Whether scrolling through social media or watching TV, you are bound to come across quite a few ads featuring overweight people. Many brands, like Nike, are taking an inclusive approach to their marketing and advertising efforts.
Companies are often praised for using models that reflect an average American woman's body type and encouraging positive body image at any size. However, critics respond that these ads promote obesity and could increase health risks for those who are overweight.
This begs the question —"can you be overweight and healthy?”
For so long, skinny was equivalent to healthy, and fat was synonymous with unhealthy. So the answer is a little more complex than a simple, yes or no.
Overweight vs. obese
Someone is overweight when their body weight is greater than what is considered normal or healthy for their height (calculated using BMI).
Being overweight can result from having excess body fat, muscle, bone, or water. Around 70% of American adults are considered overweight. However, it's also important to note that BMI can't distinguish between fat and muscle, and muscle weighs more than fat. Therefore, a muscular person could also be considered "overweight" according to a BMI reading.
Obesity refers to excessive fat accumulation and puts people at risk for developing other severe health conditions. In the last few years, the percentage of people who are obese has reached over 40%, making obesity an epidemic here in America.
For adults, the World Health Organization (WHO) describes being overweight and obesity as follows:
overweight = BMI greater than or equal to 25
obesity = BMI greater than or equal to 30
Chronic health issues linked with being overweight and obesity
Overweight or obese people have an increased risk of developing the following serious, sometimes life-threatening, health conditions:
high blood pressure/hypertension
certain types of cancer
high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides (dyslipidemia)
sleep apnea and other sleep disorders
body aches and pains
trouble functioning and lower quality of life
clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions
Overweight and healthy
While being overweight is a predecessor to obesity and still puts you at risk of the above health conditions, it's still possible to be overweight and healthy.
The National Institutes of Health reports that those who are overweight can be considered healthy depending on a couple of things:
where they carry their weight (waist size should be less than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men)
If they are free of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension
Being healthy at any weight
Bodies come in all shapes and sizes. By investing in certain lifestyle changes, you can support your overall health.
However, if you are already considered obese or overweight with health conditions, your physician may suggest treatments for losing weight.
Regardless, here are some ways to be healthy no matter what the scale says: Get physically active
The Department of Health and Human Services suggests most people should get 150 minutes of moderate (walking, swimming, biking) or 75 minutes of vigorous (running, aerobics, biking up hills) physical activity a week.
But don't get discouraged if you aren't hitting those numbers. Some research shows even small amounts of physical activity can be impactful and add health benefits.
Always consult your doctor before starting a new fitness routine.
Add in strength training
Experts also recommend incorporating strength training exercises for all major muscles at least twice a week.
Including these into your exercise regimen improves muscle and bone strength, supports heart health, mental health, and cognitive function, and lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Strength training isn't limited to free weights and weight machines; it also includes using your own body weight, heavy bags, resistance bands, or participating in rock climbing, stair climbing, or dancing.
Healthy eating habits
Take a look at your overall diet. Does it need a few tweaks or a complete overhaul? Working with your physician and a nutritionist can help you gauge what your diet might be missing or currently has too much of.
Your daily diet should consist of:
fiber-filled fruits and veggies
protein like lean meats, fish, beans, lentils, and other legumes
healthy fats like nuts, avocado, and olive oil
limit saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugar
Any diet can be hard to stick with long-term, especially restrictive dieting. If you have a bad meal or bad day or find yourself in a food rut, don't beat yourself up over it. Reset and refocus.
Getting a handle on stress is critical to your health. Easier said than done, right? Research shows that stress can have harmful effects on the body.
Unmanaged stress can lead to numerous health conditions like:
high blood pressure
sleep issues/sleep disorders
anxiety and depression
Focusing on the number on the scale shouldn't be the only factor that deems a person healthy or unhealthy. Yes, your BMI and weight can start the conversation with your doctor, but reviewing your diet and exercise regimen, and assessing risk factors are all essential to a healthier you.