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.