The Obesity Paradox

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Our overall health is related to how we take care of ourselves, rather than related to how big or small our waistlines are.

Pain Free Lifestyle exercise and nutrition programs are designed around the principal that it is more important to take care of yourself, be healthy and feel well, than it is to lose weight and be thin. The program is designed around the belief that it is more important to be healthy, than it is to look healthy. The program is comprised of exercises that are designed to make you feel better, rather than to get skinny. Pain Free Lifestyle is not a get thin quick scheme.

A new, anti-diet book came out that reonforces this approach to exercise and nutrition. It is called “The Obesity Paradox,” and it is written by Cardiologist Carl J. Lavie. Lavie, who is a cardiologist at the John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans, said it very succinctly: “looks can be deceiving.”

In his book, he presents the evidence that those with excess weight might be healthier and better able to fight off illness and disease than those of normal weight.

In 2002 Dr. Louis Gruberg, at the Cardiovascular Research Institute in Washington D.C., coined the phrase “obesity paradox.” He did this when he and his colleges found that overweight and obese patients had almost half the risk of mortality than normal weight people following angioplasty.

In 2003, after finding similar trends in his patients recovering from heart failure, he concluded that for every 1% increase in body fat there was a 13% increase in overall survival rates. He published his findings later that year and it caused quite a stir because the scientific community was not ready for it.

Since then more studies have come out concluding that overweight or obese people recover better from chronic diseases such as kidney failure and cancer.

There are critics, but the criticisms don’t explain away the growing body of evidence linking higher BMI’s to better survival rates. I have long felt that the BMI is not an accurate picture of someone’s overall health or risk factors. Lavie echoes this sentiment by saying that the BMI is “a crude way of determining one’s risk factors for obesity related illnesses.”

BMI doesn’t take into account body shape, body type, cardiovascular fitness, overall fitness, overall muscle tone (which weighs more than fat) or genetics (which play the largest role in whether we are fat, thin, develop illnesses or not).

BMI also does not take into account that where the fat is distributed throughout the body. Fat distribution can determine how unhealthy or healthy an individual will be.

In the same way that all calories are not equal, all body fat is not equal. Abdominal fat is associated with metabolic syndrome X, and all that is associated with it, such as higher rates of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Conversely, fat carried in the hips, legs and arms might help us to survive cardiovascular disease, surgeries, or other types of illnesses.

It makes sense that someone with reserves will be better able to withstand everything that goes into dealing with a chronic, long term illness or disease. Long term illnesses puts many stresses on the body as the body is being put through test after test, prolonged stays in the hospital, prolonged bed rest, lack of activity, loss of appetite, pain, wasting and everything else that entails being chronically sick.

Our health is more dependent upon whether we exercise and take care of ourselves, rather than how thin, or thick, we are.

Weight and metabolic health are “imperfectly correlated.” Fully ¼ of obese people are metabolically unhealthy (meaning that they don’t take care of themselves, don’t exercise or watch what they eat). The same amount, ¼ of all normal weight people, are also metabolically unhealthy.

In his book, Dr. Lavie states, “If you have to pick between being fat or fit, go for fit, even if it means being heavier.”

Many times I have seen people get frustrated when starting a new exercise routine because they don’t lose weight fast enough. People new to exercise will commonly change the shape of their body, and change the composition of their body. As you exercise you will put on muscle because you will be getting stronger. Your body will change shape. Muscle will replace fat. Muscle weighs more than fat. So, when working with a new exercise routine, you can actually lose fat, gain muscle, and get heavier in the process. Overall though, you will feel better, have better endurance, less pain, and feel better in general. Even though you might be a little heavier than before you started the new exercise routine.

No matter how thin or how heavy you are, lack of activity will kill you. Sitting for prolonged periods will kill you. Inactivity will kill you quicker than being overweight or obese. It doesn’t matter how thick or thin you are. It matters whether you take care of yourself or not.

Very few of us are born with the genetic composition to get six pack abs and become ripped. Just like very few of us have the genetic predisposition to become professional athletes. If you are genetically big boned and thick, and haven’t exercised in years, it is going to be virtually impossible to get ripped, 6 pack abs. So don’t even try. Focus on exercises that will help you to feel better, rather than just to look better. Focus on exercises that strengthen the muscles that you will use in the real world- your functional muscles.

These are the muscles that you use when you are walking down the street, talking to your friend, and you trip over a curb. These are the muscles that will allow you to catch yourself before you fall. These are the muscles that will prevent injury when you do fall.

Strengthen the muscles that you will use when travelling, carrying luggage, lifting bags into the overhead compartment, chasing after your kids or grandkids, gardening, golfing, etc. Don’t just strengthen the muscles that you see in the mirror. Be smart about how you exercise.

The Pain Free Lifestyle program is easy on your body, easy to follow, and easy to incorporate into your lifestyle. I set up Pain Free Lifestyle to strengthen the muscles that you will use in real life, you functional muscles. I designed Pain Free Lifestyle with easy on your body exercises, with the purpose of strengthening up your functional, real world muscles in a way that will not cause injury. Pain Free Lifestyle is designed with low impact, and low intensity exercises that will not hurt you.

Are those extreme exercise systems like P90x or Crossfit too intense for you, or not the right fit? Check out Pain Free Lifestyle. It will get you shape for the real world without injuring you.

Exercise smarter, not harder. Work with your body, not against it. Make it as easy on yourself as possible to get into shape and feel better. It is the Pain Free Way.

Here are other articles that I wrote addressing these topics:

Skinny Fat

Exercise to Feel Better, Not to Get Skinny

You Can Be Fat and Fit



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