You Can Be Fat AND Fit
ARE YOU A GREYHOUND OR A ST. BERNARD?
If you have always been a little fat, yet you’ve cared for the three basic aspects of your health – physical, emotional/mental, and metabolic – then consider your specific biological makeup, your inherited genetics, and your individual physiology. Our genetic heritage extends not only to whether we possess our mother’s eyes or our father’s chin, but to the nature of our metabolism and how our weight and body responds to physical fitness training. Our individual biological makeup even means that each one of our internal biochemical processes work, including everything from adrenaline and cortisol production, digestive processes, our personal chemistry of fat metabolism, insulin, and regulation and fluctuations of sex hormones.
Once you understand your bio make-up, you can stop fretting over the fact that you didn’t inherit the physique of a teenage fashion model. Perhaps you should stop trying to be something you can’t be. After all, you’d never buy a St. Bernard dog and think, “Ah well, if I starve Bernie enough, maybe I can make her look like a Greyhound. Greyhounds are so fashionable this year, and I want a fashionable dog.” No, you treasure all your big, lovable St. Bernard’s qualities. You like big dogs. Why not like your big self? We humans come in all shapes and sizes, so why should we all want to look like those skinny people, an Angelina Jolie?
Sometimes we talk ourselves into a corner, saying, “Well, even though I was born with this body type, it can’t be natural for me to be like this, because this is an unhealthy state. How can it be okay that I was born unhealthy? Such thinking reflects one of the problems the fat-free movement has created for us: we have forgotten why we have fat and what it does for us. We’ve forgotten that it is natural for some of us to be fatter than others, even if it places us outside of the recommended weight for our height and weight. Fat is a natural thing, an essential ingredient in a healthy body. It’s not just a nasty lump of inanimate matter. Most fat works for us in life-sustaining ways, protecting our vital organs, insulating us, and storing energy so we can function without constant eating.
Some special types of fat cells perform absolutely crucial tasks, such as dealing with toxins in the body and maintaining a healthy hormonal balance. We need fat, and we need to store extra fat. It’s also natural for us to gain more fat as we age. It’s natural for some of us to carry more fat than others. But it’s not natural for us to be unfit. Our bodies require physical activity as much as they require air, water and fuel. Without it, we die. And this brings us to the crux of the matter: we have become stuck in the mind-set that fat makes us sick, when, in truth, being unfit makes us sick. When we grasp that fact, we begin to realize that fat loss as a solution to health problems is just a big fat lie.
FITNESS VERSUS FATNESS
Let’s explore what we mean by fitness and fatness. Fitness measures how healthy you are, how functionally able you are to carry out your daily life. Fatness measures the amount of padding you carry, how big your fenders are, not the strength of the inner engine that gives you the power to do things in life.
Fitness may mean one thing to a professional triathlete or marathoner and another to a young woman with a family and career, but, basically, it all boils down to being healthy and in good condition, with the energy and optimism to tackle your dreams and goals. To maintain fitness, you must consider the three components we mentioned before:
Metabolic Fitness: Your blood pressure, glucose sensitivity, and blood chemistry.
Physical Fitness: Your cardiovascular fitness (heart and circulatory system), muscular strength, and flexibility.
Emotional Fitness: Your ability to manage your feelings and mental capacity.
Keeping this list in mind, try answering these three questions:
• Can people display healthy blood chemistry and a healthy metabolism even if they are fat?
• Can people possess a strong, healthy heart and be physically strong and flexible even if they are fat?
• Can people maintain emotional balance even if they are fat?
The answer to all three questions? A resounding Yes. It’s that simple. Fatness does not prevent fitness. The amount of fat you carry around represents but one aspect of your health and fitness, and not necessarily a terribly relevant one at that. In contrast, physical, emotional and metabolic fitness provide the keys to a healthy and long life. Being thin will never guarantee you a long life. Being fit in terms of cardiovascular, metabolic and blood chemistry health will. The proof depends on scientific research, not on myths and fads.
Our obsession with weight and weight loss has misled us to blame fat and fatness as the root of all illness. In fact, according to Dr. David Richards, author, Being Alive, nothing can improve your health risks more than fitness.
