Posts Tagged ‘weight’

Dietland

Thursday, May 16th, 2019 | Books

Dietland is a novel by Sarai Walker. It follows the adventure of an overweight protagonist as she explores the weight loss industry and has since been made into a TV series.

I tried to give it a good go but ultimately I couldn’t get into it. As an observational piece on the way society treats overweight people, it is very astute. However, as a piece of storytelling, it’s not so good and seemed to walk the line between a real-world novel and fantasy reality in a way that really jarred with me. I couldn’t quite suspend my disbelief.

In-body analysis

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018 | Life

In April I did my first body analysis at the gym and came out with a body fat percentage of 16.5%. A few weeks ago I did another and discovered I had increased my body fat percentage to 18.3%. Bad times.

With them being so far apart, it’s impossible to say when it changed. But after an entire summer of triathlon and running, I wasn’t expecting it to go up. I’ve also lost muscle mass, entirely from the upper body, while gaining it in my legs.

It’s the off-season now so I will be gaining body fat as I eat a lot much ice cream. But come January it’s probably time to look at my strength work.

Is being overweight good for you?

Saturday, August 11th, 2018 | Health & Wellbeing, Science

The idea that being overweight is bad for you is well established. Being overweight takes years off your life, so it’s important to eat right and exercise to keep your weight under control. More recent evidence, however, has challenged this.

For example, a 2013 paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that overweight people had a lower level of all-cause mortality than people of a healthy weight. The paper was not well-received, but nobody seems to have been able to poke any holes in it, either.

Similarly, a 2009 systematic review published in Deutsches Ärzteblatt International concluded that:

The prevailing notion that overweight increases morbidity and mortality, as compared to so-called normal weight, is in need of further specification.

So, should we give up with the diets and let our waistlines expand a little? Maybe. But even if more evidence goes on to support these findings, there are some good reasons for sticking with the current line on what a healthy BMI is.

Overweight vs obese

Something that all the studies agree on is that people have worse health outcomes, including death, if they are obese. Overweight is one thing, but being obese is bad for you in any study.

And you might be surprised how easy it is to reach the category of obese. Consider that my BMI hovers around 24. 25 is the line between healthy weight and overweight. So, I’m nearly in the overweight category. And I look like this:

Not the buffest individual, that’s for sure, but I don’t look like I’m carrying around any extra weight either. And you only have to move up to a BMI of 30 to go into the obese category.

All-cause morality

As the NHS points out, these studies typically look at all-cause mortality, which means people dying of anything. The problem is that this contradicts individual studies of any topic. For example, if we look at heart disease or diabetes. Whenever we look at the individual causes, we find it is better to be a healthy weight.

There is a huge amount of evidence to support this, so in order for us to accept an alternative view, it would ideally need to explain this discrepancy.

Quality of life

The second problem is that these studies just look at mortality. But that is never the way that NICE or Public Health England have looked at how to provide the most efficient healthcare system.

We measure outcomes in quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs). It’s not enough just to be alive. Modern medicine allows us to keep pretty much anybody alive indefinitely. But sitting in a medically induced coma on a ventilator isn’t a life that any of us would choose.

As a study in Nature points out, being overweight is associated with fewer years of disease-free life. In short, you might experience a longer life, but it won’t be a happier or more fulfilling one.

Indeed, this could help explain the findings. If people are already inside the medical system because they’re having to be treated for obesity-related illnesses, we may be better at spotting other diseases. Or it may be that carrying around some extra weight will reduce your quality of life but also help you to stick around for an extra week when you become seriously ill because you have larger fat reserves.

Conclusion

There is genuine evidence that you will live longer if you are a little overweight (but not obese). However, so far we have been unable to explain why this is. And, more importantly, you will also have a reduced quality of life. Therefore, the current guidelines on maintaining a healthy BMI are still relevant.

Is body mass index (BMI) useful?

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 | Science

BMI is much despised by the public. However, before it is written off completely, we should consider what the implications are for the medical world.

People are constantly railing against BMI. They insist that it is simply stupid and insulting to label them as obese and that BMI doesn’t mean anything anyway.

But is that the case?

The answer is somewhere in the middle. From a medical perspective, there is little doubt that BMI is useful. A 2016 study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) confirmed that a high BMI was indeed associated with an increased risk of death.

However, a 2006 paper by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research, points out that there are some serious flaws in the simplicity of BMI as it fails to distinguish between fat from muscle.

Another paper in the BMJ suggested that BMI was indeed useful, but that what was considered a “normal” weight should be redefined. A weight of 18.5 to 20, for example, is defined as normal, but could actually be correlated with higher mortality.

Therefore, it seems BMI is a useful tool, but only when taken as a guide. It could be that the normal weight needs to be adjusted upwards slightly and that those with high muscle density will find they have an inaccurate reading.

Slimming down

Thursday, July 14th, 2016 | Health & Wellbeing

Given my recent slip into bad BMI I’ve been working on losing some weight. So I have been playing around with some tools to help me.

Apple Health

Health is one of the apps that Apple forces on you. I had never actually used it. However, when I opened it, it turned out that it had spent the last year counting every step I make. That is both horribly invasive and rather interesting. I am averaging 7,500 steps per day.

