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Fat and Fit: Can Overweight People Be Healthy?

Updated on September 28, 2015
Can fitness at every body size be achieved?
Can fitness at every body size be achieved? | Source

The craze to be ever thinner, ever fitter and to fit into a very narrow ideal of the perfect person may be worse for us than a few extra pounds.

  • Are fat people always unhealthy?
  • Is skinny right for everyone?
  • Are fat-shaming and the stigmas attached to being overweight in America a healthy attitude for the country?
  • Do overweight people always over-eat?

Here is an honest look at fat and health with scientific studies to back up the findings.

Thin Is In

Thin is in and has been for a long time. The cult of thin, the obsession with every lump or bump on our body has created a dichotomy of haves and have nots.

There are those that are naturally thin—who can eat anything, exercise small to moderate amounts and still have that long lean body that lands on the cover of magazines.

There are also those who are thin through a rigorous routine of diet, exercise, personal trainers and hours every day at the gym.

There are others who eat healthy, count their calories, exercise and obsess and still fall far short of their goals. The shame they feel every time they reach for a clothing item in the plus size section is palpable.

But what is behind this country’s obsession with fat? Could the idea that thin is the only way to health be a stretch?

Who or what do you think is the biggest contributor to fat-shaming and bullying?

See results

Exercise

We can all agree that exercise is important to good health. But must we all run marathons to be healthy?

A study out of the Tampa Bay Times by Tom Valeo indicates that exercise benefits people of all sizes, from the thin and athletic to the obese.

In the extensive study of over 43,000 people, Dr. Francisco Ortega noted that “We measured fitness, which is largely influenced by exercise. Once fitness is accounted for, our study shows for the first time that metabolically healthy but obese individuals have similar prognosis as metabolically healthy normal-weight individuals."

The take-away from all of this is that exercise is important and beneficial to people of all shapes and sizes.

However, the stigma of exercising at a gym or even taking a stroll through the neighborhood when one is overweight may inhibit an overweight person from taking up an exercise routine.

Just remember, you don’t have to be thin to benefit from exercise.

Longevity

In another surprising study covered by Christina Earle in The Sun, it found that people who have a few extra pounds may actually be healthier and live longer than their thinner counterparts.

People who have BMI’s in what is considered the unhealthy range actually may have better health.

There are many reasons for this. Some chronically thin people are thin because they are sick. Also, thin people have no extra reserves if they do get sick. The body stores fat as a reserve in times of starvation or in illness. Those reserves may actually help to keep older, fatter people healthier through regular illnesses and extended ones.

Thin people may also wrongly think that they can eat what they want, when they want, because they are thin. This can lead to bad food choices which ultimately make them sick.

People with extra weight tend to live longer.

Food stigmas can keep overweight people from enjoying their meal.
Food stigmas can keep overweight people from enjoying their meal. | Source

Eating

The Portland Examiner noted in a recent article that eating healthy can actually turn into an unhealthy obsession. The diet industry, fads, and trends may cause nutritional deficits and may make someone feel like they are doing something good for their body when they are really not.

And here’s the real kicker. Fat people are not always over-eaters. Many people of all ages and sizes watch what they eat, check their portions, eat balanced meals of vegetables, lean meats, and fruits, and still retain extra pounds.

The assumption is that all overweight people over-indulge on fast food and drink the extra large sodas and that by just limiting them we can all be thin and healthy. This is mostly a myth. Sure there are some that do this and their health is obviously going to be affected when they fill themselves up with fats and sugars. But it is not always the cause or the norm.

But the idea that fat people shouldn’t eat persists. That they should always be dieting or that surely they must eat more than you as thin person is a damaging inference.

Diets

The diet industry is a multi-billion dollar machine. The latest diet du jour will be seen as passé’ as hungry-to-be thin people move on to the next one, hoping for that magic formula that makes them young, thin and desirable.

But studies prove that diets don’t work.