“USA Scientist: Fat can be Healthy”
Did you see that headline on the CNN news service on July 18, 2001? American researcher and currently a professor at the University of South Carolina, Steven Blair had sparked controversy at a meeting of the Association for the Study of Obesity in London by saying that body fat can be healthy. Results from the studies at Blair’s institute, the Cooper Aerobic Institute, on obesity and risk of death showed that previous research had missed the crucial link between fitness and health. “The focus is all wrong,” claimed Blair, P.E.D., who continued to say, “it is fitness that is the key.” In fact, he even went on to report quite simply that “fat people who exercise are at no greater risk from disease than their thinner counterparts.” Optimum health is more about fitness than fatness.
Not surprisingly, claims by Richards and others ignite criticism. In October 2003, the head of the Center for Disease Control, Dr. Julie Gerberding, told a meeting of the National Health Council, which groups companies and non-profit health advocacy organizations, that Americans are much more likely to die from cancer, heart disease, and diabetes caused by smoking, eating too much and exercising too little. She claimed that obesity is the Number 1 health threat in the USA.
In recent years, however, the evidence supporting Blair’s claim that fitness confers a lower risk of disease and mortality, independent of fatness, has been pouring in:
• A study published in the October 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that overweight men who exercised had death rates, to any cause, only slightly higher than men of normal weight and twice as low as normal weight men who were unfit.
• An observational study carried out by three researchers, Chong Do Lee, Steven Blair, and Andrew Jackson at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, Texas, demonstrated that it’s fitness not fatness that really counts when it comes to longevity. In their observational study of 22,000 men, they found that death rates doubled for unfit men. Interestingly, obese men had no greater risk of dying than unfit men, as long as they were fit. The researchers concluded that being fit reduces the health risk of being obese.
• A study of 17,000 men in the Harvard Alumni Health Study found that mortality was lower for each of three degrees of fatness when the men were fit.
• Researchers Steven Blair and Suzanne Brodney at the Cooper Institute, Dallas, conducted a review of all studies that had been done up to 1999, examining over 700 scientific articles. They concluded that regular physical activity clearly mi gates many of the health risks associated with being overweight or obese, and that fat people who are fit have lower death rates than normal weight individuals who are not fit.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the US National Institute of Health and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH) commissioned reviews of all this new evidence, hoping they could prepare consensus statements concerning the benefits of physical activity for overweight people. The review concluded that the recent scientific research had shown the following:
1) Overweight and obese individuals who are active and fit have lower rates of disease and death than overweight and obese individuals who are inactive and unfit.
2) Overweight or obese individuals who are active and fit are less likely to develop obesity-related chronic diseases and suffer early death than normal-weight persons who lead sedentary lives.
3) Inacvity and low cardio-respiratory fitness are as important as overweight or obesity as predictors of mortality, at least in men.
GET FITTER, LIVE LONGER
Great news continues to pour in about fitness and the benefits it bestows. Not only does fitness help free you from life-shortening disease, it can extend your life expectancy. But, don’t just take my word for it.
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine provides new evidence regarding the relationship between fitness and survival. In it researchers examined over 6,000 male patients referred to a clinical exercise-testing laboratory and then followed the group for 6 years. They found that the peak exercise capacity (i.e. a measure of their fitness) achieved by a person during the exercise test was the best predictor of the risk of death, whether the individual suffered with cardiovascular disease or not. For both groups, the fittest, regardless of their fatness, had four times less risk of dying compared to the un t groups. As with earlier studies, fatness, when accompanied by fitness, did not figure significantly in risk of death. Fitness extends life. I shouldn’t need to repeat it at this point: the fitter you are, the longer you can live.
MOVE ABOVE THE LINE
So, there we have it. Don’t expect great health benefits from fat loss and dieting. Yes, you may have a problem losing weight, but the problem is not your fatness. Fatness is merely a symptom, not a cause. And fat loss cures nothing and can actually do some harm. Forget “fit OR fat.” It’s a myth. Remember “fit AND fat.” It’s the truth. Fitness protects against the many diseases, and it prolongs life. When you are fit you can be just as healthy as your thin cousins. Now, armed with what you’ve learned so far, where would you place yourself in “The Fit AND Fat matrix”?
