Being fat or ‘overweight’ is not the end of your life. In fact, focusing all your health worries on size along is problematic.
I am a mind-body wellness coach. I enter weight loss clients’ lives when they are fed-up of diet and exercise advice. Here are some jaw-dropping statistics I tell them. Armed with this knowledge they are able to chart their own path to holistic health. As I love to say, weight-loss is a happy side-effect! (You can read more about this approach at the Health At Every Size movement site.)
- Most healthy lifestyle changes never give weight-loss. They do, however, give you increased health, better immunity, and a longer, more active life. Multiple studies are suggesting that a focus on weight as a health criterion is often misdirected and harmful.
- BMI is a terrible index of fitness. You may have low or normal BMI and be sick inside. When doctors use BMI as a proxy for health, they misidentify those who need help.
- While doctors are wagging fingers at overweight but fit people, those with normal weight who are unhealthy and need help go unnoticed. A recent government survey indicated that over half the ‘overweight’ adults (51.3%) being targeted are metabolically healthy, and one in four ‘normal weight’ (23.5%) metabolically unhealthy adults are overlooked.
- Especially for kids, health suggestions must be about eating fresh, moving more, and a focus on positivity. Research shows that singling out larger children and youth for weight-related interventions in schools increases both anxiety for the child and stigmatization, prejudice, and harassment towards the child.
- The only achievement of the belief that FAT is to be FEARED is that a large percentage of 10-year-olds admit to dieting, binge eating, or a fear of getting fat and we are now seeing eating disorders in children as young as five. It is the time that our whole culture changed from fearing fat to understanding health more holistically.
There is more where that came from, so don’t be shocked just yet. You think ‘normal’ weight means the ideal weight giving you most longevity? A large-scale study by the CDC and National Institute of Health (NIH) found you are far less likely to die if you are overweight or even obese than if you are at ‘normal’ weight.
If the US was to redefine normal weight to mean the least chance of dying, about 78% of people presently called overweight and obese (by BMI) would be seen as having normal weight! Read more that in this NY Times article.
So why does being fat bother us so much?
As you might have guessed, there is big money in scaring people that they may die because of being fat. (Go ahead, breathe and let that belly show). Till the mid-1990s a normal BMI was 28 for men and 27 for women. Then the powers that be decided on a new normal -25, for both men and women. Suddenly half of America was re-categorised from normal to overweight. And no, this was not because too many people between BMI of 25-28 were sick and needed to lose weight to be healthier. That range was actually quite healthy, with low risk of death. Apparently, it isn’t just illness which is big business. Re-labelling people so that more and more fall into the category of diabetic/obese is a HUGE business. Fear sells.
Couple that with lame advice that you can lose weight with diet and exercise, despite all data showing that less than 5% people on a diet keep their weight off. It is now well-known in wellness circles that you can only lose weight gradually. Weight loss starts naturally when you think, like and believe yourself to be, a fit, active and purposeful person. It needs a shift in perspective. It comes with developing tools for coping better with challenges, feeling purposeful and loving yourself. You can learn more here. Did your doctor tell you that fat on your belly is a hormone-secreting organ that keeps your stress hormone in check?
Most importantly, remember that God created people in different sizes.
Each of us has a size that is right for us. (See this WebMD article) But mine may not be the same as yours. We simply need to focus on healthy thoughts and behaviours. This is all that matters. Size doesn’t. Weight doesn’t. And if all these healthy behaviours do not shift the scales, do not despair! You don’t have to lose weight to have more health, energy and vitality.
Life is more than the pursuit of a tighter belt. Enjoy Life!Like