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The Weight Debate 10/28/2009 - 5:28 PM

Overweight yet active The estimated 67 percent of adults in the U.S. who are overweight are discriminated against in all parts of their lives, from work to school to the doctor’s office. There are pervasive stereotypes that people who are overweight are lazy or irresponsible or lack will power. Many really think those stereotypes hold true, but others argue that there are other reasons for obesity, such as genetics or low socioeconomic class. We’re so obsessed with waistlines that it seems we won’t even vote for overweight candidates in elections.

Amid all the back and forth, a review came out in September that looks into the basis behind the claim that people can be “fat and fit.” The idea, first studied at Dallas’ Cooper Institute, a nonprofit that promotes fitness, is that it’s better to be overweight and active than to be sedentary and thin. The review shows that, even if an overweight person doesn’t lose weight, exercise has a positive effect on inflammation in the body, insulin sensitivity, harmful visceral, or belly fat, and cholesterol. Improvements in each of those areas lead to better overall health and fewer risk factors.

So even if you’re packing a few extra pounds, try not to lose hope or obsess about your weight. You can still be generally healthy as long as you maintain an active lifestyle and eat a balanced diet. Get in your exercise by regularly hitting the court.


31 Comments

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Posted by courtone1 10/29/2009 at 12:23 PM

Great research. I am glad we got that straight!

Posted by robroywilliams 10/29/2009 at 02:09 PM

Yes, obviously eating healthy and exercising is good for you even if you're overweight. It's still not a good thing to be carrying 30 extra pounds regardless of your activity level though as both your joints and self-esteem will suffer and you're at greater risk for developing diabetes later in life.

Posted by EndocrineMD 10/29/2009 at 03:51 PM

You say
"...others argue that there are other reasons for obesity, such as genetics or low socioeconomic class." That is sheer political poppycock.

These 'others' don't know what they are talking about. How can low socioeconomic class - whatever that is - possibly be a 'reason' for being obese? Even genetics aren't a 'reason', but a contributing factor. If the person with the greatest genetic predeliction on the planet for obesity is on a properly restricted diet, he will not be obese, period.

As to the revelation that you're better off heavy and active than thin and sedentary...surely, a flashing statement of the obvious.

Posted by erik 10/29/2009 at 04:30 PM

someone can be obese from being in a low socioeconomic class because healthier foods such as fresh fruits and lean meats are more expensive...

Posted by jp 10/29/2009 at 07:35 PM

That's right, take that you endocrine jerk

Posted by SteveX 10/30/2009 at 12:13 AM

Erik, JP, the price for price for fresh fruits and lean meats have long ceased to be a factor of significance in a post-industrial economy such as the United States, the country with by far the greatest proportion of overweight people.

In fact, people from the lowest socioeconomic class in the world, i.e. people from sub-Saharan Africa for example, are never troubled by the problem of obesity.

So for this point at least, the original article is BS and EndocrineMD has a valid point.

As for EndocrineMD's other points, I also support them completely. I believe it is what an expert in endocrinology would say.

The review article on PubMed that this TENNIS.com article was quoting never mentioned anything about genetics or socioeconomic class in its abstract. Its main point is that exercise is good for obese people, which as EndocrineMD has put it, is a flashing statement of the obvious. The journal on which the article was published is also very small and probably don't have many good reviewers.

In short, I fully endorse the opinion of EndocrineMD. Btw I am a PhD student in a top research institute in California.

Tata, S.

Posted by CaptainRon22 10/30/2009 at 04:49 AM

It is good to be active whether you are fat or not but its better to be slim and fit than fat and fit. I have never bought into the genetics thing when people talk about obesity because like one poster already mentioned, the people in the world who can't sit around and eat all day because of the lack of food never get fat. If genetics alone were the cause of obesity then it would be a problem that would be present even where food is absent. Just admit to your irresponsibility and lack of discipline and do something to change it instead of trying to find scapegoats to make yourself feel better about eating too much. That's the bottom line.

Posted by Neuroleptic 10/30/2009 at 11:55 AM

Low socioeconomic status can predispose one to obesity in other ways than the price of food.

People from a low socioeconomic status are generally less educated than people in higher levels. Less education can in many cases lead to a lack of proper nutrition. If people never learned how to eat properly, they won't. If parents never teach their children proper nutrition, the children won't eat properly.

