Gary's new website

Monday, February 12, 2007

Can you be fat and healthy at the same time?

Hi Gary,
I’ve been looking for a web site regarding health/nutrition and stumbled over yours... plenty of info but wanted to ask a specific question and you certainly look like you know your stuff. So here goes...
With all these fat loss shows on television I thought I would find out my BMI was and correct weight for my height and age etc. I am 93kg, 173cm & 29 years of age. My BMI is 31, and to my surprise that tips me into the obese category. You can imagine my surprise... I am of European Maori descent and have always had extra pounds on me but never really anything extreme. I find it hard to get under the 90kg mark and very rarely have I been over the 95kg mark (since my mid 20's). I have exercised regularly for the past few years and over the last 12 months I have done two fitness boot camps over several months and that aside I am road running up to four times per week for 30 - 45min and a pump class on the weekend. I eat fresh food and minimal fats, although a like a few beers on Friday night after work and probably a bottle of wine a week over some Thai food.
Question being... Can someone be obese and healthy/fit at the same time? I feel im fitter then I have ever been but am labelled fat. What are your thoughts?
Thanks a bunch!
Gary Moller comments:
One of the problems of one size fits all prescriptive health advice is it fails to cater for those who fall to the upper or lower ends of the population distribution curve. This is the failing of BMI measures. If you are a heavily boned and heavily muscled person, probably due to your Maori genes, then you are immediately in trouble with BMI which does not differentiate between muscularity and fat.

My best mate at university was a national class gymnast and springboard diver. He is part Maori and weighed in a collossal 14-15 stone (Very heavy for a gymnast). Going by BMI, he was grossly obese. But he was pure muscle and could lie on the bottom of the pool with a lung full of air and he could carry a fridge on his back no trouble.

The problem with this kind of body type is the tendency to go quickly to fat if the exercise is neglected and the eating not moderated. In your case, you are doing plenty of exercise - more than enough to remain fit and healthy and your diet seems fine.

Is fat unhealthy? Well the answer is "No!" In the case of the solidly built individual it is quite natural to have a healthy layer of fat. If you want to see a really unhealthy person, take a look at the zero fat body builder. A naturally heavily boned and muscled person should have some visible fat when healthy. To try to force fat levels below what your body is naturally telling you what it should be is distinctly unhealthy. In this case, forcing the body under 90kg or so would appear to be unnatural and therefore unhealthy. 95kg is fine, but this could be increased to 100kg if a weights programme was included in the weekly fitness regime.

As a related aside: Isn't it interesting that a person with high cholesterol often feels very healthy when first diagnosed. What is most interesting is how unhealthy the person then feels once going on a low fat diet and taking statin drugs. Fats, including cholesterol, are essential for good health; it is just a case of how much, in what form and what else comes with them.

One of the things a big guy has to take extra care of is his knees, hips and his heart even if all are currently in perfect working order. In addition to a healthy wholefoods diet, I recommend taking a mineral supplement that has magnesium in it (Due in part to loss through heavy sweating), a fish oil supplement and glucosamine and chondroitin. These are available from and we do deliver to Australia.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Gary,

You hit the nail on the head in regards to one size "not" fitting all. I've covered this one off with a couple of people and not one person totally agrees that the BMI is an accurate indication. Cheers and thanks again for clear feedback.


Anonymous said...

G'day Gary.
I can relate to you 100%.
Sounds like there's nothing wrong with your make-up. Bmi is just too broad.

I am around 176cm, weighed around 93kg. Always very fit, all sports etc.. but big boned i guess.

I went on a strict diet, went down to around 78kg....and felt very weak!, even though people thought i looked fit.
Anyway, a year or so later, with normal eating and sport/gym..went back to around 88kg.

So, I am of the belief that a person with solid build, such as me, cannot be unhealthy just cos of some BMI , which i believe isn't accurate.
Good on ya mate