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Can You Be Fat But Fit?

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Overweight and Athletic

Big Accomplishments

But can women who are packing an extra 25, 50, or even 75 pounds on their frame actually kick ass athletically? "They might pay a price when it comes to speed," says Chuck Hobbs, the head coach for Fit2Train, a triathlon team in Dallas. But in terms of strength and endurance, the answer is, hell, yes. Consider the group of athletes recruited for a recent study at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. All of them are seriously accomplished, having participated in multiple Ironman competitions, marathons, or distance cycling events. And all of them are obese, with fat making up more than 30 percent of their body weight. "From a cardiorespiratory standpoint, they are very strong and very healthy," says the study's lead author, Santiago Lorenzo, PhD, a cardiopulmonary researcher at the institute. "They have outstanding endurance and are comparable in fitness to fellow athletes of normal weight."

What's more, Lorenzo and other experts suspect that an obese athlete's body can actually become stronger from carrying its own weight. In essence, the extra pounds provide built-in resistance training, especially for the lungs, which can have trouble inflating fully when there is a lot of fat in the chest cavity. "The bodies of the obese athletes in our study have adapted after years of conditioning," Lorenzo explains. "They have developed an ability to generate higher airflow and deliver ample oxygen to their blood and muscles. For typical obese people who want to become active, this may mean that they are not going to have the limitations we previously assumed they would."

Minor Changes, Major Benefits

For those who set their sights on the fat-but-fit paradigm and aspire to a healthier body, metamorphosis doesn't come easy, however. Packing extra poundage can make it hard to get down on the floor or up from it or to move freely. There's also an emotional component: "They need to find environments where they won't be bullied and where they can actually enjoy and excel at what they're doing," Hobbs says. "When they are confident about what their body can do, they become more motivated to take good care of it. Real change begins to happen."

When the author Hanne Blank retrained her focus on exercise instead of food, her eating habits and her weight finally reached an even keel after years of yo-yoing. And every one of the active large women interviewed for this story drove home the fact that making regular exercise a part of her life has caused her to feel happier as well as more empowered, attractive, and inclined to take on greater physical challenges.

All of which is reason for us to stop using the word normal when we talk about weight and start focusing on realistic goals and expectations, including exercising regularly and being more active every day. These are words to live by for Blank, who is happy just to get out and get sweaty. "It's been almost 10 years since I took my life off hold and decided to become physically active in spite of my weight. I'm out there almost every day, walking, biking, hiking, or weight lifting. I feel comfortable in my body. I'm energetic and healthy," Blank says. "But even people close to me sometimes shake their heads and ask why I'm still fat. And I tell them, 'Because I am. That's just what I've got!'"

Next:  Are You Heavy?

 

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lark1964 wrote:

I have weighed between 240-245 (5'8") for years, I go up, I go down, but I always return to the range. I work out with a trainer regularly, I can run 2 miles, I eat healthy - and it doesn't come off or stay off! So, here I am, my boyfriend thinks I'm sexy, my 25-year-old daughter says I look great, my trainer uses me as an example of curvy power on his wall in his studio, and my doctor says I'm strong and healthy. What more could I ask for, really?

1/10/2014 09:27:46 AM Report Abuse
sunflowersince1999 wrote:

I'm glad. I've got a friend who calls herself fat. she exercises regularly but she isn't that small according to her. but checking her BMI and reading this I can tell her she is healthy. I'll give her this site. Thank you!!

12/29/2013 03:41:55 AM Report Abuse
hmhughes171 wrote:

Perhaps we now have to redefine what "overweight", "obese", and "fat" really mean. If women are healthy, fit, constantly exercise, and even have a doctor tell them they are healthy, the they are NOT overweight, obese, or fat no matter what the scale or society says!

8/20/2013 03:15:17 PM Report Abuse
benchpress150 wrote:

I feel guilty for having wrongly judged my "overweight" friends, even though I suspected, based on swimmers at my local YMCA, that many of them could kick my butt! I know they do in the pool!

8/12/2013 12:20:15 PM Report Abuse
sdudley18 wrote:

Is that picture supposed to represent a fat but fit girl? Maybe it's our image of 'fat' that needs to change, because as far as I'm concerned it looks like the girl in that photo has a defined waist and strong legs. Sure she has some curves, but since when are curves necessarily fat? I disagree with, and am sometimes offended by some of the photographic representations in this magazine.

7/15/2013 11:15:14 AM Report Abuse

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