One of the main reasons for obesity is a lack of food security among people from a low socioeconomic status. This is not the same thing as people who are literally starving. When people aren't certain when their next meal will be, they tend to overeat in the short term. When poor people get money for food, they tend to buy unhealthy food because it makes them for proud to be able to provide it for their families.

People in sub-Saharan Africa aren't obese because they are literally starving and malnourished.

By the way, a PhD from a "top university" doesn't matter if you can't see things from a different perspective.

Posted by Neuroleptic 10/30/2009 at 12:02 PM

If you deny that genetics play a role in obesity, then you are just ignorant.

No well-informed person claims that genetics is 100% responsible for obesity. In fact, 70% of the variability in body weight is from genetics. A person's environment (lifestyle, nutrition) is obviously a huge factor in body weight, as well. Some people are, in fact, genetically predisposed to obesity. There are other pieces to the puzzle as well, obviously.

People really need to do their research and see things from a different perspective before they espouse faulty ideas.

Posted by Kay 10/30/2009 at 04:55 PM

SteveX: I am really surprised that as a PhD you are so unlearned.

CaptainRon22: If your opinions are true - how do you explain: from personal experience my sister and a couple friends of mine during my life eat whatever, whenever they want and do not gain a pound - with no exercise. My sister has never exercised in her entire life - she says she is afraid she might develop obvious muscles which would be like death to her. She is the mother of two grown children and still has the body she had before her children. I on the other hand, who is shaped exactly like my mother and grandmother, have always been athletic and could not even think of eating what my sister eats - has been overweight most of my life. My cousin and I shared the same room growing up - we ate the exact same things for our meals during the day - except I always played ball games at school (baseball, basketball, etc.) and she has always been the pretty girl who sat and crossed her legs and never broke a sweat - she has never gained any weight since her late teens and I am plagued with being overweight.

Okay, with those personal scenarios, explain to me how your opinion applies.

Posted by tennisnut 10/30/2009 at 06:20 PM

For those of you who don't live in Los Angeles, one the most expensive areas in the country to live, how does $7 for an avocado sound? What about $6 per pound for navel oranges? Bags of pre-prepared salads are "on sale" this week for $5.99. For someone making $40K per year and forced to share a 2 bedroom apartment with 3 other people, these types of "healthy" foods are out of the question. It's coupons and pasta every week! Typically, coupons don't cover fresh fruits and vegetables. I wonder how many doctor's actually do their own grocery shopping!!!!!

I'm overweight and play tennis at least 12 ours per week. I also do resistence training twice a week. This is for my overall health, not my weight. I had one doctor tell me to stop playing tennis (after an injury) because it was too hard on my body. She recommended I take up swimming. It was easy to point out to her that in the middle of LA the only pools in existence are at health clubs costing upwards of $100 per month. She suggested Sports Club LA - with valet parking and monthly dues well above $100 per month. This from my HMO. Why would I give up playing tennis - something I participated in for 34 years - to take up swimming which is insanely boring? I viewed it as the doctor telling me to stop exercising. More confirmation that doctor's don't know everything and have a very narrow perception of the universe.

I will stick to playing tennis & buying what I can afford. Maybe the doctors who have responded to this comment trail so buy all of the food for a meal at home for the family - with lots of healthy fruits and vegetables. Sticker shock anyone?

BTW - for the person that wrote that people in Africa don't have an obesity problem - that's because they have another eating affliction. It's called malnutrition. A total lack of fruits and vegetables and most every other kind of food. It's one of the top killers in the entire continent.

Posted by noleisthebest 10/30/2009 at 10:20 PM

The fat people will always find an excuse for being fat: big bones, genes, they can't afford fruit, can't afford the gym...RUBBISH!
You are fat because you eat non-stop and have no self control over your body!

As for fat& fit, I can assume that you can only get to that stage if you are trying to lose weight by exercising, which is better than nothing....but again, just like people get fat by eating too much * and not by NOT exercising ( so will they NEVER lose weight from exercising only . In fact, it's better to starve and not exercise and lose weight like that, than if you exercise, only because you'll only be eating more that you've burnt during exercising....
This is basic truth, and everything else is just media feel-good nonsense!

