I had dinner with a close friend last Tuesday night. A conversation took place about weight and health. It’s not the first time this subject has come up. We talk about everything, openly, and agree to “cuss and discuss”.
I’m an advocate of Health at Every Size®. She is not. The Health at Every Size® movement advocates making no assumptions about a person based on what they happen to weigh…and if the focus shifts to healthy behavior rather than weight loss efforts, chances are better that the person will get healthier, whatever they weigh.
As the conversation with my friend heated up, it became clear that my friend makes all sorts of assumptions about people’s level of health and fitness based on weight. She and her husband are very fit…very fit! They regularly hike in the Grand Tetons. She is a smart, highly educated woman who relies heavily on research in her role as a consultant. So, what’s her evidence that fat people are not as healthy as thinner people? Here’s her argument, “When I go hiking I don’t see large people hiking the trails.”
Really? Really? Isn’t that size-ism. Let’s substitute “black people” for “large people” in that argument. If she doesn’t happen to see black people hiking when she’s hiking, does that mean all black people are less healthy than she? Wouldn’t that make her a racist? Is it just possible a large percentage of people, under weight, average weight, and obese, in general, don’t happen to like hiking? I hate hiking! Over the course of my life, I’ve tried it, at several different body weights and fitness levels. It bores the heck out of me.
My friend is not alone in her prejudice and her lack of knowledge about newer research that says when it comes to health, fitness levels are more important that fatness…and what you see and assume does not indicate anything; especially fitness levels, or degree of health, or health risk .
“The top researcher in the fitness-versus-fatness debate is the Cooper Institute’s Dr. Steven Blair, whose extensive research has convinced him that peoples’ heft needn’t necessarily weigh them down. Blair wrote for the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports that “active obese individuals actually have lower morbidity and mortality than normal weight individuals who are sedentary.” (Read more about this argument in a “Fitness vs. Fatness” post from The Center for Consumer Freedom.)
Read more about the science in Dr. Linda Bacon’s groundbreaking book, Health at Every Size; The Surprising Truth About Your Weight.