even modest weight loss
has important health benefits," said Walter Willett, an expert on
nutrition and health at the Harvard School of Public Health. "To tell
people it doesn't matter is really misleading. It does make a
difference. It makes a huge difference."
The Nurses' Health Study, which since 1976, has been looking at the
lifestyle habits and mortality rates of approximately 238,000 nurses,
found that being a little active and a little fat wasn't such a bad
combination. But physical activity didn't completely eliminate the
risks that were associated with being overweight or obese. In fact, when
the nurses were grouped by how active they were, the heavier nurses
were more likely to have died than the lighter ones at every activity
Despite the differences in these studies, they all suggest that physical
activity will offset some of the effects of excess weight, if it's just
a few extra pounds. No one is debating that there is a marked
difference in disease rates in the obese vs. the overweight. When
assessing overall health risk, we need to look at many factors
, not just the number on the scale.
There are many ways to assess overall health and mortality risk, and
it's time to look at all these factors together before putting a stamp
of "healthy" or "unhealthy" on anyone. The most common measure used to
determine if a person's weight puts them at a health risk is the BMI
which is a measurement of the ratio of weight to height. Healthy
individuals fall within a BMI range of 18.5-24.9; overweight between
25-29.9; and obese above 30. However, the problem with the BMI is that
it does not take into account body composition. Since muscle is more
dense than fat is, a person with a high percentage of lean muscle mass
may end up in the overweight category, despite being lean and fit.
Although the BMI has value, it should be looked at along with other factors. Among healthy weight individuals, people with larger waists
and pot bellies have a greater incidence of increased blood pressure and increased cholesterol. Women with a waist circumference
over 35, and men over 40, have an increased risk of obesity related diseases.
which is a disorder of growing proportion in this country, is marked
with a greater risk for coronary artery disease and diabetes. It is
diagnosed when an individual has at least three of the following
CRP test, a simple blood test that measures C-reactive protein, is also a
strong indicator of heart disease risk. And of course, a health
profile would be incomplete without looking at other risk factors such
as cigarette smoking and family history.
With all of this information, what does it mean for individuals like
Lori who overweight, but active, and not displaying many of the
measurements of increased health risk? Should the emphasis be on taking
the pounds off, improving fitness, or both?
The healthcare industry may be missing the mark and doing a disservice
to our overweight clients and patients with the typical approach of
focusing so heavily on nutritional changes. We've looked at exercise as a
modality to help take the extra pounds off, but the main emphasis has
been on diet. If the goal is to improve the overall health profile of
the individual, could we do this by looking at fitness first
There is no debate that taking off excess pounds improves health. It is
a well known documented fact that losing as little as 5% of overall
body weight results in significant improvement in the markers that
determine health. And it is true that manipulating dietary intake
results in faster weight loss than exercise alone. We certainly know
that the best approach is dietary changes and exercise together. But
this total overhaul of lifestyle can be overwhelming and extremely
difficult for people to adopt. It takes patience, perseverance, support
and education. Not everyone is ready to embark on all of these changes
For most, the first attack on excess pounds is "going on a diet."
Unfortunately, this usually brings up feelings of deprivation, boredom,
and a serious lack of confidence in permanent success. "Dieters" often
focus on everything they no longer can eat. Too many end up feeling
badly about themselves when they have lapses in willpower and are unable
to completely eliminate "bad foods." Rather than dieting, a lifestyle
approach that includes dietary changes is essential.
Similarly, if the main reason exercise is encouraged is to help with
weight loss, you may be sorely disappointed. But when you view exercise
as a means to improve health and well-being, rather than something you have
to do in order to lose weight, you can measure success from a different parameter.
Once adopted, exercise often leads to marked improvements in emotional
outlook, physical strength, and self-esteem
matter what your size. Ironically, when an individual embarks on an
exercise program, they often report feeling more in control of their
dietary habits. They suddenly want to eat healthier to fuel the new
So apart from any weight-loss goals you've set for yourself, it's
important to exercise regularly. However, it's salient to realize
exercise isn't going to magically erase all the health risks of being
heavy--especially if you're doing a minimal amount of exercise.
Inconsistent physical activity isn't enough to keep you healthy at any
size. Neither will doing just the minimum requirments (or less). Regular
exercise that includes cardiovascular (aerobic), flexibility and
strength components and adds up to at least 150 minutes per week is
essential. To find out just how fit you are, try these four fitness tests you can do at home
to assess your current fitness level. Weight has no factor on these
results, but if your fitness scores are poor or below average, that
would be an indication that you need to step it up in the exercise
department if you hope to offset the risks associated with being
Rather than going on a diet, eat for good health and energy. By de-emphasizing the number on the scale
, and looking at all
measures of health risk, you'll feel empowered to be proactive about
their health. Ironically, when this healthy lifestyle pattern becomes
habitual, excess pounds often disappear as a result.
So what was my advice to Lori? Continue to exercise, eat for good health and vitality, pay attention to all
the health parameters—not just the number on the scale—and lastly, find a new, more compassionate and knowledgeable physician!Source
At Bariatric Health and Wellness, we don’t just preach eating properly; we provide a roadmap to follow. From breakfast foods and cold beverages to salad dressings and desserts, we provide a comprehensive list to guide you to healthy choices. Don’t continue to lose energy and your health when you can hit your weight goal with our help. Bariatric Health & Wellness is here to serve you.