Can you be fat AND fit?

A study finds that exercising before eating could cut appetite by up to a third.

When you see a chubby fellow in the cafeteria, do you automatically assume that he is also unfit and unhealthy?

Before we jump to conclusions, consider this: research suggests that just because someone is overweight, doesn’t mean that they are in poor health.

Does this mean that it’s actually possible to be fit and fat at the same time?

Which is more important for your health?

Read on for some answers.

What’s your BMI?

First things first, you need to check your body mass index (BMI).

The normal BMI ranges between 18.5 and 24.9.

You’re considered overweight if your BMI falls in the 25 to 29.9 range.

A BMI of 30 and above is considered obese.

For most people, the BMI is useful for assessing whether you are overweight or underweight, and thus, the health risks involved.

However, the BMI may not be entirely accurate for those who are muscular, short or elderly.

For example, a bodybuilder who is 178cm and weighs a 100kg, but has 10% body fat would have a BMI of 31.56 – that’s obese by BMI standards!

Obviously, someone with 10% body fat is not obese. In fact, a body fat percentage of 10% to 12% is the range that most men would want to be at for those sexy abs to start popping.

Due to these variables, the BMI is best considered along with waist circumference to more accurately determine your risk for obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary heart disease.

According to WebMD, to reduce the risk of obesity-related diseases, those who are considered overweight or obese should have waist sizes of no more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.

However, if your BMI is over 35, then waist measurement is no longer a valid marker of risk factors.

Besides weight and BMI there are other factors to consider when talking about obesity.

Fat isn’t always bad

You can be overweight and still be healthy, according to the United States National Institutes of Health’s report, the Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults.

They found that people who are overweight can also be considered healthy, if their waist sizes are within a healthy circumference, and if they do not have two or more of the following conditions: high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol levels.

But don’t be so fast to reach for that cupcake just yet – the guidelines also point out that people who are overweight and obese should not gain additional weight, and should preferably lose a few pounds.

There has also been conflicting evidence, in which researchers vehemently dispute the “fat, but fit” theory.

In a 2013 study, researchers from the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Canada found that people who tipped the scales above their recommended BMI, but did not have abnormal cholesterol or blood pressure, still had a 24% higher risk for heart disease or premature death, compared to metabolically healthy individuals within normal weight ranges.

What’s the bottom line?

While new information about diet, exercise and weight management continues to emerge every day, you can never go wrong with a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a nutritious diet.

The bottom line is that your fitness level is really more important than the numbers on your scale, even if you do not resemble a fitness model.

For one, being physically active goes far beyond just burning calories to lose weight.

It also helps prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, some forms of cancer and osteoporosis.

Psychologically, exercise can help improve self-esteem, boost mood, reduce anxiety and help with stress management.

Furthermore, increasing your fitness level also typically results in increased muscle mass, which means that your body burns calories all the time and puts you one step closer towards achieving your fitness goals.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) encourages adults to participate in physical activity for 30 minutes every day.

Meanwhile, 60 minutes of physical activity is recommended to prevent weight gain, and 90 minutes is the recommendation for those who are trying to shed the kilos.

Everyone is different

Weight management can be very confusing.

We all know the simple formula of “calories in versus calories out” as the foundation for weight management.

However, people come in all shapes and sizes, and we all burn calories and respond to exercise at different rates, which affects weight control.

Some people can eat junk food all day and still have a flat tummy.

Some people breathe and they gain weight.

Throw in age, gender and genetics, and you can see why you cannot apply a cookie-cutter weight loss formula to everyone.

I personally do believe that you can be fit and fat at the same time, but all of this should not be interpreted to mean that being overweight or obese is healthy.

The more relevant message here is that eating well and exercising regularly are great for your body, whether or not they lead to weight loss or a solid six pack.

Also, if you are overweight or obese, losing as little as 5% to 10% of your body weight is linked to improved cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels, even if your BMI hovers above the “normal” range.

Finally, this should not be taken as justification for excess weight, but as a reminder that improving your fitness level and lifestyle habits are way more important for your overall health than the numbers on your scale.

Fiona Ho is a certified personal trainer and a competitive strength athlete who derives happiness in lifting heavy objects. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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Can you be fat AND fit?


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