Skinny Fat

fat shadow man

For many years I have felt that weight is not a determining factor of overall health.

People can be fat and fit, just like they can be thin and unhealthy. Your overall health and well being will be influenced more by whether you exercise, eat right and take care of yourself, rather than if you are thin or heavy.

Don’t get me wrong, it is certainly better for your overall health to be of a normal weight. A normal weight person who exercises, eats right and takes care of themselves will be healthier than an obese person who exercises, eats right and takes care of themselves.

That same obese but healthy individual will be healthier than someone who is of normal weight or thin and not taking care of themselves.

We all know people who are thin and eat whatever they want, and haven’t exercised in years. Our society unfortunately associates health and wellness with being skinny. This is just not accurate.

From what I have seen in my practice and have read about, it is more important to take care of yourself (exercise consistently, eat right) than it is to be thin. For many of us it is just not a reality to be ripped, thin, and lean.

There are many diet and exercise systems out there that prey on people desperate to lose weight and don’t know how to do it. If you have been overweight for many years, haven’t exercised or eaten right for many years, you are not going to lose 20 pounds in two weeks. Any diet or exercise system that promises that is lying. You would have to make yourself miserable in the process and probably make drastic changes to your lifestyle that are unhealthy and impossible to keep up long term in order to lose that much weight that quickly.

It is more important to focus on exercising, eating right and taking care of yourself, consistently. If you can do these, then you will feel better, be healthier, have less of a risk for the leading, preventable causes of death in western society (type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc), and you will lose weight. You may not look like a ripped, lean, mean Greek God or Goddess, but you will feel better, have a longer life, better quality to that longer life, prevent future weight gain, and lose some weight. You might not lose a ton of weight, you might not look like you did when you were 18, but you will look and feel better than you will if you are not taking care of yourself.

I want to live as long as possible, but only if I feel good and can take care of myself. The only way to do this is through consistent exercising and healthy eating. There is no magic bullet or some secret that only the stars in Hollywood know about to lose weight quickly and stay thin and look young. The only miracle pill we have is exercise and healthy eating. It is the only fountain of youth that we have.

Time magazine just ran an article,  The Hidden Dangers of “Skinny Fat“, talking about that same subject. The conclusion is that we are putting too much emphasis on weight. Aesthetically we all want to be thin and have no body  fat. Unfortunately, very few of us have the genetic predisposition to achieve that.

It is not because everyone who is obese is lazy. Genetics play a major role in health. I believe that our health consists of 25% environmental factors, 25% consists of what we can control and how we treat our bodies and our lifestyle, the other 50% is controlled by our genetics.

In the same way, not all of us, no matter how hard we work at it, are going to be professional athletes. Some people are just genetically gifted. My father, who spent many years working on professional football players, Olympic athletes, and many other types of athletes, always said that some people have good parts. Other people are not so lucky, and don’t have such good parts. We can be genetically programmed to be big boned, thicker, taller, smaller, darker, lighter, etc. Many of these factors are mostly out of our control. Sure, you can dye your hair, or wear high heeled shoes, or go on a crash diet, but the end results will be that you are still the same person with the same genetics.

This is not to say that you can’t influence how your genetics affect you. We can be genetically predisposed to get certain types of illnesses and diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.

In my family, heart disease runs rampant. Many people in my family have died from, or have had major health effects from, heart disease and high blood pressure. That is a big part of the reason why I do not eat meat. High meat consumption drastically increases the chances of heart disease, especially in middle age. I know that I am very susceptible to it, so therefore I will do what I can to decrease my chances of getting heart disease. I also do a lot of cardio-vascular exercise to help keep my heart healthy. I am trying to positively influence my genetics. I can’t do anything about what I was born with, but I can influence it, both positively and negatively. I want to influence my genetic predisposition positively. It is a choice.

Studies show that we are able to positively influence our genetic makeup. We don’t have to accept what we are born with. Research on lifestyle shows that we can have a positive impact on chronic disease. A study from 2013 showed that people with a high risk of type 2 diabetes could prevent the disease through positive lifestyle changes such as: healthy eating, exercising, quitting smoking, and managing stress.

You may not be able to choose to be thin or thick or tall or short or dark or light, but you can choose to positively, or negatively, influence your genetic makeup and therefore your body.

Our society puts too much emphasis on being thin. We equate being thin with being healthy, and this is just not the case. Those who are thin and don’t take care of themselves will have the same metabolic issues that someone who is obese and doesn’t take care of themselves. Thin and out of shape people can be susceptible to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.

Dr. Daniel Neides, medical director at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute said “I see these people all the time. On the outside the look incredibly healthy, but on the inside they’re a wreck.”

A study from 2008 found that one fourth of U.S. adults of normal weight have unhealthy hearts of some kind, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. According to a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that older adults with normal BMIs but high levels of body fat are at a greater risk for cardio-vascular disease and death than previously thought. Another report released in 2014, concluded that people with “normal weight obesity” (normal BMI, high body fat) have a significantly higher risk of metabolic problems and death than other groups.

Don’t focus on weight and weight loss.  If you do, you will always be disappointed. Instead focus on health, well being, and pain reduction through positive lifestyle changes such as healthy eating and exercising, and weight loss will happen. Even if you don’t lose weight you will still be better off and healthier than you would be if you were not taking care of yourself. It is the Pain Free Way.

Here is a link to an article that I wrote about being fat and fit.



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