Is it Possible to Be Healthy and Obese?

Is it Possible to Be Healthy and Obese?

“I'm fat but fit” is a popular refrain, but one that rings increasingly hollow in light of new research that tracks fitness and life expectancy. The argument that obesity and optimal health outcomes can coexist never passed the smell test, however there are now solid numbers and the weight of science to render a definitive verdict.

Healthy Obesity Is an Unfortunate Myth

The Annals of Internal Medicine evaluated eight studies that together included over 60,000 participants, and divided them into six health categories:

  • Metabolically unhealthy and normal weight
  • Metabolically unhealthy and overweight
  • Metabolically unhealthy and obese
  • Overweight but metabolically healthy
  • Obese but metabolically healthy
  • Normal weight and metabolically healthy

Researchers charted the rate of adverse cardiovascular events within each group and discovered the group least likely to suffer a crisis is normal weight and metabolically healthy. In all cases, increased weight showed a strong correlation to increased cardiovascular problems.

Where Did the Healthy Obesity Myth Come From?

The researchers of the new study pinpointed where previous studies went off the tracks — results were skewed because metabolically healthy individuals were placed in the normal weight group. This created deceptive results that made it appear obese individuals could enjoy the exact same health as the non-obese study participants.

Other studies have shown that the ill effects of obesity can be mitigated if other factors are managed within healthy baselines, including cholesterol, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and triglyceride levels. These results inform a large portion of the obesity myth. However, the rate of cardiovascular problems for overweight individuals proves that there is a health price to pay for packing on too much weight.

Wishful thinking is the answer to why the healthy obesity myth has found such popularity — for people who are daunted by the need for diet and exercise, or have been frustrated by weight loss efforts in the past, it's comforting to think that everything is going to be alright.

Is Obesity Manageable Long-Term?

Another factor is the likelihood that less unhealthy forms of obesity are increasingly prone to morph into more unhealthy forms over time. The health markers listed above, particularly blood pressure and insulin sensitivity, are very likely to devolve over time and cause a greater number of chronic health problems. And there is a diminishingly small likelihood that obese individuals graduate to the non-obese category over time.

 The negative health impact of staying fat accelerates as we age, and there's nothing we can do to stop the progress of Father Time.

Don't Buy Into the Healthy Obesity Myth

Excess weight has an adverse health impact, and obesity causes persistent health problems. If you are overweight, it is in your best health interests to change your lifestyle to lose weight and be more fit.

Normal weight individuals are not absolved of responsibility — they also need to ensure they remain metabolically healthy, including proper blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels. Eat healthy and exercise and you should be well on your way to best health... which is exactly what we have been telling you all along!