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Can You Be Overweight and Healthy?

Is it Fact or Fiction?

For decades the prevailing message from health authorities, the media and society has been that everyone needs to eat better, exercise more, get in shape, keep their weight under control and get healthy. The payoff for these actions is lower risk of disease and a longer, healthier, happier life. This mantra has been preached by the natural health industry since the 1960's.

Simultaneously there has been a group of people that broke the mold. These are the so-called “healthy fat people”. This group of overweight or obese people have seemingly normal (healthy) blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. The hope for all of us (myself included) overweight people is that you could be overweight, but healthy and able to live a long life. Scientists have been fascinated by this group that go against everything modern medicine and nutrition has taught us. They have been studied (12 trials consisting of over 70,000 people).  In the end it turns out that this group only appeared to defy the odds.

Unfortunately, this group followed the same pattern that the rest of us do. Being overweight increased waist size, blood pressure, and insulin insensitivity, leading to blood sugar disorders (such as diabetes). Obesity decreased the level of HDL (Healthy) cholesterol, and most unfortunately it decreased life expectancy by over 10 years. Doctors also discovered that as weight level, measured in body mass index (BMI) increased, the degree of these unhealthy markers increased. The lesson here is that there are no shortcuts to health. The best advice is to eat healthier, exercise more and keep your weight in check. Until these 3 things occur you are not doing your best to be healthy. So what can you do now in 2014 to set the stage for good health?

Here are three simple, concrete  and achievable goals to help get you started:

1) Increase your physical activity. Yes, it would be great for every one of us to join a gym and spend 30 minutes each day there working out. The reality is that after the first week we would be back to where we started, avoiding the gym and out the membership cost. Instead, try something you can do. Walking is often underrated as an aerobic exercise, providing many benefits with little risk of injury. Start by buying a good quality pedometer ($20-$25). Put it on and for 1 week, keep a record of your daily numbers. For week 2, try increasing your numbers by 15% each day. Gradually increase your steps so by the end of the month you are 25% above your baseline. Sustain this level (or increase it) and you should start seeing results. This may mean walking a little more at work, or walking to the coffee shop or avoiding the elevator and using stairs.

2) Eat healthier. Meat eaters can rejoice as I am not going to recommend going raw or vegan. Remember we want to set you on the path of achievable goals. If you are a snacker (someone who eats snacks during the day), try snacking healthier. Replace your snacks (all of them) with fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts. The gain is nutrition over empty calories.  The second benefit is that they will fill you up better than junky snacks. Another goal is to replace juices, sodas and sweet drinks (natural or artificially sweetened) with clean water. If you can't handle the taste of pure water (avoid flavoured or store bought enhanced, designer waters), try adding a splash of fresh lemon juice, or add liquid green chlorophyll which comes in natural mint or chocolate flavours). Chlorophyll will not only flavour your water but also give it a healthy natural energy kick. These eating  and drinking steps alone could cut over 50 pounds from your waistline in one year.

3) Make better choices. Just try to make one better choice each day when it comes to your health. For some this will mean skipping a fast food meal in favour of a home cooked meal. For others this will mean walking your child to school instead of driving (good for them too). For some this would be controlling stress, not losing your cool one time each day when you usually might.
Now that the Fat and Healthy myth has been dispelled, the time has arrived to make some positive changes and start your road to better weight and health in 2014. Good luck (and health) to us all!

Joel Thuna, MH, is a master herbalist with over 30 years of experience.  Dr. Claude Gallantholds a PhD in Microbiology.