Fat or Fit: Can you be both?

OK, I’m responding to this late.  In the September Issue of Scientific American there is an Article entitled, “Can Fat be Fit?”

As you’d expect, they answer “no.”  The article is in response to a very well publicised and horribly flawed study done by Katherine M. Flegal, a researcher at the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.  She did a Statistical analysis of mortality rates of obese people verses people at a “healthy” weight.  She concluded that obese people had LOWER mortality rates than the people in healthy range.  And that, in turn, got a whole bunch of idiots who don’t know the first thing about the health sciences exited (I’m sure for monetary reasons) to write books and articles spouting off about how the medical establishment is all wrong, and being fat is wonderful.

Here are some key points:

 Flegal’s work didn’t factor out smokers and those with chronic illnesses.  That is, the thin people weren’t healthy to begin with.

Professor Meir Stampfer, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health says (of Flegal’s research and the corresponding hoopla), “It’s complete nonsense, and it’s obviously complete nonsense, and it’s very easy to explain why some people have gone astray … when you get sick, you lose weight, and you die.”

Another researcher, James A. Greenberg, did a similar statistical analysis.  Except that he DID account for other unrelated health factors and found that those who were Obese had 3 times the mortality rate of those who were of “healthy” weight.

If your BMI rises from 20 to 25 your risk of Diabetes quadruples.  If it goes past 30, your risk increases 30-60 fold … that’s not a typo!

The three factors you should look at (according to Dr. Wilett, a collegue of Professor Stampfer) are:

  1. keeping your BMI within the range of 20-24.9 (I’m a little uncomfortable with BMI, but it’s better than nothing)
  2. getting you weight to what it was when you were 20 years old (assuming you weren’t fat when you were 20).
  3. Getting your waist circumference down to what it was when you were 20

Clearly those last few rely on you being within “healthy” range when you were 20.  For younger generations, this is becoming less and less possible.  20 year olds today are WAY fatter than they should be, on average.

As for my uncomfortable-ness  with the BMI:  it doesn’t take into account muscle.  ALL of my routines (and the routines of any good trainer) are designed to put a lot of muscle on my clients.  This has a few major effects.

  1. Their metabolism goes way up
  2. they are able to complete daily tasks easier and with a lower risk of injury
  3.  Dieting becomes easier
  4. They look more shapely, better.

And that last one is part of the point isn’t it?  Whether we like to admit it or not, most of us want to look as healthy as we are.  It isn’t the main point, but it’s there.  The simple fact is, it’s really not that complicated to have both a healthy body and a healthy look.  Just workout a lot, do intervals, and stop eating crap.

My routines are designed with maximum results in mind.  But, anything is better than nothing, and the ridiculous response to Flegal’s research leads to more people believing that they are not damaging their health by being fat, when in fact they are.  And that is irresponsible.


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