The demonization of fat

These days as I get more and more interested in body composition, BMI and balanced diets, I am devouring articles about health inspiration from a lot of different sources. This particular one caught my attention recently, as you can see for yourself from the title …

30-10-2014 11-43-38

Rejoice all!

The word “fat” has so many negative connotations these days, it scares off just about everyone. I remember going to a dietitian who told me to low fat *everything* (it didn’t work).

I like this article because it addresses the idea (myth?) that health is connected linearly to BMI, which is clearly not necessarily the case. He makes the example of himself –

30-10-2014 11-45-31

Not sure if he has ANYTHING to worry about, no.

I do wish he had given some alternatives to the clearly flawed BMI measurement though. It would have been nice to also talk about those that do carry curves, spare tires and some wobbly bits, especially the differentiation between being apple shaped and pear shaped, having visceral fat versus subcutaneous fat, that sort of thing. The differences are stated nicely in this article for example. Simply put, visceral fat coats the internal organs, making it more dangerous than subcutaneous fat, that is under the skin. Visceral fat makes you apple shaped, while subcutaneous makes you pear shaped. Ergo, if you have a high waist to hip ratio, you might be in trouble. This paper shows the relationship quite nicely, although the cohort of patients are older (>75 years), probably because the end point measurement was mortality :) but it is possible that the results can be extrapolated to other age groups. Here is a review which says that we should look much more closely at waist to hip ratio as a determinant of individual health.

By the way, if you PubMed the name of the Danish researcher who is involved this line of research, Professor Berit Heitmann, you will find that she’s actually done some really nice studies, such as obesity as a function of socio-economic status, eating habits of kids who watch TV at the same time and so on. Very cool.

Ok, so clearly, there are real medical dangers of being seriously “fat”, and that is not just society’s stigmatization of it. However, I don’t think having a bit of excess fat is a bad thing, especially for women. I mean we are meant to be voluptuous, and it’s fat that makes us so, not muscle right? All in all, the message is clear – the idea of a perfect health is undefined and elusive. So we should stop being obsessed with the numbers on the weighing machine! Now pardon me while I go for one of my many, MANY daily weigh-ins 😉

The interesting thing is that as I am getting more and more physically active these days, I am realizing that perhaps body weight and measurement as a whole is not an accurate measure of health at all. Why not measure it by what the body can do? If you can’t climb up a flight of stairs without getting winded for example, it doesn’t matter if you are fat or thin, you are simply unhealthy. I would say that is more dangerous than the figure on the weighing machine or tape measure.

This entry was posted in Body Worship. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *