Runner’s World Gets It Wrong with “Can you be fit AND fat?”

I was sitting in the Running Doc’s office yesterday and saw he had the April 2011 issue of Runner’s World.  There, on the cover, was a headline screaming “Can you be FIT and FAT?”   I did a double-take, having a mini-Eureka moment. Had Runner’s World truly published a piece that would quiet some of public misconceptions about weight and running?  Had they taken the leadership position one expects of the foremost running magazine in the world to provide some support for those who struggle with weight, but want to be runners?  Had they done the public service to really research the issue and present the long-term research on weight, weight loss, and the impact of running on such a life?

Of course not.  My expectations were way too high.  But even with those crazy expectations, I was disappointed.

The article was a 1.5 page spread pitting two scientists – one a researcher, one the manager of a Harvard weight loss clinic – against one another.  They were given 20 words on “can you be fit and fat” – and Harvard (and who can argue with Harvard?) landed solely in the camp of “no, you can’t be fit and fat because you’ll eventually get diabetes or arthritis and, BY THE WAY – not that I was asked, but if you just lost a few pounds, you’d be FASTER!”

To the question of whether a fat person can be faster than a slim person (because that’s what we all care about out there – speed) she answered, essentially “well, sure it’s not impossible – but you’d be FASTER if you just lost some weight.” Well duh.  Of course we would.

What she didn’t answer is “what’s the percentage of runners who are overweight who successfully complete training programs for 5ks and 10ks – and feel wonderful afterwards – versus those who are “fit” who do not? 

“What’s the percentage of runners finishing a half marathon who just “threw one off” becuase they’re “fit” – versus the percentage who make a lifestyle change and train to become more active – thus ingraining the behavior in their lives?”

“What’s the percentage of runners who start with the sport as a way to improve their fitness and even though they see only moderate weight loss, continue, both reducing their probability for Type II diabetes and other complications which arise from a sedentary life?”

As you might guess from my questions, I’m in the camp of “do more, and find a way to get the doing more to change your life.”  There are, of course, immense benefits which accrue if you can figure out how to minimize your caloric intake and stick with it.  But to the Researcher’s point in the piece, Americans have largely failed to figure out how to do that in the last 30 years.  We have figured out, though, how to be more active. 

Fix what you can.  Focus on the exercise.  That’s my platform in the Fit and Fat wars, and I’m sticking with it. 

On a side note, I’d also say that I’m tired of seeing people use the word “fat”.  If you look at the history of this blog, you’ll see that I’ve used that word twice in two years.  I think it’s demeaning, and I hate it.  Yes, I said it.  I might use it self-deprecatingly when I’m feeling really low, but in my mind, there are enough people who are out there judging.  We don’t need to judge ourselves any more than we already do.  So this week, do me the favor of maybe reading that article above – and then thinking about all the ways in which your FIT life overcomes your F*T life.  If I know most of you, it’s going to be a blowout.

See you on the path.

9 thoughts on “Runner’s World Gets It Wrong with “Can you be fit AND fat?”

  1. As usual I am blessed by what you have written here. Thank you for continuing to champion all of us who are pursuing a FIT lifestyle regardless of our weight.

    At my last weight check I was 277lbs and I am still training to run (the whole way) a 5 mile race in mid April. Last year I walked the whole thing. This year, with a completed sprint triathlon in my recent past I am confident I can do it even if I am annoyed at the pace I will have to run to be able to keep going (approx 4mph).

    I would of course love to be faster, but I continue to be focused on being FIT not F*T. Keep up the good work! Thanks again!!

  2. Thanks for the post. I get frustrated when person of “healthy” size asks me did you walk or run your half-marathon, when they haven’t ever exercised since high school. Fitness is a state of health not a size. I might weigh 50 or even 100 pounds more than they weigh, but I can walk many of them into the ground. I know I can walk 13.1 miles in a single effort. I have a regular exercise process and something I do to measure my success. No scientist is going to take that away on his or her opinion.

  3. I, too, just stumbled upon your blog looking for plus wear and kept on reading. I 5’4 and a beautiful 220 pounds. I have a 1/2-marathon behind me and I’ve moved into the world of triathlons. My first one was last September and I’ve got the Irongirl Atlanta coming up next week!! Great to find your blog!! There’s nothing like connecting with someone on being overweight and active !

    I read that article – rather, I started reading the article and then stopped ’cause it was the same old, same old. There is some wonderful research coming out now that moving and exercising is a great deal more important that reducing caloric intake and losing weight. I love your attitude about focusing on “do more” and just keep working on the rest. Make room for my tent ’cause I’m liking your camp!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  4. Great response, I love reading your blog!

    And, I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, or not, but the word “Fat” is being used in the fat acceptance, or body acceptance realm in order to try to reclaim. As in, to have it be nothing more than a descriptive term and try to strip it of all it’s negative connotations. Here’s something that will explain it better than I can: http://www.deeplyproblematic.com/2010/10/why-i-use-that-word-that-i-use-fat.html

    I in no way intend to come off as rude and I hope I’m not! If you don’t want to use fat, that’s your choice by all means. I don’t mean to change that, but I thought I might pass that info along if you’re interested.

    Again, I’d like to say that I’m loving the blog! Being a plus runner myself I can identify a lot!

  5. I was also dismayed by this article… I ran my first half last weekend, and while I didn’t do it in under 2:20:00 like my friend who is a pixie stick, I did do it in under 2:50:00… and I am pretty damn proud of myself. Honestly, I don’t know why they allow the ignorance to be perpetuated. It’s part of the reason I never thought I could run in the first place. Looks like fitness has very little to do with weight and very much to do with cardio endurance.

    Keep going strong!

  6. Hey there! I just finished my first half marathon in 2.5 hours, and I’m about 45 pounds overweight. I bike 2 hours everyday from work and back, and I eat moderately. I’m damn proud of my leg muscles but my upper body is all flab and no fab. Despite this, I feel more fit than I ever have, and even if I lost the weight and ran faster, I feel like I could live a long time like this without any health issues. I’m glad someone recognizes that you can be fit and a little fat too.

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