Is Being Overweight Actually More Healthy Than Being Slim?

I read this article today in The Guardian which suggests so. But when you read do bear in mind that it is written by a fat is fine activist who believes that some of us are just designed in a way that we naturally carry fat and that doesn’t mean we are not fit and healthy, it’s just a body shape thing.

I’ve long suspected that some of us are just naturally fat. Just like we accept that some people are naturally thin, those who can not gain weight, but we are less accepting of the concept of people being naturally fat.  I even came out with a theory that within primitive society some of the village folk would have been naturally fat so that in the event of famine or a longer than anticipated hunt, those people would be able to last longer, feed the village babies for longer and just keep things ticking along long after the skinnies had flagged.

A couple of things sprung to mind as I read this article and the first was excuses. I know it’s going to be seen as harsh but I know that I’ve used all of the excuses in the book for remaining fat… and I was what could be termed a healthy fattie. I have never had the usual weight related health issues that we hear of in the news, in fact I have a few friends who have not had them either and so we do have to question if they really exist. Yet the research suggests they do. The problem is, I don’t think the health risks with fat lie in the here and now while we are young I think they lie in the future and whatever we want to say to dress it up, if the only thing affected by fat is our mobility then that’s enough to worry about. Mobility becomes a major issue in later life for many and fat doesn’t do a lot to make us more mobile. It’s a struggle to get up from lying to sitting and sitting to standing for most fat people, even the fit healthy ones like me and the young ones. I know when I’ve really regretted being fat the most is when I’ve had surgery and I have undoubtedly struggled with recovery more than a slim person would have,  mobility being one of the biggest issues. I’ve worried that in older age my weight would impact on my enjoyment of life due to this issue alone. That’s without even going into the data on cancer and diabetes and high blood pressure.

But we are good at making excuses and fat people, like smokers and drinkers and gamblers are guilty (I am guilty) of finding reasons not to change and of convincing ourselves that we are happy and healthy and I really do envy those who are truly happy and who do not have concerns for their future health and mobility but I wasn’t one of them. I wasn’t ever motivated to lose weight to look good, for me it really all has been about health and mobility, it’s been about feel good, emotional and physical. As the author of this piece implies that I’m in denial and I’m just a victim of media induced stereotypes regarding body shape and I don’t really want to lose weight for health reasons because I’m already healthy, I’d have to take exception with her opinion. I am not doing what I am doing to conform to a physical stereotype at all, I want to feel ‘right’ and I don’t feel right just yet and certainly didn’t feel right when I was 150lbs heavier than this.

I take exception to fat bashing, I really do and do feel that it is the last permissible discrimination but we shouldn’t be bashing each other. Fat people who can’t lose weight down treading the efforts of those who are doing it and questioning the motives and those of us who can lose weight making sweeping judgements about those who say they are happy to be fat. Yet we do. We take sides in the fat debate even though we are fat. I’m guilty and I don’t want to be but when my motives are attacked I go on the defensive, I’m a human being after all, fat or not.

Anyone following me knows I have a rough final goal of hitting a higher end normal BMI and maintaining around there. I’m almost there and I know I can get there I know that even though I have kidded myself I’m naturally fat and that I can’t ever be slim as excuses in the past along with the ‘happy as I am’ mantra… although if I’m honest I don’t believe I’ve ever said I was happy as I was when I was fat, I’ve probably said I’m just going to accept that this is who I am but I don’t even think I’ve believed that. I’ve always been aware of the potential impact on my health. I may not have diabetes or cancer or heart disease but I did have heart burn and indigestion and IBS and anxiety and depression and irregular painful periods and a whole list of other ailments which are not so readily associated with being overweight. I know lots of overweight people who are happy with their weight but complain of all or some of those same conditions while stating they are healthy and I know that those conditions can be cured with a good diet, weight loss and improved fitness. I know this because I don’t suffer from them anymore.