This matrix includes four different quadrants representing various combinations of fitness and fatness:
THE FIT AND FAT MATRIX
Quad I: Fit and Fat
Quad II: Fit and Not Fat
Quad III: Not Fit and Fat
Quad IV: Not Fit and Not Fat
This matrix helps you figure out where you are today and where you might want to go tomorrow. We know from all we have learned so far that the quadrants with the least risk of death, lowest disease rates and best quality of life are the top two above the line (fit and fat or fit and NOT fat). If you want to enjoy a long and healthy life, you need live above the line, you need to be fit. Now what surprises most people is that the two top quadrants provide the same benefits in terms of health and longevity. It doesn’t matter for your health whether you sit in the Fit AND Fat (top left ) quadrant or the Fit and NOT Fat quadrant (top right). If at the moment you reside below the line in either of the lower two quadrants, you obviously want to move above the line. How do you do that? Well, there’s only one escape route: you need to get fit and that means emotional, physical, and metabolic. Becoming less fat will only allow you to move sideways on the quadrant, not to a higher level of health and well-being.
WHO WANTS TO BE FAT AND FIT?
Most of us want to be thin. Society tell us to be thin. Markets and the media want us to be thin. But, deep down, do you want what others demand, or would you prefer the good health that will give you a better and longer life? We’ve been led into thinking that thinness will win both fashionable good looks and a good life. However, the scientific evidence says, “Hogwash!” Long life comes from health, not thinness. And health comes from fitness, not lack of fatness. So, what do you really want? I honestly believe most of us place a long, healthy life first and foremost, fashion way down the list. That’s why you should make getting fit your number one priority. Once you gain the health benefits of fitness, natural weight loss becomes easier, almost automatic. When it comes to losing weight, living “above the un t line” gives you a huge advantage over those who languish “below the unfit line.”
If you still need convincing, consider this one last reason why you should focus on getting yourself fit, even if you are fat. If you’ve tried to get thin, you’ve undoubtedly waged a long, hard battle. To date, only 5%-10% of people who successfully lose weight by dieting keep it off for the first year, not a very encouraging statistic.
If you focus on long-term physical, emotional and metabolic fitness, your health will improve. It’s all a matter of basic human physiology, the way the body works, and how your bio make-up responds. I promise you that if you follow the HAL, Healthy Active Living program you will get the health benefits you seek. You can achieve really big fitness gains in just 8 weeks and hugely significant changes over 8 months. You’ll find the benefits and changes you make in your life far greater than those obtained by decreased fatness. No matter what your current body weight, you’ll enjoy a better self-image, improved self-confidence and increased mobility. And you will know deep down you are doing something for your own health, for you, and not other people. Under the hood, your engine will start firing on all 8 cylinders.
You can be fit and fat. You can be fit and not fat. You may have extra body weight or you may not, but if you participate in a physically, emotionally, and metabolically sound program, you can maintain a healthy body free from the risks of the diseases once so commonly linked to obesity, from coronary heart disease to adult-onset diabetes. People who are fit, even if they are fat, can expect to live longer than similarly fat people who are not fit, and even longer than lean people who are not fit. And you can much more easily achieve fitness than leanness.
LIVE LIKE HAL – LIVE A HEALTHY (H) ACTIVE (A) LIFESTYLE (L)
I’ve designed the Heart Zones Weight Loss program that not only works, it changes more than “just” your lifestyle. I guarantee that if you follow it, your life quality will improve in metabolic, physical, and emotional ways. It’s not a game of counting calories, starvation and guilt, but an empowering way to learn how to give your body what it needs in terms of physical and emotional activity, energy, and care. It focuses on fitness not fatness, and it will enable you, regardless of the amount of extra fat you carry on your body, to reach optimum health and energy.
I want you to know that you may not lose all of the fat that you dream about losing, at least not in the short run. But I also want you to know that a long-term commitment to living like HAL, which means living the three letters – HAL – living a healthy, active, lifestyle, creates the positive changes that ease off plenty of pounds. If you live like HAL, you burn lots of stored body fat and you do it in surprisingly simple ways. I’ll show you exactly how to do it, how to build that wonderful body into a metabolically efficient and fat burning engine by being active.
