Fit and Fat?
For the past couple years, the headlines have been screaming about an American obesity “epidemic.” According to some studies, fully one-third of the U.S. population is clinically obese. And, at any given time, anywhere from 15 to 35 % of Americans are trying to lose weight.
Do they need to be?
Yes, say the majority of specialists. After all, being overweight has been linked to a host of illnesses from heart disease to hypertension. But a vocal fringe of nutritionists and doctors are beginning to question this conventional wisdom. According to them, it is possible to be both fat and fit.
Take Joanne Ikeda, a nutritionist at the University of California at Berkeley, “It’s not about how we can help people lose weight; it’s about how we can help them be healthier.” Despite popular diets’ one-size-fits-all claims, she says there is not one single way to be healthy.
And Paul Campos, law professor at the University of Colorado and author of The Obesity Myth, agrees. “What a healthy weight is for you as an individual has little or nothing to do with what a healthy weight is for anybody else,” he explains. “Within a very broad range, a healthy weight is the weight that a particular individual maintains while living a healthy life.”
“Fat activist” (yes, there are such folks) Marylin Wann adds, “[Even] if everyone ate nothing but boneless, skinless chicken breasts and brown rice and exercised an hour a day, people would still have different shapes and sizes.”
These chubby cheerleaders say there is solid science backing up their claims. They point to a 1999 study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which followed almost 22,000 men for an average of eight years to assess risk factors that predispose individuals to an early death.
“Lean unfit people actually had a higher risk of death than the “overfat” physically fit people,” says Dr. Andrew Jackson, professor at the University of Houston and one of the study’s authors.