Obesity is at an all-time high in the U.S., but the situation may not be as bad as the media makes it out to be. If we are to believe some studies, a couple of excess pounds doesn’t necessarily make one unhealthy.
These findings have been met with some resistance over the years. The topic of “fit at every size” continues to be controversial in the medical community, even with the existence of formulas for body health.
So, is “healthy obesity” real? The answer depends on whom you ask and how you define healthy.
By Traditional Definition, Obesity is “Bad”
Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 and above. BMI (Body Mass Index) is a way to measure body fat based on the person’s weight relative to their height. A “healthy” BMI straddles between 10 and 24, and a BMI between 25 to 29.9 is overweight. Anything higher is medically considered obese.
A person becomes obese for a variety of reasons: genetics (some are born with the fat gene), lifestyle choices (poor diet and low physical activity), or a combination of both.
Regardless of the cause, obesity is linked to various health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer.
Obesity, then, is perceived negatively by medical doctors, a state that must be changed. The standard advice for obese patients is to lose weight by being more physically active and watching what they eat.
However, the notion of weight as the sole indicator of health has been challenged by some studies. This new, radical idea is what eventually created the “fat but fit” movement.
Physical Fitness Trumps Weight
Some experts believe that the level of fitness is more than just someone’s BMI. According to the pro-fat stance, fat people who exercise are healthier than thin people who don’t.
Exercise positively affects the body, regardless of the body fat present. Sometimes, the positive effects are enough to counter the health risks brought about by obesity. These experts argue that by exercising, whether it leads to weight loss or not, people lower their risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Another study claimed that a lot of overweight and obese people are not any more prone to early death than thinner people on the sole basis of weight. Instead of weight loss, people should focus more on increasing physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness to minimize their mortality risk.
In another study, experts claim that obese people who work out are healthier than thin people who don’t. That can be explained by something called “metabolic fitness.” To be metabolically fit, one must strive to be physically fit, regardless of weight. Fat people can be metabolically fit even with the excess weight. Meanwhile, thin people can be metabolically unfit.
There are prerequisites, though. To be obese and physically fit, one must have normal blood sugar, normal blood pressure and normal cholesterol, and a waist that’s no greater than 35 to 40 inches.
All these studies boil down to one conclusion: people can be fat and fit, just as they can be thin and unhealthy. There is no single formula for achieving total body health.
To answer the question “is healthy obesity possible?”, yes, with physical activity and healthy dietary choices, obese people can be healthy. And it doesn’t matter what the weighing scale says.
That said, the fat acceptance movement is an ongoing controversy in the medical field, and the fight against fat prejudice is far from over.