Monday, November 20, 2017

Of Course You Can Be Fit And Fat

Undeniably fit ultra-marathoner Mirna Valerio (from a 2015 Runner's World story (am quoted))
How about I pose a different question.

Can you be fit and have diabetes?

Of course you can. It'd be ridiculous to suggest otherwise.

So why doesn't the question of whether or not a person can be fit and fat sound equally ridiculous?

Why instead do we regularly see articles like this recent one from the New York Times that cover the "controversy" of the fit fat person?

In part it's because these stories conflate fitness with being free from other chronic diseases and/or from the risk of developing other chronic diseases.

But is that the average person's definition of fitness?

I don't think so.

I think most people think of fitness as the thing one gains as a consequence of regular exercise. That's why when it comes to the question of can you be fit and have diabetes, it sounds ridiculous as of course you can exercise and have diabetes.

Well guess what, you can also exercise and have obesity.

And in fact, that same study on which the New York Times based their article, didn't even try to quantify whether or not exercise provided health and/or quality of life benefits to people with obesity (of course exercise does). It simply looked at the heart disease risk of people with obesity, who didn't have other chronic medical conditions.

So basically the study concluded that obesity ups cardiovascular disease risk, not that those with obesity couldn't be fit.

And exercise mitigates, to varying degrees, the risks associated with virtually all chronic diseases, and obesity is no different.

Coming back to why we see stories in even the world's most reputable newspapers framing fitness and fatness as a controversy, well I think it just comes down to weight bias - specifically the trope that assumes that anyone with obesity must be lazy, because without that bias as a backdrop, there really isn't much of a story.

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