19 January 2013

"Thin Is In, But Fat Might Be Better"

Courtesy of 12WBT Wonder Woman

On Wednesday, CNN reporter Lisa O'Neill Hill wrote the piece, "Thin is in, but fat might be better," after the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that being overweight (not obese, but certainly heavier than the quote on quote average) can lead to a longer life.  Now, I may be slightly bias -- it's my nature to trust most things that CNN reporters cover as opposed to...well, let's just say other news channels.  So although the JAMA report itself caused much controversy, I'm inclined to accept O'Neill Hill's take on it.  It seems to me she did her job of reporting on the facts and telling us what the report itself said.

After performing 100 studies that included more than 2.8 million people, JAMA concluded that overweight people had a 6 percent lower risk of death than those of "normal" weight.  Now, I'm not exactly sure what normal weight means, and it's the only term she refers to that gets my skin crawling.  This is perhaps because the concept of normality is one I take issue with in and of itself.  I'm never sure just what people mean by "normal," but more often than not I can't help but feel it's not something I'd like to be any part of.  In the case of weight, I'm assuming she means normal in the sense of what those silly little charts tell you you should weigh -- those charts that don't take anything into account, such as factors of genetics or bone structure or diet.  According to such charts, I should ideally weigh about 150 pounds at 5'10"...but I remember weighing that during one of my dieting mishaps in high school, and I most definitely was not at all pleased with my body.  I hate those charts.

Sorry, myself aside.  The point is that the study ultimately concluded that being overweight might be better.  When you think about this logically, it does make sense.  One of the supporters of the JAMA report, Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh, a professor of medicine and public health at the University of California, Irvine, pointed out that "Body-stored fat has helped us for hundreds of thousands of years to survive hardships. That should tell us evolutionarily there was something good in that."  Now, I'm not exceptionally scientific, but there doesn't seem to be anything debatable about his reasoning.  Without body-fat, those people hundreds of thousands of years ago wouldn't have survived terribly cold climates.  Our evolution just wouldn't have been able to happen -- or at least, not in the way that it did.  He goes on to say, "Once you are in your 70s, 80s or 90s, or if you have chronic disease like heart failure, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic lung and kidney disease, a larger body size gives you longevity."

Ultimately, I don't often buy into reports on "healthy weight" or anything that says, "this is what you need to do to live a longer life."  My thoughts are more along the lines that living a healthy and happy life constitutes allowing ourselves to do the things we want, eat the things we want, and look the way we want -- because in the end, what could possibly prolong our lives more than truly being happy living them?  But I do find the report interesting simply because it is backed up with science and facts.  So often when you hear this idea that, "skinny is good, fat is bad," it isn't followed by much actual evidence.  Regardless, I don't think it's about being skinny or fat or "normal."  I don't think being any of these things is the key to prolonged mortality, though then again I think contemplating our mortality based upon weight isn't wise to begin with.  To me, there are far more important things to worry about.  There are far more important things I want to revolve my life around rather than a number someone somewhere with a test tube or a measuring tape has decided is the right number for me.

The fact is, some people are happy being thin.  Some people are happy being overweight.  And some are happy being fat.  You can go around saying all of these are bad or good, but it's such a personal thing, isn't it?  No one can determine what is good for you -- certainly no medical journal or scientist who has never met you and doesn't know anything about your body or yourself.  In the end, we have to decide for ourselves.  It can't be about what other people think is healthy for us.  It can't be about what other people want us to look like.  It has to be about what we as individuals want.  I've been skinny and I've been overweight, and I can say truthfully I am much happier now with my size 16 bottom than I ever way with the size 6 one.  But it isn't really about the number.  It's about the psyche.  When I started focusing more on the things that actually made me happy as opposed to those I thought would make others happy, the number kind of stopped mattering.  And ironically, I think the change in mentality led to a positive change in the physicality -- because I definitely think the better you feel in your head space, the better you will look and feel aesthetically.


