Fitness First, Looks Later
It is common knowledge that obesity is becoming a worldwide problem, but constant media hype only continues to heighten the problem.
Professor Paul Campos has a keen interest in the way people relate to the way their body looks, weight watching and how they themselves relate to their food intake. He has spoken in depth to four hundred people to glean important information in order to help him write his new book ‘The Obesity Myth: Why America’s Obsession with Weight is Hazardous to Your Health‘. Campos studied Law at Colorado University but is well versed with the medical world.
Americans have become consumed with educated panic, the more focus put upon weight loss the more frenzied they become. Rather than accept themselves and their bodies for what they are, anxieties are overtaking and becoming a focal point, thus causing mental anguish and instability.
Whenever anyone refers to ‘shaping up’ they automatically talk in terms of transforming their bodily appearance, when ultimately they should be concentrating on their fitness levels. So much of the leading research appears to point the finger at fat being a silent killer, but Campos interprets these studies in a different light. He has found from his experiences that the moment people start to exercise they in turn become conscious of what they put into their bodies in terms of food. Overall they start to feel better in themselves and whether they lose an ounce, a pound or a stone the whole new approach to life lifts their spirits.
A prominent epidemiologist Edward Gregg collated information from a group of over six thousand people, some of whom were marginally overweight and some who were obese. The natural conclusion was that those who had made a conscious effort to shed a little of their weight survived longer than those who chose to remain permanently overweight. There were unexpected outcomes at the end of the study, it appeared that many who had indeed changed their lifestyles but had lost little or no weight still lived longer. Therefore the only sensible conclusion that Gregg could come to was that the weight loss was the smaller part of the equation but the long term benefits were linked with dietary and lifestyle changes.
President Steven Blair of the Cooper Institute, Dallas made a small contribution to Campos’ new book. Blair backs the theory that drove Campos to write his book. Blair wholeheartedly agreed that it would be wrong to turn a blind eye to the problems that obesity can cause. The accent should stay firmly on fitness opposed to obesity in order to encourage regular physical activity.
Fit but not necessarily fat
There is still far too much emphasis put onto the problems of being overweight and a Stanford University Professor William Haskell reiterates that there is much to be gained from exercising even if your weight stays static.
Keith Valone a Los Angeles based psychologist offers advice on body image, diet and fitness to those in the leisure industry. Valone asks them to focus on body composition change rather than losing the pounds. He tries to instill in them that a change of diet combined with the introduction of a fitness routine will if anything maybe slightly increase their overall weight , but at the same time the muscle mass will increase accordingly and the amount of body fat will significantly decrease giving them a well toned body.
The amount of food that is taken into the body is equally as important. On the whole we consume far more calories than we could ever manage to burn off so it still remains of some importance that we concentrate on both our diet and our fitness levels whether we are grossly overweight or not.
To change body fat into lean muscle takes commitment and understanding. Rather than fill our bodies with fats and starches we need to replace them with fresh fruit, protein, whole grains, vegetables and fiber. It is also important to realize that our bodies need an intake of healthy fats too. Even a minimal weight loss can play a big part in our well being, losing just a few pounds can lessen the risks that are associated with being overweight. In general anyone who has been able to lose a little weight will find that they function better physically, it helps to cut the risk of osteoarthritis and disorders of the musculoskeletal system.
USA develops eating disorder
Anyone who has experienced anorexia or bulimia will be able to tell you that no matter how thin they got their brain still told them they were as fat as a house. Repetitive exercise is carried out as a punishment, they are disgusted with their body and tortured with guilt. Fitness is a word that is alien to them, they exercise fanatically to burn away non-existent calories, or if they have binged they need to punish themselves to the point of no return.
Campos feels that America is one massive eating disorder that yoyo diets month in month out. Those who are grossly overweight undergo prejudice. Obsessed by the ideal image we binge on junk food and then starve ourselves as we then feel riddled with guilt. The overall state of our health means little to us. As Campos is quick to point out, it is the human race who have made anything that may slightly resemble fat unacceptable. So the skeletal anorexic who stares into the mirror is filled with self loathing.
Statistics dictate that any normal American woman of five foot four inches will be around 150 pounds on the scales. Her BMI is in the region of 26.3. Though she may well be lighter than many women these so called statistics tell her that she is overweight. Campos disagrees with those who have come up with a BMI of between 18 and 21.9 for a woman of five feet four inches. He strongly feels that females of today are being put under enormous pressure to conform. Fat is not fashionable, yet there is a thin line between being fashionable and anorexic.
The population is made up of people of all shapes and sizes, but thin still wins time after time. There are many people that live a perfectly normal and relatively healthy life but still remain overweight, we have labeled them, even singled them out as being ‘different’.
Research carried out by the Cooper Institute found that a BMI of over 45 often renders the person totally unfit. But get a BMI of 25-30 and there is no reason why you shouldn’t be deemed as fit. Out of those who show a BMI of 30 plus many will pass the lower threshold of fitness. Fat certainly doesn’t have to mean unfit. A small proportion of the population who are well within the normal weight range will show signs of being unfit.
Epidemiologists use BMI as a guideline, often the BMI can point out that heavyweights are high risks for conditions such as diabetes. Often BMI results can be weird and wonderful, National Football League players showing BMI of over 30, when it is quite plain that they don’t fall into the obese category.
It would be wrong for any general practitioner to take a look at someone’s BMI and immediately recommend a diet. Factors need to be taken into consideration, their diet, their cholesterol levels and general fitness levels before any suggestions are made.
Achieving that fit feeling
To constantly gain body weight is not the way forward. The concept of seeing fat as being the norm is akin to being obsessively skinny. A major stumbling block is telling anyone who is fat that they should be thin. If it were shameful to be obese then the majority of the population of America would be slim, says Campos. Fat Americans would cease to exist if diets were always found to work.
According to Professor Blair we should stand up and be counted, make radical changes to our lifestyle. Eat healthily, try to keep fit, walk every day and watch the amount of alcohol we consume. Haskell favors a different way, step off of the gas and don’t aim for weight loss. Slowly increase the amount of daily exercise and set your sights on a small change in body composition. For many losing weight can be a difficult task which is hindered by concentrating solely on the issue. Campos would like nothing better than to see the demise of this infatuation that we have with weight.
Take the words Weight, Diet and BMI out of the equation altogether. Live for what we have and enjoy it.