It is probably fair to say that we are ingrained to think that slimmer people are healthier than fatter people and when we see an overweight person, we tend to assume that they must be less fit and less healthy.
But is this really true?
A growing number of health experts are increasingly saying that body weight is not the best way to assess health. For example, a “normal” BMI does not preclude you from being considered metabolically obese with risk factors like high cholesterol and elevated blood sugar.
Conversely, an “obese” BMI does not necessarily mean that you are in poor health.
Factors such as genetics, ethnic background, and family history all have a big impact on body type and body shape. It can also determine where you hold your fat and how your metabolism functions.
With this in mind, is looking solely at one type of measure objectively the best way to judge health and fitness?
Many experts agree that while weight plays a role in overall health, one can have a larger body and still be considered fit and healthy.
“Obesity is tied to chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and some cancers,” says Sharon D. Allison-Ottey, M.D., a member of the African American Wellness Project. However, your weight is not necessarily causing those illnesses even if it might be a symptom.
In other words, an over-focus on body weight could lead to the misconception that weight loss is the primary cure where there might well be so many other issues at play.
Where you carry your weight may matter too. Some studies have shown that carrying much of your fat around your middle could be more dangerous than when it is around your hips, butt or legs because it wraps around important internal organs, which can do damage and trigger the development of chronic diseases over time. Things like blood pressure, glucose levels, and cholesterol levels can also give you good clues as to how healthy you really are inside, regardless of the number on the scale.
While weight is a factor, creating a routine of healthy lifestyle habits that you consistently maintain can play a huge role in helping you mitigate those health indicators, no matter your weight.
Incorporating a healthy routine with exercise alongside a balanced diet, adequate hydration and restful sleep could well be more important in good health than just the number on the scale.
As always, please consult a healthcare professional if in doubt.