  1. I have weighed a hundred pounds more than I do and nearly two hundred and fifty pounds less. I am six foot five, so you can imagine what I looked like at a little over 80 pounds. Weight and Fat are things that are supposed to change as we go through life. They are supposed to fluctuate and most likely upward and not downward.

    I am....upset....by people who use words, as you stated you disliked, like "normal weight" and things of the evil and revolting ilk.

    I shall stop now before I get mean, but again I completely agree with you and think your writing is beautiful and inspiring in many ways.

  2. 80 pounds at 6'5" ... wow, I can imagine, but I am sure you look far better now. I too am really upset by these ideas of "normal" weight and the concept in general that being fat is bad, being skinny is good -- with no explanation at times. Thank you, as always, for reading and commenting. Your comments, as well as your own posts on different blogs, are also inspiring and really make me want to continue posting.

  3. Yeah, that thin at that tall, the memories alone make me shudder to tell you the truth. The things we do right?

    I am just a man my Grace, a man who knows what he is passionate about and has no fear in expressing his opinion.

    The word normal in and of itself bothers me, who is the one to determine normalcy, especially weight or height or genetically dictated things.

    I am a humble fan of your beauty, your writing and your passion.

  4. I personally feel that if a person feels healthy and happy with their weight, then let them be happy and healthy with their weight. My friend who is skinny has recently lost quite a bit of weight and she was wondering if she should try to gain a few pounds. I asked her how she felt about herself. Did she feel healthy and okay? She said that she felt that she would be healthier if she gained about ten pounds. If people feel that they need to gain or lose some weight to feel healthy, I think that they should do what their body tells them is right.
    I have a hard time believing all of the hype about how to live longer. My dad's cousin is 93 and still going strong. She has never worked out and she eats what she wants. She is by no means fat but she would probably be beyond her BMI (which is stupid measurement tool but I won't go into that now)
    Sometimes I think that people fight so hard against the notion of being "overweight" being healthy or beautiful because then they wouldn't have someone to hate or maybe it's because they have such poor self esteem that they believe if they [the "normal weight" individuals] were not looked upon as the beautiful or normal ones then they would become ugly?
    Either which way I agree that health and weight do not necessarily go hand in hand. I may not eat as well as I should but I don't gorge, I don't stuff myself with junk food, my favorites are fruits and veggies. I do Zumba twice a week, I take line dancing lessons once a week and I lift weights but despite all of that, people just look at me and see unhealthy, But I know the truth. I don't have "thunder thighs" because I'm fat I have them because I can leg press 600lbs and I can keep up and even out do the "normal" people at Zumba, dancing, and kickboxing (I'm not bragging, just making a point). Thank you for allowing me to rant, in case you can't guess, I'm a little passionate about the subject of weight and health.

  5. Oh Elizabeth, I always love reading your rants lol. I can tell you are passionate about the subject, and it's wonderful to read about your own experiences along with those of your friends and family members. I can tell you are a wonderful friend. I hope your friend finds a weight she feels happy and healthy at.

    I really have trouble believing all the "do this to live longer hype" as well. Your dad's cousin is a good example -- my dad as well is 72, has never exercised, eats what he wants when he wants, is definitely "clinically overweight" but he feels like he is in his 50s and I often think he will outlive me! I agree that people seem to need something/someone to hate. It's such a sad truth, but I suppose people who are overweight are easy targets as many of them already have a low self esteem. It sounds to me that you live a pretty healthy life, and you should be proud of that and proud of your body as well. Being able to leg press 600lbs is remarkable, and I'm sure your legs look amazing for it!

  6. Thank you :). It's nice to know that I have a place where I'm not belittled or ridiculed for believing what I do and being who I am. I appreciate that. Sometimes I think much of health is in the mind (I believe you mentioned this in your article). People can diet and exercise to live longer and then get hit by a bus. Maybe, instead of worrying about living longer, they should just focus on living.
    I'm glad to hear that your dad is doing great and feels so young. I hope that we feel that way when we reach his age!


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