According to Phylis Canion of The Examiner, diets are at best a temporary solution. They offer extreme ideas on what to eat (only drink juice for a week, cabbage for a month!) and are usually abandoned when the result, however temporary doesn’t work or doesn’t last.

But changing your lifestyle and eating healthy is not the answer to all as far as weight loss.

Not surprisingly, people metabolize food differently. Some have very quick metabolisms and some have very slow ones. Also, not surprising is the fact that people inherit their tendencies for body size and shape.

What We Can Do

It’s time for fat-shaming and stigmas to end. Fighting back against the narrow definition of beauty and fitness involves dispelling the myths and discarding the idea that beauty is measured by a number on your clothing tags.

People like The Fat Nutritionist are working to get the message out there that health and beauty can be found at every size.

But it only takes a few minutes of reading a site like hers to see the amount of hate and vitriol that appears in the comments.

People are threatened by the idea of it being okay to be overweight. The idea that we might have been sold a lie, that all that money spent on extreme exercise, gym memberships and the latest fad diet kits may not be the key to living to be a 150 is a threat to our very understanding of health.

By working to change attitudes now, we can help insure the next generation will have a healthier attitude about body size.
By working to change attitudes now, we can help insure the next generation will have a healthier attitude about body size. | Source

Whether you are fat, thin or in-between, it is time to stand up for people of all sizes. Making assumptions about a person based on their weight, shaming and stigmatizing them in public is still far too acceptable.

While we would not sit by and allow someone to be belittled because of their race or gender, many are perfectly fine suggesting that someone shouldn’t eat that slice of cheese or perhaps should order the salad and skip dessert.

The proof is out there and the rigid ideas of health and fitness are eroding.

At the very least, we can help insure that the next generation has better ideas and attitudes about health and fitness.

Be proud of yourself and your size. Beauty comes in all shapes.

It Is Possible To Be Overweight and Fit

References

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    • ytsenoh profile image

      Cathy 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      I think you bring up some valid points for discussion. I also think you presented your subject very well too, so I'm giving you thumbs up for this and that it was well written. I tend to lean on how anything in excess is unhealthy. It's been my experience that people who I have know who are obese tend to overeat routinely out of boredom, insecurity, loneliness. The concern I would have is what are they genetically predisposed to such as high blood pressure, back problems, knee problems, etc. I don't say being thin is better; I say being in a healthier state is better. I have relatives who are now eating healthier and they were obese. Their energy levels are now better and they actually feel good about themselves now. If you overeat and never exercise, you could be setting yourself up for a future health problem down the road. Don't go to the extreme in either direction, just make healthier eating choices, and routinely exercise, both of which are good for your heart and set a good example for your children.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      You have raised some valid points here. An overweight person may not be unhealthy and a slim person's health may not be good enough. Important is to eat healthy, be active and exercise at least 30 minutes to an hour everyday.

      It is so true that a madness is seen, especially among youngsters to starve to look slim, which can lead to serious health issues in future.

      Thanks for this well written and thought provoking hub!

    • LCDWriter profile image
      Author

      L C David 4 years ago from Florida

      Thanks ytsenoh and ChitrangadaSharan. I think that we are just beginning to realize that health is much more complicated than just outward appearances of health. There's so much more that goes on from one person to the next to determine size and appearance.

    • profile image

      Mike 3 years ago

      BMI charts are stupid anyway. Arnold Schwarzenegger at has prime would have been considered "obese" even though all good weight came from good awesome frame. Body fat percentage it's a greater indicator of health. Too low or too high and you are playing with fire. What are for guidelines for this study as fat as body fat percentage goes? (My person BMI is 24.3 because I'm very muscular. This means I'm very close to overweight and only be a few more pounds of muscle (which isn't hard for me to do). I guarantee you that i am wary more healthy than anybody with more body fat than move but at similar BMI. I think the study is bogus.

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