Every week plus size model and advocate of size diversity in fashion and body acceptance Marianne Nykjaer discusses a topic related to these concepts. Last week she wrote a letter to her body. This week Marianne examined whether you can be fat ànd healthy.

[dropcap]This[/dropcap] week, American champion hamerthrowing graced the cover for ESPN’s body issue. The pictures and accompanying interview, in which she states that athletes come in all shapes and sizes and that she’s very happy with her own appearance, inspired me to write this post.

Reading tip >> Body Love Bootcamp

Amanda Bingson: 'Athletes come in all shapes and sizes'
Athlete Amanda Bingson on the cover of ESPN. (c) image: Peter Hapak

Amanda (215 lbs) does not look like most girl’s “fitness ideal” (because honestly: how many of you would pin a body like Amanda’s to your fitspiration board?), but she is undoubtedly an athlete. Which lead me to the more general question: can you be fat and healthy? Let’s hear what the experts have to say:

No. Most people who are fat are less healthy than they should be. Obesity is one of the most urgent public-health threats today. Being overweight raises your risk for virtually every major illness: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, chronic arthritis and most cancers.

“When researchers at the American Cancer Society followed one million people for 16 years, they found the higher their body mass index, or BMI, the higher their risks of breast, uterine, stomach and liver cancers. Experts are still debating whether obesity takes years off your life; it most certainly takes life out of your years, making everyday things—biking, running for a bus, even shopping—more difficult. The point is, if you want to be vital and active now and into your future, you’re far better off maintaining a healthy weight.”

— David Katz, Medical Doctor, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center and author of “The Way to Eat: A Six-Step Path to Lifelong Weight Control“.

So there you have it: you can not be fat and healthy. Let’s hear the experts one more time: can you be fat ànd healthy?

Absolutely. It’s well documented that overweight people can lead long, disease-free lives.

“In fact, BMI is almost irrelevant, according to a study by the renowned Cooper Institute in Dallas. If you’re fat but fit—meaning you can be active for 20 to 30 minutes—you can live longer than people who are thin and out of shape! Putting all the emphasis on weight, regardless of diet or fitness, is harmful to everyone. It can lead thin people to believe it’s OK to eat junk and be unhealthy, and it implies that the best thing you can do if you’re overweight is diet.”

“The truth is, the vast majority of dieters regain their lost weight, with some ending up heavier—a pattern that’s a big risk factor for many diseases that are too quickly blamed on weight. If you eat a good diet and exercise, you’re likely to be healthy, no matter what the scale says.”

— Linda Bacon, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at City College in San Francisco and author of “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight“. 


So we have one M.D. saying it’s not possible and one Ph.D. saying it is. Both are respectable, both have published about being fat and (un-)healthy. They have completely opposite opinions. Are you confused yet? Me too.

What I believe

As you can see, even the medical world doesn’t agree about this yet. I believe you can be fat and healthy. Does that mean being fat is healthy? No, that’s not what I said. You can definitely be fat and unhealthy. But for me, it’s not about weight, it’s about lifestyle.

An unhealthy lifestyle (eating too fat and too much of it, not being active, smoking, stress etc. ) will often lead to weight gain (but not always!), but I think the complications that arise (cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular problems etc.) are a result of the lifestyle (the cause) and not the weight itself (which is merely a result of that lifestyle).

Furthermore, this only focuses on physical health and says nothing about mental health. Our society will value a slim person who mentally feels miserable as healthy, and a fat person who mentally feels great as unhealthy.

With all those people and all those opinions, I have come to my own conclusion: I am overweight (35 kilo according to BMI; absurd), but healthy. Because I eat healthy, I work out, I live a healthy life and I’m truly happy with who I am.  

My body, my rules

But maybe even more important: my body, my rules. My health is something between me and my doctors, who know me, and anyone else who has an opinion about is should simply shut up. Even if I was (or am) unhealthy: who are you to judge me? I think it would be a lot healthier if we all listened to our own bodies a bit more, instead of talking about about other people’s bodies.

Q: what do you think? Can you be fat and healthy?

Source quotes: Glamour

Marianne Nykjaer

About Author

Marianne Nykjaer is a fashion lover, (plus-size) model and blogger. She mainly blogs about diversity in the fashion industry and body acceptance. She's quite into sports and passionate about (healthy) food, but her main focus is on mental health instead of physical health.

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