Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Turns Out Fat Pants Are OK -- Sort Of

Jan. 2, 2013

Break out the fat pants, a new study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that people who are overweight are less likely to die than those who are in shape.

So I was feeling all sad today when I stepped on the scale after taking two days off from exercising and saw the numbers going up, but the Wall Street Journal story chronicling the merits of being a heftier me brought a smile to my face. Hello fat pants!

The study is based on body mass index and those with a BMI number larger than 35 are still 29 percent more likely to die, the researchers found. BMI is figured by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. 

And if you're like me and don't have a handy-dandy metric scale or measuring tape, here's an easy conversion chart you can use to do the calculations. I know I promised no math in this blog, but just this once you'll need to pull out the eighth-grade arithmetic.

And if all else fails, if you're 6 feet tall and weigh 180 pounds, your BMI is 24.4, which is considered normal, but add 20 ponds and you jump to just over 27 and you fall into the overweight category.

So I found mine to be just under 27. Sigh.

But now the good news. The study said people with a BMI of 25 to 30 have a 6 percent lower risk of death compared to those in the normal range of 18.5 to 25. Hello fat pants. And people in the 30 to 35 percent range had a 5 percent lower risk of dying.

But don't be too quick to reach for that second piece of pie just yet.

Health experts caution that BMI is an inexact measure of overall health and fitness. The main reason is that it doesn't recognize the difference between muscle mass and fat. An athlete can register obese on the BMI index even though they are physically fit largely due to his or her muscle mass.

BMI also doesn't account for the way fat is distributed across your body. Experts say excess belly fat seems to be particularly toxic, while research suggests fat in the legs and buttocks may protect your body, the WSJ article explains.

OK, fat pants back in the drawer.

I think we all feel a lot better when we get out and move, whether it's walking, running, biking or taking a fitness class. And we definitely feel better when we eat more like an adult and less like a kid.

I've always tried to take the approach that it's less about the scale than it is about how you feel and how your clothes are fitting on your body. We're a nation of number crunchers and scoreboard watchers who are obsessed with having the million-dollar body of a professional athlete. 

Well, the truth is, it's probably not going to happen. Some folks are blessed with fantastic genes and stoked metabolisms. I am not one of those people. I've inherited the great pear-shaped body of my German ancestors, so my workouts are more for go (staying healthy) than they are for show (think ripped abs).

But I'm OK with that, especially now that JAMA has spoken.

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