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Can You be Overweight and Healthy?


The article concerns the following question – Can You be Overweight and Healthy? Most things move in cycles. The stock market rises and falls, hemlines rise and fall, or used to, today we are all fashion victims. So it is no surprise that weight loss advice can also change like the phases of the moon. We know, or perhaps knew, that being overweight is unhealthy and shortens our lives.

Can You be Overweight and Healthy

There is a mass of evidence to support it. But are we at the beginning of a new cycle? Some researchers now tell us that overweight people live longer than thin people. Before we all celebrate in McDonald’s we need to look at this more closely.

The research was led by Katherine Flegal of the National Center for Health Statistics which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Maryland USA. Katherine Flegal is a careful and thorough researcher, her paper is impressive and her conclusions must be taken seriously. She says moderately overweight people live long lives and has a lot of evidence to prove it.

She is probably right. But how does that affect those of us who spend time and maybe money on trying to lose weight? We must first know what the researchers are talking about when they say ‘overweight’, or ‘moderately obese’. These are precise terms based on Body Mass Index or BMI.

Body Mass Index is a measure of body fat based on your height and weight. Underweight equals less than 18.5, normal weight equals 18.5 to 24.9 and obesity equals 30 or more. To find your BMI just Google ‘Body Mass Index’ and you will find plenty of sites with BMI calculators. Type in your height weight and sex and out will come your BMI.

If your BMI is between 24.9 and the low 30s you are within the range that Katherine Flegal says ensures you live longer. But there is a problem. Has your weight stabilised? To think that somebody who is moderately overweight in early middle age will still be moderately overweight in 25 years time is a little optimistic. Weight gain is a journey.

If you are moderately overweight this year and carry on with your present lifestyle you could well be moderately obese next year and obese the year after. Then the trouble will start and a longer than average life will become ever less likely. I am sure Katherine Flegal is right, you can be overweight and healthy – but only if you maintain your weight at a stable level. To do that you will need exercise and a healthy diet. So maybe you have not wasted your time and money trying to lose weight.

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