To look at me, you wouldn't think I work out despite my sweat sessions most days of the week (and my ability, as shown in the photo, to lift a 50-pound 5-year-old). I weigh, well, I'm not going to tell you that, but it's way, way over my ideal weight, and even far over the weight I look and feel best at and can most easily maintain. I've been attempting to lose it for over a year, and nothing is budging.
See, for some of us, the "eat less, move more, lose weight" maxim doesn't quite hold true. I have an endocrine disorder called PCOS, which, along with causing soul-crushing infertility, creates insulin resistance. My body pumps out way more insulin than it should because it's like my cells are deaf to it. That creates weight gain, specifically, the dreaded belly-fat weight gain.
So I found this NPR story that an increasing number of doctors are prioritizing fitness over a specific body-mass index to be heartening news. They point out that people with a high muscle mass can have a BMI that puts them in the overweight or obese category even if they aren't fat, and that maybe, just maybe, it's how much you move your body rather than its size that's a real predictor of health.
Cardiologist C. Noel Bairey-Merz, who runs the Women's Heart Center and the Preventive and Rehabilitative Cardiac Center at Cedars-Sinai Heart Center, finds in her research that people who can meet a few basic fitness requirements are healthier, no matter their weight, than thin people who aren't active. Those tests are: walking 30 to 60 minutes without having to stop, climbing two flights of stairs without getting winded, and doing some form of moderate physical activity, like a short jog or brisk walk. For me, that's a yes, yes, and yes. Whoo-hoo!
There are all kinds of other great things about exercise. It boosts your energy, your mood, and generally makes you feel good. While I haven't lost any weight from my workouts, I haven't gained any either, and for someone with PCOS, that's a win.
Reducing the idea of someone being healthy or not to just a number doesn't take into account the wide range of body types out there and can be really discouraging if you have a lot of weight to lose. On the other hand, encouraging activity isn't going to hurt anyone and will almost certainly help anyone of any weight become healthier. And shouldn't health, not looking great in your skinny jeans, be the goal?
Image via Amy Kuras