When clients come to me they are often under the impression that if they lose weight that they will be automatically be more healthy. Often they have absorbed this information from news reports, magazines, health professionals and well meaning friends and relatives.
But did you know that study after study has shown that people with a BMI of 25-29 tend to live longer than those 24 and below and 30 and above. According to NHS and government guidelines if you do fall into the 25-29 range, then you are overweight and should be trying to get to 24 and under.
Now, I can’t (and I’m not 100% sure that anyone can as yet) tell you why this category lives longer but I’m pretty sure that that’s the health enthusiasts holy grail.
So, if you fall into the obese category of 30+ then there’s more interesting information. You see, for the most part, obese is treated as one big category and we start to see sweeping generalisations about your health such as increased risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and early death cropping up.
But again, the science simply doesn’t back this up when you break down the categories we see that people with BMI in the early 30s are likely to live around the same length of time as those in the 20-24 category (that’s those who are categorised as ‘healthy’).
I’m also really concerned about the recent Cancer Research UK campaign stating that one of the leading causes of cancer is obesity. There certainly has been research that has linked increased weight with some types of cancer, one of them being post menopausal breast cancer. But a link isn’t a cause and much more research is needed to establish cause (I’m guessing there’ll be socio-economic factors in there but I’m not a scientific researcher so don’t quote me). And what they leave out is the fact that if you’re overweight you are less likely to get certain other types of cancer, including lung cancer as well as a number of other diseases, including early menopause and osteoperosis.
Even more interesting, there are a number of diseases where sufferers who are overweight tend to outlive sufferers in the healthy category. Interestingly, one of those diseases is type 2 diabetes, as well as cardiovascular disease.
So it seems that being out of the ‘healthy weight range’ may not actually be such a true indication of actual health.
Why do they tell us that being overweight is bad for our health?
When you break down the science and look at the studies, the overwhelming evidence suggests that weight is not a great marker for health. So, why is there such a pervasive cultural belief that being fat is bad?
Much of it is bias and cosmetics. It’s the last area of prejudice where we make judgements on people’s appearance and discriminate against people based entirely on what they look like. The fact is that it is simply about what we as a culture perceive to be attractive and we’re brought up to believe it and we perpetuate it.
Maybe we are now starting to see a backlash and a movement against the slim is best and slim is healthy perception but really our cultural emphasis on losing weight is all about desired appearances and not truly about health.
So what can you do about it?
The truth is that losing weight is neither likely nor necessarily desirable when it comes to improving your health. Regardless of where you are starting out, the best way to improve your health (if it needs it) is to increase your exercise and to eat well.
When you do that, you may or may not lose weight. Weight loss is not a given by any means but you will improve your health. And of the two, it’s the exercise that will probably help the most.
If you’re not that comfortable with exercise or you haven’t done any for a while then you might like to have a look at the Ultimate Body Confidence Bundle that I put together. It talks you through the kinds of things that can improve your health and your confidence, including a great little cheat sheet for choosing the right kind of exercise for you.
One thing that is important is that you enjoy the exercise you choose. So rather than decide you’re going to the gym for an hour 3 times a week, a dance class that you love going to is more likely to be sustainable.