FIXATE ON YOUR FITNESS
What, exactly, do we mean by “fitness”? Like “beauty,” it can mean different things to different people, and, in fact, the term spans a broad range of levels and types of fitness. It is not a static point, or an on-off button. It is a continuum between zero-level of fitness to your personal, individual best-ever level of fitness. Think of it, then, as a sort of sliding scale from zero to ten. Your ten will differ from mine.
Don’t compare yourself to me or to anyone else. Your own fitness is unique to you and your specific bio make-up. Fitness is also activity-specific. Venus Williams is perfectly fit for tennis, but she would not fare well if asked to race against the world’s fittest triathletes like Karen Smyers or Beijing Olympic gold medal winner, Australian Emma Snowsill. I doubt whether Venus could finish any one of the three Ironman triathlon sports, either, although it would be fun to watch her try. Fitness is also fuel-specific. You can be fit at metabolizing carbohydrates but not fit at oxidizing fats, or you can be fit at using oxygen but not at re- synthesizing lactate. Finally, fitness is function-specific. You can be fit at lifting heavy weights doing bench presses at your health club, but you can struggle to lift a bag of groceries up to a high shelf.
Are you fit? You would probably answer, “Sort of” or “it depends.” It depends on where you are on your own fitness continuum, plus where you are with respect to specific activities, fuels, and functions. As you work out and participate more in physical activities that you love, you move towards a ten on the fitness continuum, while if you slack off and do less, you fall back toward zero, no to low fitness on the continuum.
Your answer also might take a certain activity into account. You may feel fit for a 5 km (3.1 miles) walk but not at all fit for a 26-mile 385 yards (42.2 km) marathon. Physical fitness is one part of a fitness triad. The HAL program consists of not one, but three different kinds of fitness.
THE FITNESS TRIAD
1) Metabolic Fitness: Efficiency in burning fuel to make energy.
2) Physical Fitness: The ability to enjoy body movement, including cardio respiratory endurance (aerobic capacity), muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility.
3) Emotional Fitness: A relatively high level of emotional and mental balance and strength.
Any fitness program should address all three components: metabolic, physical, and emotional fitness. Otherwise, you’re not taking into account all the features that contribute to a long, happy, healthy life. What follows is the definitions and schematic representation of “fitness”:
•high strength and flexibility
•high balance and coordination
•Feeling balance and flexibility
•Positive mental outlook
•Ability to manage feelings/thoughts
• low LDL cholesterol
• high insulin sensitivity
• high caloric burn rate
Metabolic Fitness- the processes that digest, utilize, and store energy, release energy from storage, and control appetite and safety signals are all working well. Healthy levels of glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, blood fats, and fat metabolism are all examples of good metabolic health.
Physical Fitness- the process of maintaining cardio-respiratory endurance, muscular strength and endurance, balance and coordination, and flexibility.
Emotional Fitness- ability to cope with stress, build positive relationships, deal with change, maintain balance in life, maintain mental acuity. To put together your emotional fitness training plan, review the chapter on emotional fitness training and the emotional zones – it provides you with the information and tools to do so.
Do you see the word “fat” in the HAL Triad? No, because fitness does not depend on lack of fatness. Many fitness and medical experts measure body fat as a way of defining fitness. Some even use it as the sole criterion for fitness. In fact, society has placed so much emphasis on the measurement of body fat (skin fold calipers, underwater weighing, etc.) that most people automatically accept them as tests of fitness. It all springs from the same prejudice that body fat is bad and that lean tissue (muscles, bones, etc.) is good. Body fat in and of itself is not bad. It is an essential part of good health. And, as the evidence shows, high percentages of body fat do not cause decreased longevity or poor health. You can be fat and have perfectly good health, provided you include all components of the HAL triad.
No fitness weight-loss program should focus on one goal of losing body weight and body fat. Rather, you should concentrate on the goal of gaining metabolic, physical and emotional fitness and the health improvements that occur as a result. Never make the mistake of measuring fitness and health improvements in terms of weight loss or fat reduction. Neither science nor common sense link either body weight or body composition to fitness.
More to come ..
Keep your eyes peeled as we continue to release excerpts throughout upcoming weeks. If you want to read the entire book, make sure to swing by our online store and grab a copy: The Heart Rate Monitor Guidebook.