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Fat vs Fit – What’s the skinny?

This year I turned 30 and two things happened – I became the fittest I’ve ever been and by co-incidence also the fattest.

Up until now I thought that obese fit people were either mythical creatures or sumo wrestlers, but it turns out I’m IT. On the fitness side, this year I worked with the fitness DVD set “Insanity”. I didn’t complete the program as set, but worked with the DVDs 1-3x per week for 6 months, leaving me in the best shape of my life! To be sure, I had my vitals checked, and my heart rate is in the “athlete” range for my age, and my lean mass is the highest it’s ever been.

IMG_3687 fattest & fittest

Changing room reference photo. I was trying to decide about buying my first set of 38inch waist jeans, since I’d grown out of my 36’s.

On the fatness side, my weight peaked at around the same time – over 13stone, with a BMI of 30 and 38% body fat, making me obese for my height (5ft 5.5”). What does that say about my health as a fat fittie? Although I’ve always been known for taking on physical challenges, such as my fixed year bike year (2012), cycling 130miles in one day on a single speed bike (2013), becoming obese made me wonder – am I healthy?

Well first of all, I’m proud to have proved that it’s possible to be both fit and fat. So much pressure is put on people from the media to be skinny, that health and fitness seem to come as secondary goals, and many people’s idea of their ideal weight unrealistic. I’d advise anyone to prioritise health and fitness over being stick thin.

When I first joined a gym in my early 20s, I remember overhearing fitness instructors trying to talk countless newly-joined women into adding some strength training into their regime, but they were only interested in weight loss.

We’re programmed to think that if we don’t feel good in our bodies, or like what we see in the mirror, that the problem is body fat. Many people yo-yo diet, not knowing that they could be upping their body fat percentage by doing so, and wondering why they seem so flabby even if they are lighter than ever.

This society is definitely more pre-occupied with appearances than with health. Ask anyone if they’d like to get fit and they’ll likely respond with “Yes, I really must lose some weight”, looking sheepishly down at their midriff. But in any case, if appearance is the name of the game, fitter people have better toned figures, whether they are fat or thin.

So, I’m fat and fit, but can I be healthy? Well my heart-rate and blood pressure are excellent. Not only that, but my visceral fat (fat stored around the organs – associated with health dangers) is low. I neither drink nor smoke, and whilst I eat lots, including too much fat and sugar, my diet is low in processed foods and includes enough fruit and veg.

So what’s the problem?

Well, whilst I may be healthier than a skinny alcoholic, layabout or junk food junkie, I still go through my life carrying over two stone of extra weight, which as the years go on will take their toll on my joints. There’s risk of cancer (no-one is sure exactly why) and I could get Type 2 diabetes by wearing out my pancreas which has to process all the extra food I eat every day to stay fat. We could also say that I could likely cycle further, run faster and do more push ups if I were thinner. So all in all, it’s better to be fit and slim.

But for now, standing proudly at 13stone, I’d say it’s better to be fat and fit than to be crash dieter or weight obsessive. I can’t remember the last time I met someone who wasn’t trying to lose weight. But being fat hasn’t so far affected my ability to keep fit, feel great, and “let’s be perfectly splendid about this”, look great!

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