Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Is it possible to be fit and fat?

I read a story in the LA Times a couple days ago that just won't let go. It's an opinion piece, and you know what "they" say about opinions, don't you? I thought so.

At any rate, the writer, an associate nutritionist at UC Davis, writes:
But what if we learned that our fears around that dreaded fat were misplaced? That "overweight" may confer some protection that actually results in increased longevity? That when factors such as activity, nutrition and history of dieting and weight cycling are considered, the relationship between weight and disease disappears? That biologic safeguards prevent most people from maintaining weight loss, despite vigilant dieting and exercise? That the body has a built-in regulatory system to maintain a healthful weight, if only we'd trust it?

Remarkably, there is substantial evidence to support all of these contentions in the scientific literature. It's remarkable not because they are illogical, but because the scientific peer review process tends to filter out anything that challenges the status quo.

Although it is true that we're moderately fatter than we used to be, life expectancy has also increased dramatically during the same time period in which our weight has risen (from 71 years in 1970 to 77 years in 2003). Meanwhile, heart disease rates have plummeted, and many common diseases emerge at older ages and are less severe. We are simply not seeing the catastrophic consequences predicted to result from the "obesity epidemic."
Her assertion that the collective "we" is healthier in spite of being fatter just doesn't ring true for me. Perhaps I'm brainwashed by the countless dire headlines I read almost daily. [I've pretty much stopped reading the articles, which are strikingly similar in content and degree of alarm. Which is probably why I did read this one … at least it's a different approach.]

If healthier is defined as being medication-dependent, then she could be right. The "plummeting" heart disease rate is surely related to the many medicines which treat or prevent heart disease which weren't previously available.

My personal opinion is that pills may be protecting us when we choose not to protect ourselves with good nutrition and regular exercise, thus accounting for increased girth and decreased heart disease.

Ultimately, while many of us say we want to lose weight for our health, we also want to look good. Perhaps I should speak for myself. I want to be happy with my image when I look in a mirror. I want to choose clothes that flatter, not just fit. I want that little jolt of surprise when I see my reflection in a store window – is that really me?

Until society sees extra weight as attractive, I'm going to keep working at it. At my age, I think I'm going to be working at it for quite a while. People who maintain their weight losses don't quit when they get to goal.


Vickie said...

You might not being doing weightlifting on schedule yet - but your talking about it a couple weeks ago - got ME doing it. Thanks!!!!

Anonymous said...

You can find an article that will support just about any theory that you want lately. Any type of diet. Differing views of "best weight". Etc., etc., etc.
So do what works best for you and your body and head. Walk and eat healthy. And lift weights as soon as you're ready. L, N

Lise said...

Woman to woman, I would endorse the notion that you want to lose weight to be happier with your appearance. that is more than reason enough, especially in a case like yours, where you know that Mr. Shrinking Knitter and the Larger Society and the Fashion Demons are not driving you.

My father's family came from Russia in tne earliest years of the 20th century. My Grandma lived to age 94 and had a bunch of old-lady friends who lived into their 80s and 90s. Every one of them fat to very fat, every one apparently strong as a horse.

While I weigh more than I like, I'm nowhere near their scale. And I do move my body, eat healthy food for the most part and so on. My weight won't make or break my health. I just want to be prettier, in my own eyes. Seems like a good enough reason to me.

FoggyJPinSF said...

The National Weight Control Registry might disagree about the set point theory. Otherwise its true that being "a little" overweight might turn out to be good/better/not so harmful for a person.

Being happy with my appearance is a key driver of my desire to maintain. You could say that makes me vain. Or you could say that the side effect of my vanity is that I'm very healthy. Either way, works for me.