Fat or fit?
This is a topic I have often thought about, but I never really did any looking into it until now. I’ve never had a flat stomach and always have (in my mind) a double chin. I love certain types of junk food and have considered myself “chubby” before. I’m always trying to lose those last 5 pounds as if my life would be so much better if they were gone. My point is that I often see myself as a chubby little girl and not the strong confident woman I know I am. I can do marathons and triathlons and have even held South Dakota State Powerlifting records. Surely if I can do that, I should be able to fit into a bikini, right? Wrong.
We, as a society, pay way too much attention to what celebrities look like and certain fashion trends. If you think you’re not one of those people, you’re wrong — after all, you’re reading this. We let television and movies try to tell us what perfection is and how much happier we’d be if we only could drop our weight faster than a new Hollywood mom. That is unhealthy.
More and more people are realizing that “skinny” is not the same as healthy. New research says that it may be better to be fat and fit rather than a normal weight and sedentary. Or as my friend and co-worker Terry says “skinny-fat.” While I would just love to be my own version of skinny, I now understand that it would not be healthy for me.
People who have extra weight on them but are regularly active may just be at the weight their bodies need to be at to function normally. Nobody told our heads that, though. But it does tell your heart! There are so many benefits to being physically active. No matter what you weigh, if you start to be active for 30 minutes most days of the week, you will see improvements in your cholesterol and blood pressure. You may even drop a few pounds. The greatest exercise benefits come from being sedentary to being active. A 7- to 10-percent loss of body weight will reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and hypertension. If that’s not a motivator, think about this: for every 2-pound gain, you increase your chances of developing arthritis by 13 percent. If you are currently very active, the benefits might not be so noticeable. You’ll just have to trust that as long as you aren’t getting sick or injured, you are doing the best for your body.
When you are active and all body systems are functioning normally and your numbers are good, why worry about weight? Well, I’ll tell you. There are always two sides to every story.
There is no argument that being active is beneficial whether you are skinny or chubby. The issue lies with at what point does the extra weight you carry make the exercise you do pointless? You can be too fat to be fit. I’m talking at least 100 pounds overweight, not the vanity 5 we all want to lose.
Obesity will cause you to die before you would if you were a normal weight. Carrying around extra weight will contribute to increased risk factors for diabetes, stroke, heart disease, sleep apnea, arthritis and cancer. American Heart Association cardiologist Gerald Fletcher says that, “even if the overweight person doesn’t have signs of disease, they will develop them.” So we should probably look into doing something about that spare tire. Physical activity will not eliminate the effects of being obese but can help decrease them. The New England Journal of Medicine published a “sliding scale” of danger: fat but sedentary people are at the bottom, fat and active people were in the middle and lean and active people are at the top. It shows that while being active is great, losing the extra weight and being active is better.
I suppose you will have your own opinions and ideas about this topic, and you’ll see I haven’t clearly stated mine — the jury is still out. My head tells me I am perfect the way I am, but my imagination says I would be better/happier/healthier/richer if I would just drop 5 more pounds. Body fat is a powerful thing in our lives. It carries so much weight with what we do (pun intended). One thing is clear though, we all struggle with how much fat we think we need.
Never judge a book by its cover, either. I’ve had women who are at least 60 pounds heavier than me beat me in races — everything from a 5K to a marathon. They very well could be more fit than me.
Nicole Craig is the wellness director at the Rapid City YMCA. Contact her at 718-YMCA.