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Hot Debate: Can You Be Fat AND Fit?

Written on December 2, 2011 at 11:28 am , by

overweight with dumbbells

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

By Ellen G. Goldman, Health and Wellness Coach, SparkPeople.com

Lori, a client of mine, recently called me angry, upset and discouraged. She had just returned from her yearly physical, which she had been eagerly anticipating.  Even though she hadn’t reached her weight-loss goal, Lori had made many lifestyle changes to promote good health:  She had begun exercising on a regular basis, made some subtle shifts in her dietary habits that made her feel better, and had even begun a weekly yoga/meditation class to manage stress.

The results of the physical demonstrated her efforts had been paying off.  Her blood pressure was in the normal level for the first time in years, her blood sugars had dropped, and her cholesterol profile had greatly improved. However, once the exam was complete and she was sitting with her physician in his office, rather than commenting on the improvements, he stated, “Lori, I was really hoping you would have dropped a lot more weight since our last visit.  If you don’t get serious about taking off the extra pounds, your risk of early disease will continue.  Have you tried dieting?”

There is a presumption 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, it will destine you to a future filled with illness and disease?

Not necessarily. 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…

Read the entire column here…

And then tell us below: Are you or do you know someone who is overweight but in better health than a skinny person? What are your opinions on if an overweight person can be healthy?


More from SparkPeople:

The 10 Reasons to Drop 10

Waist-to-Hip Ratio Estimates Health Risk

Get a Free Fitness and Weight-Loss Plan

  • Kelly

    Yes I think you can be fat and fit. I think your weight is ONE of MANY numbers that are important to your health. It’s not the be-all and end-all, and I don’t think it’s more important than all other numbers like BP or cholesterol or the time it takes you to run a mile. So I think yes, a lower weight is generally better. But I don’t think weight is more important that overall health, or a good indicator of your overall health.