I’m doing my intermittent roving of the Internet (okay, checking out of a few select sources) and came across “Getting Fat But Staying Fit?” by Gretchen Reynolds at The New York Times. Basically, it’s a study that measured levels of fat and fit in people over time (which is apparently a novelty in this type of research) to find that people who gain or retain fitness levels — even if they gain or retain body fat — have a lower risk for health problems than people who gain fat while becoming less fit.
I know. This is not surprising. What is surprising — pleasantly so — is the wrap-up quote at the end of the article:
“The message is simple,” Dr. Lee concludes. “So much attention gets focused on weight reduction, but reducing body fat is very difficult for most people. Our study suggests that,” in terms of heart health, “maintaining your fitness over your lifetime is just as important, and for most people is probably more achievable.”
It’s heartbreakingly validating to see a research doctor, let alone in a news article, acknowledge that losing body fat is difficult — maybe to the point of not being very achievable — for many people.
I’m not going to sit here and type that my lifestyle perfectly prioritizes my physical health or that I couldn’t lose weight under any circumstances. However, I do know that I’m making the best of everything available to me to balance my physical, mental, emotional, social, and sexual health — and that focusing on body composition (specifically, losing fat) would hurt rather than help my overall well-being. To put it simply, I’m doing the best with what I’ve got, and worrying about my body fat is both unhealthy and unreasonable for me.
And while I think the advice about maintaining fitness is not an ideal substitute (there are, for example, who have or will develop progressive conditions that affect their abilities to maintain fitness levels), I can at least appreciate that it’s applicable to a much broader segment of the population.