Posted by Neuroleptic 10/31/2009 at 01:13 AM

Starving yourself is clearly the proper way to lose weight. Right?

Posted by Neuroleptic 10/31/2009 at 01:15 AM

Also, your way is clearly the best way since it has so much evidence to back it up. Am I right again?

Posted by Renee 10/31/2009 at 02:26 AM

noleisthebest - ever heard of eating disorders? your type of thinking is what causes them in a lot of people.

another reason obesity is high in lower income areas is the type of food that is available. in cities many people don't have cars, they're stuck in their neighborhoods or wherever they can afford to get to by public transportation (if possible.) take a look at the stores and restaurants in those neighborhoods. the cheapest things are absolute crap. mcdonalds, 7-11s, corner stores with nothing but processed foods. often, there is only cheap things. nothing else. no fresh fruits, vegetables, or lean meats.
see for yourself. that is, if you're not too scared of coming in contact with the scary poor and fat people.

Posted by jojo 10/31/2009 at 03:47 AM

Seven clams for an avocado? You're crazy. You must be in a health food store selling organic stuff.....Here in NY, one of the most expensive places to live, I pay 1.25 to 2.29 for an avvie year round. Rice (or antoher grain if available) and wegetables (carrots, broccoli, zuchini, romaine lettuce, yams, spinach) are available all over the country at reasonable cost....and you can live on them for years. Add some fresh fruits in season (when they are cheap).....apples, melons, citrus, etc and you canc live to 100 without visitng the doctor, barring injuries....if you live in the crime ridden parts of the city where there are no good supermarkets, get on a bus and head for the part of town where they have one....you can do it chubby....

Posted by ucantmakeitup 11/01/2009 at 08:55 AM

However fat or however thin, if you take in less calories then you exert you will lose weight. Period. Guaranteed. It's about the only thing anyone can predict 100%. Everything else is blah, blah, blah. For me, it is hard to diet and exercise but it is much harder to be fat. There is way to much discussion of what causes obesity. And yes, I understand psychology and the physiology and even economics come into play, but for most people, they end up being excuses which turn into their biggest obstacle to lose weight. It becomes and intellectual exercise rather then a physical one.

Posted by Heather H 11/01/2009 at 01:44 PM

I wonder if some of the anti-fat sentiments being expressed here are for shock value. It seems mean-spiritedness is easy to pull off behind the anonymity of the Internet. I have a genetic predisposition toward high cholesterol and take medication that causes weight gain. In recent years, my weight has ballooned by 100 pounds. I have recently started playing tennis again and living on yogurt, berries, fish, chicken, and salad. Two meals a day. Pounds shed? 0. I can also attest from personal experience that people who get their food from a food pantry have limited access to fruits and vegetables, especially fresh ones.

Posted by Tom in Smalltown 11/01/2009 at 08:14 PM

To "EndocrineMD", you must be aware of the statistics for an increased incidence of morbid obesity in the lower socioeconomic groupings. The evidence base may not indicate that one's economic status is a reason for obesity, but there may well be social enablements that produce such statistics. Thanks for all the other right on comments.

Posted by Tom in Smalltown 11/01/2009 at 08:16 PM

Thanks for the real life input, tennisnut.

Posted by CaptainRon22 11/02/2009 at 04:07 AM

Kay you asked why you are plagued with being overweight even though you feel you do all the right things and your cousin who ate the same things as you growing up isn't troubled by the same thing right? Here is the thing, genes DO have a role to play in whether you get fat or not depending on the portions you eat and when you eat them. If both of your parents are fat then most likely you will be fat too if you do not watch what you eat and exercise. The whole point I was making is that even though you can be predisposed to becoming fat it can be controlled by exercising SELF control. Sure, you ate the same things as your cousin but maybe they weren't the right things and the right amounts for YOUR body. The best way to help yourself without spending a ton of money is go pick up a muscle fitness book or one that is geared towards women. Those people in there make a living showing off their bodies so they will know what to eat and what not to eat to keep the weight off, or if you are underweight which is also a problem, to put some weight on. The best teachers are those who make a living doing something because they are the best of the best and they know what works. I wouldn't ever recommend any supplements though, anything that changes the pace of your heart or the chemistry of your body and is manufactured by people is somethign that can be potentially dangerous if not fatal.

