Every day we are bombarded with images of celebrities, models etc. with a “perfect” physique. Reality TV shows such as “The Biggest Loser” also help create outrageous expectations in their viewers’ minds. Because of this societal pressure, many of us have attached unrealistic body image standards to our sense of self-worth.
The purpose of this blog is to help explain the differences between “fitness” and “fatness”. I urge readers to approach their fitness program with a healthy understanding of both sides of the coin and to recognize their own fitness improvements, in addition to any body composition changes.
Fitness Independent of Body Composition
Research shows that fitness levels can improve largely independent of body composition…
·In an eight-year study of men aged 30 to 80, men who were fit but overweight (as judged by cardiovascular tests) were two times less likely to die than men who were lean but not fit. The researchers found no difference in mortality rates between the fit versus overweight groups, and the fit versus normal weight groups! The take-home message is staying fit through exercise decreases the risk of all-cause mortality REGARDLESS of excess fat storage.
·In a 2011 study, it was found that increasing cardiorespiratory fitness resulted in significant reductions in all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease… again REGARDLESS of BMI.
Because there has to be a catch, right? Well, sort of, but not exactly.
The point that I am trying to make here is not that body composition doesn’t matter, but that it is not the ONLY thing that matters.
If you are exercising and maintaining your weight, you will still achieve immense health benefits, and this is something you should be proud of. However, this does not mean that you should throw body composition out the window completely and not care about it. These same studies also showed that if weight is not maintained, but GAINED, you will typically also lose fitness. In fact, in the previously mentioned 2011 study, those individuals who gained 10 to 20 pounds over adulthood showed significantly lower levels of fitness and increased mortality risk. Thus, there appears to be a benefit to at least ensuring weight maintenance whether losing weight is a goal or not.
Additionally, most of these studies compare people at a “healthy” body composition to people that are “overweight” (as categorized by BMI). For these two groups, indeed there likely is little to no difference in health for people performing the same exercise routine. However, for those who fall closer to the “obese” category (BMI greater than 30), this does not hold true.
Essentially, there is a cut-off where a certain degree of excess fat begins to affect fitness, and this cut-off seems to be at relatively higher levels of body fat.
Take Home Message
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having body composition goals. The large majority of adults exercise to look good, in addition to being healthy.
However, it is important to sit back and look at the big picture when assessing your fitness results. If the pounds are not dropping as much, or as fast as you desire, realize that this doesn’t mean that you are not gaining anything from your hard work exercising!
Additionally, if watching nutrition and exercising regularly is not resulting in weight loss, take comfort in knowing that just avoiding weight gain through adulthood significantly reduces your health risk and mortality risk later in life!
Having body composition goals is great, but do not allow yourself to become so wrapped up in dropping a few pounds on the scale that you lose sight of all of the other health benefits derived from exercise. Additionally, it is important to have realistic goals for ourselves and avoid falling into the “comparison trap” when digesting social or popular media content. The worst thing that can happen is to become so worried about body composition goals, that not living up to your own (perhaps unrealistic) expectations for your body composition leads to a loss of motivation, and eventually falling off of your exercise routine!
@Rachel Egelhof, thanks for sharing such a powerful message with me. I felt is was appropriate to post an excerpt below for the community. @Bella Diaz and @Mary Balog, do either of you have any advice on how to take initial action with this behavior?
Valentines day is known for our celebration of our significant others and loved ones in our lives. But the most essential love is the love you have for yourself. I would like to challenge anyone who wants to join, to dedicate them-self to do one thing (big or small) only for YOURSELF tomorrow. Let's all get some valuable self-care! Pledge yourself below in the comments or on your own :)
For me, I love to read fiction novels...usually involving a dragon. But I haven't allowed myself to sit down and start one in a few years. So, tomorrow while I drink my morning cup of coffee I will start reading Game Of Thrones.
Scouring the internet for reliable information of any kind can be quite the ordeal. This holds especially true in health and fitness where claims are often made with disregard for scientific validity... and more concern for personal gain than human wellness.
In an effort to reduce the "noise" that comes with a Google search on the internet, we would encourage people to use the following resources when looking for reliable health and fitness information. Certainly there are tons of other good resources out there, however to keep things simple, we are going to stick to 1-3 resources per topic.
So, check out the links below, bookmark them, and use them instead of Google the next time you're looking to get a question answered.. (or ask anyone on our team and we can always help too 😉)
Tons of great articles on nutrition, lifestyle, goal setting, and more. Precision Nutrition offers a balanced and nuanced stance on many complex nutritional topics.
A great resource for summary of evidence and research on dietary supplements, as well as general nutritional information. Very science-based.
This is a great resource for all things weight lifting in nature. Bret Contreras is an extremely smart guy who has his PhD in sports science, and has earned a reputation for distributing evidence based information on weight training.
Another great resource for all things strength training related. Greg Nukols is a world class powerlifter who is also working on his PhD in exercise science, and is also well known in the fitness community as someone who strives to share research backed, reliable information.
From the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, this is a great resource on various orthopedic issues, both in general, and in regards to exercise recommendations.
Yoga & Mindfulness
Insight Timer has both the above website and mobile app that has a lot of free, as well as paid, resources, guided meditations, and more.
A great resource for guided yoga videos for all experience levels, and various needs (ie. for low back pain, etc.).
This post is still under construction and more topics/resources will be added with time such as endurance exercise, yoga, mindfulness and potentially more.
I just wanted to share with you all part of the theme for the day and so that we can continue to support each other on this journey of being MORE THAN.
Comment below your thoughts and perhaps share what MORE THAN means to you.
. . .
you are MORE THAN
you are MORE THAN being
in control of your food
on point with your exercise routine
perfect with your financials
you are MORE THAN what can be seen
who you are is
the you without distractions.
in the quiet of your own mind . . .
this is where you connect with
your true self.
where you find the wisdom that’s always been within you.
my hope for you is that you continue to find a deep breath.
my hope for you is that you slow down.
my hope for you is that you find the teachings in the discomfort.
& you really get to know you.
not the you the world tells you to be.
step forward into the unknown with compassion, curiosity & wonder.
greet yourself with kind eyes.
don’t look to anyone else for your worthiness or sense of belonging.
honor each moment in its entirety.
choose feeling over being numb + distracted.
understand that in this very second you have nothing to change.
you don’t need to be more of something.
you don’t need to be less of something.
you are MORE THAN enough.
we are MORE THAN just a gym.
we are MORE THAN together. 💙
. . .