When most clients originally come to me they are driven by the desire to lose weight. This comes from the thought process that if we are thin, we are healthy. But research tells us otherwise.
Professor Steven Blair is a thought leader when it comes to this area and has done several pivotal studies. He looked at the relationship between obesity and exercise and discovered the following relationships existed between fitness, body composition and risk of premature death:
Fat + Unfit = Very high risk
Thin + Unfit = High risk
Fat + Fit = Low risk
Thin + Fit = Very low risk
It’s important to note that this research isn’t saying being overweight is good for us. Rather that being fit can help negate the impacts of being overweight, and that if we are looking for the best marker for decreasing risk of death, you should use your level of fitness rather than what the scales tell you.
As people train with me more, the focus starts to shift away from how exercise makes them look to how exercise makes them feel. The message that people should take up some exercise to lose weight to get healthy is totally wrong, as it is not the weight loss that brings the benefit but the increase in physical activity.
Have you heard that term ‘skinny fat’?
Reality is, it’s as far from the ideal as obese or overweight is. We need to drop our obsession with body shape and instead focus on our levels of fitness. Don’t fool yourself into thinking just because you are skinny you are healthy. Focusing purely at your nutrition and going for the occasional walk is not enough to promote good health and life longevity.
So if you’re not measuring weight how do you track your progress? Well we focus on behavioural measures rather than outcome measures, for instance…
- How many alcohol free nights a week?
- Number of training sessions a week?
- Time spent sitting?
- Hours of sleep a night?
- Amount of water a day?
- Different types of vegetables a day?
Now don’t get me wrong, I still check the scales every couple of weeks to see if I’m sticking at my fighting weight. I use it as an accountability tool for some of my clients whose weight seems to correlate to their lifestyle behaviours.
For some people the scales are a great truth machine, for others it is the biggest motivation killer. At the end of the day our weight is just another measure but not the only measure.
Reality is, being thin doesn’t give you these things but being healthy does. For sustainable health we need to enjoy the process and not just strive to be thin.