Tennisnut...yeah the people in Africa are way malnourished but the cold hard fact is that the portions you eat DO play a role in how fat or skinny you get. Unfortunately they are on the other side of the spectrum with having no food to eat but that should make the rest of us appreciate the food we do have more and keep us from making more than we can eat. Wasting food is a huge problem in almost every developed country. Fun fact, it is estimated 70% of the food people make ends up in the trash. That is a ridiculous amount and its a prime reason that so many people get so fat, they make so much that they gorge themselves and then throw the rest away instead of just figuring out how much is the right amount and eating just as much as you need with no extra waste.

The bottom line for me is that I always remember we are not photosynthesiser organisms so something HAD to die in order for us to get fed. Show the proper respect and don't waste food. Eat to live dont live to eat.

Posted by Jake 11/02/2009 at 11:32 AM

Thank you SO much for this article. I am a 19 year old, who suffers from Heart disease thanks to my wonderful genetics. I am also 200 pounds. The last time I went to the doctor, she told me that I was overweight for my height. Yes, this might be true. But I absolutely HATE when doctors tell me this, but don't even think about a muscle composition test. I told her this, and she said "it probably won't even matter anyway, you have to lose weight." Needless to say, I flipped out when she said that! I play tennis everyday, I run a few miles everyday and I also work out on top of that! This article actually made me really energized to be a 200 pound person, with lots of muscle, and can still survive with heart disease.
THANK YOU.

Posted by EndocrineMD 11/02/2009 at 01:35 PM

Jake makes an exceptional point. A height/weight "range" to define obesity requires a large range indeed, to the point of being meaningless to many, in order to account for differing natural body composition types (huge-muscled, small-muscled, thin-bone, thick-boned, etc).

Jake is not overweight because of his genetics. He's not overweight, period. Looking at a chart is a disservice to medicine. Look at the patient.

As to all the other debates, as a factual matter, "socioeconomic class" cannot cause excessive weight any more than sadness can cause rain. If there's a correlation, that's a separate debate altogether. We are talking about medical causes.

As far as the price of "good" food being a correlating factor in poor people's being relatively fatter on average, which costs more by weight? Potato chips, or potatoes? Twinkies, or eggs? Soda pop, or tap water? Slim Jims, or ground beef? Where, exactly, do the excuses stop, and the responsibilities begin? How much "education" does it take to use your taxpayer-funded range stove in your taxpayer-supported housing to cook simple food that costs a fraction of what you are eating?

You see, that's a political issue, and I am fueling the political fire, am I not? I prefer to stick to the factual and medical issues. But to some, everything must be made political, with victims and oppressors. Such nonsense is the enemy of science and healing, just as those same people would say creationism is.

Obesity is indeed correlated to poverty, which tells us precisely one thing (and it's political, not scientific): There isn't real poverty in America, because the poor aren't starving, they are overeating! For centuries, "poverty's" defining charateristic has been "hunger" (including my relatives). Thanks for the insight, guys.

Now, can we get back to the science? (Many thanks to SteveX and his thoughtful writing).

Posted by EndocrineMD 11/02/2009 at 01:45 PM

...A shout out too to CaptainRon22. I find it impossible to disagree with logic.

Nobody is saying genetics don't play a role - what a canard that was cooked up. It is patently obvious the genetics do. The net result is some have to work harder to stay fit that others. Is that a surprise?

The medical research best serves those who are exercising the control to do all the right things, but who have a medical condition that requires help to stay in the range of normal and healthy.

Posted by Heather H 11/02/2009 at 05:29 PM

Potatoes may cost less than potato chips, but corner markets tend to stock the latter. As previous people have pointed out, transportation out of an impoverished neighborhood can be expensive or unavailable or unreliable. Thus, many poor people are stuck spending more money for less nutritious food. As I pointed out earlier, people who must rely on donations to eat cannot be choosers about what goes in the box. More often than not, non-perishable items are used by food banks for obvious practical reasons.

I am glad that EndocrineMD and others are now acknowledging that genetics and body type do play a factor in how difficult or easy it is to lose weight. At first, it sounded like many were making a garbage in/garbage out model of weight control, which is patently fictictious given the variables cited in response to this article alone.

Also, although correlation does not prove cause,

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