I loathe the fatness industry the fitness industry has become. It has a very exclusive aesthetic drive, and as we saw in Part 1, it’s results can be quite destructive. The Fatness Industry is almost solely concerned with our shape, our form. It tells us that our composition, our percentage of parts (bodyweight, body fat, or Body Mass Index), is the most important determinant of our health. It forcefully demands us to believe that fat loss and muscle gain are always synonymous with better health. What does the data suggest?
National Center for Health Statistics and Cornell University has compiled one of the most comprehensive studies analyzing over 600,000 subjects with up to a 30 year follow up. What did they find? “Among non-smoking, white men, the lowest mortality rate was found among those with a BMI between 23 and 29.” Not only does this show that lowest mortality was found among those considered overweight (BMI between 25-29.9), but also that there is a range of healthy weights and body frames, not just one strict, ideal standard.
The latter assertion, that we healthily come in all shapes and sizes, is evidenced in the studies findings on women, “in regard to non-smoking, white women, authors concluded the available data indicated that the BMI range correlating with lowest mortality rate was extremely broad, from around 18 to 32, meaning a woman of average height could weigh anywhere within an 80 pound range without seeing any statistically significant change in her risk to premature death.”
First National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 1) “the authors concluded that their findings demonstrate a wide range of BMIs consistent with minimum mortality, and do not suggest that the optimal BMI is at the lower end of the distribution for any age group.”
Paul Campos, The Obesity Myth, “The only other large study to look into the question of the health effects of intentional weight loss – the Iowa Women’s Health Study – produced some rather extraordinary data in regard to the assumption that trying to get thin is the appropriate ‘cure’ for the ‘disease’ of above-average weight. The Iowa study is particularly striking, in that it featured no less than 108 different statistical comparisons, based on age, initial weight and health status, and cause of death. In seventy-nine of these comparisons, intentional weight loss was associated with higher mortality rates. By contrast, the number of comparisons in which INTENTIONAL weight loss ended up being associated with lower mortality rates was ZERO. This is especially significant information, given that the Iowa study is one of only a few studies that have distinguished between intentional and unintentional weight loss when measuring the effects of weight loss on health…”
According to Campos, obesity investigator, “…in almost all large scale epidemiological studies little or no correlation between weight and health can be found for a large majority of the population and indeed what correlation does exist suggests that it is more dangerous to be just a few pounds underweight than dozens of pounds overweight.”
For example consider the specific finding that, “…the association between thinness and premenopausal breast cancer is STRONGER than that between fatness and postmenopausal breast cancer.”
The editors of The New England Journal of Medicine corroborate, “…the case for the claim that fat is a significant health risk is limited, fragmentary and often ambiguous.”
It’s very evident that weight loss and health are not the synonymous pair that too many of us believe them to be. Fat loss is not always associated with health gain, and fat gain is not always associated with health loss. What happens if you ONLY lose fat? What happens if you ONLY gain muscle? If ANYTHING, physiologically, goes only one way, or one way too long, disease and death are imminent.
Now, I’m not arguing that body weight and composition don’t have significance. Problems arise throughout the spectrum. We all have different limits. But who’s to say whether it is time to lose or gain? Who’s to say that, right now, you don’t need more fat and less muscle for better health?
The problem with a weight/shape/form focus is that by itself it is not a reliable indicator of progress or for which direction progress is to be made. Healthier weight and body composition, like life, will trend both up and down. Our shape is a response to how we live our life, and better comes in all different forms.
Simply stated, you should not, cannot, and will not, only lose fat and gain muscle. Thus do not use it as the gold standard of healthy achievement. It’s not! Our focus on form is fallible, and the Fatness Industry is failing. Instead, focus on function. That’s Fitness.
But what areas of function should we focus on? And how do we overcome the pressures of popular aesthetic morality in favor of the influence of personal perpetual progress?
Stay Tuned for Part 3