I know better than most anyone how crucial overcoming psychological hurdles is in the quest to get — and more importantly, stay — healthy. After all, I was an obese child myself many years ago.
But that’s exactly why the new concept of “health at any size” gets under my skin. Not because body positivity isn’t important — it absolutely is. But because I also know better than most the kind of stories we tell ourselves in an effort to avoid necessary change.
And the idea that you can be “fat but fit” is one of those stories.
I’m not here to rain on anybody’s parade. But I feel obligated to set the record straight on this issue. And the plain and simple truth is that being overweight isn’t healthy… no matter how decent your numbers may look on the surface.
In fact, according to one recent study, it can raise your risk of heart disease by more than a quarter.
This was no small study. It was the largest of its kind, in fact — using data from roughly half a million people across 10 different European countries, spanning a period over 12 years.
Researchers classified participants as normal weight, overweight, or obese according to standard BMI designations. They also defined “unhealthy” subjects as those with three or more metabolic red flags, including: high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, low HDL cholesterol, or increased waist size.
Results appeared in the European Heart Journal. And they showed that even after adjusting for factors such as smoking, diet, and exercise habits, the “unhealthy” participants faced more than double the risk of heart disease, regardless of weight.
They also showed that, among “healthy” subjects, those who were also overweight or obese — the so-called “fat but fit” among the group — had up to a 28 percent increase in heart risk compared to their healthy, normal weight peers.
Look, I’m a doctor — my job is to keep my patients healthy in the midst of a booming diabesity crisis. If being “fat but fit” were really possible, it would make this job a whole lot easier. But unfortunately, that’s just not the case.
Meanwhile, you know what else I wish people would stop believing? The idea that shedding pounds and getting healthy has to be a miserable, tasteless, torturous affair.
If you’re familiar with my new book, The A-List Diet, then you know this couldn’t be further from the truth. Now we just need to wait for the ill-informed “experts” over at the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association to catch up.
Because if more people knew how easy and delicious getting truly healthy can be, they wouldn’t need to cling to narratives like “fat but fit” to feel good about their choices. They would simply be making the right ones, every single day.