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There is strong research showing fat people can be healthy and fit

Joanne Ikeda, co-founder, Center for Weight and Health | November 3, 2009

The publicity about the obesity epidemic has convinced many people that being overweight or obese is unhealthy, and the only way to achieve health is to lose weight.  The problem is that long term weight loss is a very elusive goal for most people.  It is estimated that less than 5% of individuals who lose weight, are able to maintain that weight loss permanently.  The other 95% usually regain the weight, and far too often, they regain more than they originally lost.  So what is a health professional to do about this situation, especially when there is research showing that repeated weight cycling can increase risk of chronic disease?

Many health professionals are going beyond the scale to determine what kind of advice to offer to patients.  They are relying upon metabolic indicators to determine a person’s health status.  What are these metabolic indicators?  They are familiar to most of us as they include blood pressure; serum cholesterol, HDLs and LDLs; insulin resistance; fasting plasma glucose; and C-reactive protein levels.  These are considered the most accurate indicators of a person’s health status.   Doctors collect this information whenever they give an adult his or her annual medical check-up.

Interestingly, data from a cross-sectional sample of 5440 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey, found that half of overweight adults and almost one-third of obese adults were metabolically healthy.  Of course, that means that half of overweight and two thirds of obese adults were not healthy.  What does this tell us?  It tells us that health is possible for both obese and overweight adults, and that being fat does not automatically doom one to a shortened lifespan and increase risk of chronic disease.    In other words, it is possible to be fat and fit.  Of course that does not happen without effort.   Research published over the past 15 years indicates that those who are fat and fit practice healthy lifestyles.  They are physically active, eat a nutrient dense diet, and get enough sleep.   So, if you are one of those “larger” people who are worried about your health, focus on improving it by adopting a healthier lifestyle.  After making changes, ask your physcian to reevaluate your health to determine what improvements you have made in your metabolic fitness.   Studies show that your chances of improving your health are quite good.