Your Weight Isn’t Everything: A dietitian’s opinion on that heart-disease study

by Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D., C.D.E.

If you are among the fortunate one-third of the population who is at a “healthy weight”, does it also mean that you are fit and healthy? Likewise if you are overweight, does it mean that you are not fit or healthy? Researchers recently studied these questions and reported their finding in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

They analyzed data of 5440 US adults, and found that approximately 29 percent of the obese men and 35 percent of obese women had no metabolic risk factors for heart disease. About 30 percent normal-weight men and 21 percent normal-weight women showed at least two metabolic abnormalities. The researchers looked at blood pressure, triglycerides, blood glucose level, HDL (good) cholesterol and indicators of insulin resistance and inflammation.

What makes some people healthier than others? The scientists found that increased age, smoking and a larger waist are associated with increased risk factors. Physical activity and moderate alcohol intake are linked to a healthier profile.

These results clearly show that health is not a black and white issue. I struggle with this problem in my office almost daily. So many of my patients base their health and their self-worth on their weight. If they gained a pound, they were bad. If they ate something they thought was off-limits, they were again bad. If they lost only 15 pounds when they were aiming for 50, they are failures. My job is to show the gray area, and though it is still best to reach and maintain a healthy weight, you can still be successful and be healthier without hitting that ideal. Don’t give up if your weight hasn’t come down as far as the charts say it should. Instead focus on a healthy lifestyle. And if you’re thin, don’t assume that your small size means that it’s safe to eat unhealthfully.

Look over these positive health behaviors. Pat yourself on the back for the ones you have mastered. Work on one or more of the others.

  • Is physically active everyday
  • Eats 5 or more servings of colorful fruits and vegetables daily
  • Chooses whole grains daily
  • Eats breakfast daily
  • If eating meats, chooses moderate portions of leans meats, fish and poultry
  • Eats beans, nuts and seeds regularly
  • Eats calcium-rich foods daily
  • Eats a variety of foods in each category
  • Eats mindfully
  • Honors hunger cues
  • Enjoys treat foods in moderate amounts without feelings of guilt
  • Gets at least 7 hours of sleep nightly
  • Avoids nicotine in all forms

Editor’s note: Want more? Read Dr. Hubbard’s opinion here.

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One Response to “Your Weight Isn’t Everything: A dietitian’s opinion on that heart-disease study”

  1. Paunchiness Says:

    Interesting article. I was doing pretty well and thinking I was healthy until the nicotine part at the end.

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