Anyone who follows me also knows that I don’t like BMI for the very reason that it doesn’t take into account everything, especially people who have stronger, dense more heavy muscles and those who just weigh heavy. I come from a family which weighs heavy, tall, skinny size 8 ladies weighing 11 stone are not unusual in my family so I know that BMI is not ideal as a measure. BUT, this is where I have complied with ‘the norm’ and sold my fat soul to the devil in that it IS the measure used by doctors, by life insurers and health insurers and as such if I want a good deal I have to comply. That’s not necessarily a good thing but I need to be out of that obese zone for more reasons than health and appearance, I don’t want to be obese and here we lead into another issue… when does fat stop and obese start?

At the moment I’m in the overweight category on the BMI scale and anyone following me knows how much I wanted to get into this category more so even than the normal band. No longer being obese, morbidly obese or super morbidly obese was to me a really big deal for my health and happiness not for my appearance. At this point I am super fit, super healthy and super happy so I guess I should stop and just content myself with being overweight yes? The problem with that is I don’t want to stop living healthy and eating healthy. I want to do it for life and the consequence of that is that I lose weight because I am overweight in spite of the fact that I’m happy and healthy and fit and I don’t have any health problems whatsoever.

There will come a point when I don’t lose weight anymore, it’s not like I am starving myself, I eat a lot and some of that is fat, I’m a butter, eggs, full fat dairy consumer, hard cheese is a staple for me yet I’m losing weight because I am carrying excess fat that is not natural for me at all, it’s entirely unnatural and that’s why even though I am not calorie counting I am losing weight. I can’t kid myself any longer, the proof is happening to me every day. Will I have a breakdown if I stop losing weight and am not within a normal BMI? No of course not, I’ll accept that’s my ideal weight and I’ll settle there, I’ll accept that I’m meant to have a thicker waist and slightly chubby cheeks and I’ll be happy with that knowing that I’m healthy. I won’t care that I can’t wear a size 6 dress, that doesn’t bother me at all, I’ll know that I’m where I’m meant to be and I’ll be satisfied.

People who are overweight and happy with their size and who are convinced that their weight is having no detrimental effect on their health are possibly correct but obese people telling themselves the same thing are maybe not being totally honest with themselves. As much as people like me are challenged as being deluded by the author of the piece, I’d say obese people who think that their weight is not going to have an impact on their physical health are deluded. I think that’s fair, we’re entitled to a bit of retaliation when under attack especially when broad sweeping accusations about our motivations are made.

Overweight and obese are not one and the same thing. It might be healthy to be a little overweight and my fat person in the village theory would hold with that, but to be obese is not to be healthy, I really don’t believe that and I think we need to differentiate between the two. I know you can be obese and not have the big nasty life enders that we hear about as I’ve done it but I also know that being obese is not being healthy, there are a whole host of health issues, physical and mental which accompany it which only get talked about when the weight starts to come down. That to me is denial.

We all want to be normal, the problem is we don’t know what normal is. Overweight people who are happy with their size feel normal, slim people who are within a normal BMI feel normal, obese people who are struggling with weight loss say they feel normal… as long as we are honest with ourselves about what our idea of normal is then we’re all happy and shouldn’t be judging one another or making assumptions about motivations to lose weight or to stay fat. The choice is ours. Happiness is the most important thing in life and if some people are happy being fat then that is wonderful, I was never happy being fat, I experienced happiness as a fat person but I was never happy with me, not deep down. I felt I was missing something, cheating myself of something, endangering my life and that’s why I lost weight, not because I wanted to look good in a bikini or to attract a man.

The article reports findings which support the ‘fact’ that being overweight can help you live longer and is actually a healthy state and if that’s really the case then I’m going to be a happy bunny to reach my normal a little sooner than I planned. This kind of research definitely will help me to be satisfied if I settle ten pounds or so above the dictated normal for my height and will confirm what I already know, that being healthy, being happy, being fit and well is possible if you are a few pounds over weight and you might even be the village saviour if the food all runs out. What I worry about is that this article will encourage people to be happily obese and unhealthy, maybe not now but in the future and that it will detract from their quality of life.