You can record body metrics such as weight and then have them plotted on a graph. This makes sense. Why I would need to regularly record my height and plot that on a graph though is unclear. Perhaps it is aimed at children and the shrinking elderly?

apple-health

MyFitnessPal

I am using this to record my diet. Yep, I have become one of those calorie counting wankers. You put in your weight, target weight and target period to lose said weight, and it gives you the number of calories you need to restrict yourself to per day. This goes up and down as you exercise and eat, giving you a number of calories left for each day: I have 785 spare so far, which I could spend on two chocolate chip muffins…

myfitnesspal

I can also record exercise on it. This will be useful when I exercise without my phone, such as American football training. For running, I use the app below.

MapMyRun

I have used MapMyWalk for years but now I am upping the ante by using the run version. It is actually the exact same app. When you log a work out in one it immediately appears in the other. Also, once you have synced one with MyFitnessPal, they are all synced. They are all Under Armour apps, so you would expect them to work pretty well together and so far they do.

map-my-run

Results

After three months I had managed to drop 8kg. This was working off net 1500 kcals per day, which I hit almost every day. A few days I was a few hundred kcals over the limit, but on others I was up to 1,000 below the limit (due to large amounts of exercise) so I was definitely below the limit on average.

weight-graph

However, I then spent a week on my honeymoon and put 2kg back on.

Conclusion

I have a new found respect for anyone trying to lose weight. It is really difficult. At net 1500 kcals per day, which is the maximum my app allows, you can just about fit three meals in, but no snacks or beer in. After all of this, I was only losing 0.5kg per week. Then just a single week off ruined a month of work.

Of course, it could be that if you are significantly overweight it is easier to shift the first lot of kilos. However, it really is hard work and difficult to find the motivation when it piles back on so easily.

Fatboy Christopher

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016 | Life

I’m concerned about my weight piling on as I approach 30 so I bought us a set of scales for the bathroom. When they arrived I climbed on – and received a nasty shock. Admittedly I have not been on the scales for quite a long time, but I have put on 9kg since I did.

This takes my BMI from a just healthy 24.9 to an officially overweight 26.1. I never really doubted BMI as a measurement, mostly because I was in the healthy zone. I accepted it doesn’t work at the edges (short people and tall people), but it seemed like an accurate measurement for me. Now, I am thinking about joining the angry club of deniers.

I have recently been looking up the NHS recommendations for diet and exercise. Here is how it compares:

What the NHS recommends What I do
“at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week” At least four and a half hours (270 minutes) per week. I walk to work every day, 25 minutes each way, and walk to lots of other locations in town too, including running up and down the stairs from my apartment on the 4th floor. It’s not concentrated exercise, but it is quite a lot.
or “75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running or a game of singles tennis every week” Two hours of vigorous aerobic exercise per week, on average. I spend 30 minutes doing the Parkrun on Saturday morning and three hours training with Leeds Samurai. I don’t always make both events, and sometimes there is standing around at training, but overall it averages to more than 75 minutes a week.

I consider my diet quite good as well. I eat fruit every day, home-cook most nights, always with a range of vegetables, and sometimes without meat. We limit out intake of junk food and processed meat and I try to take healthier snacks to work, though with limited success. Just one area strikes me as a problem: we have a pudding every night.

I won’t claim my diet is perfect but it has given me pause for thought. If I can apply so many good behaviours to my life, like walking to work, like exercising every week, like eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, like avoiding junk food, which is all hard and takes a lot of self-control on my part, and still put on weight, how hard is it to stay thin? For some people, who put on weight easier than I do, it must be almost impossible.

I’ve heard people advocating that obesity is entirely the fault of the individual and they should just eat less. To me, this seems like a gross over-simplification of a complex problem. Even to practice some of these positive behaviours requires significant lifestyle changes: much of my time is structured around planning my diet and my exercise, and actually doing them, and I’m not even winning. If someone says to you “right, you need to find an extra hour per day to fit in exercise and planning and preparing healthy meals” where would you find that time? How would you motivate yourself to carry through on that, every day, for the rest of your life?

Many of us have found that time of course. But probably not overnight. Chances are we were raised with some of those behaviours also. If you are a regular person, who hasn’t had that benefit, and has a lot to deal with in their lives, it is a difficult problem to solve.

And that’s the story of how I tried to turn my weight gain into a social justice issue.

fat-chris
A recent photo of me

Floating along the Jersey Shore

Thursday, May 17th, 2012 | Thoughts

I really enjoyed Louis Theroux’s recent two documentaries, Extreme Love, even if they were both heartbreaking.

The first, which looked at autism focused on a specialist school in New Jersey. What struck me first though was that I was somewhat thrown as to what I was watching. Was this a special school for autism, or a special school for fat kids?

It sounds like a joke, but I was genuinely shocked as to how many of the children at the school were significantly overweight. Has obesity in the United States become such an epidemic that it has now become so shocking to the rest of the world?

Probably not. A quick google around suggests that obesity is particularly prevelant in children with autism. They use data which is now eight years old and even back then, over 30% of children with autism were reported to be overweight.

This compares with 23% of children who do not suffer from autism – still a very high number though.

Body dissatisfaction

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 | Religion & Politics, Science, Thoughts

I’ve started to pile on some pounds (we really need to come up with an updated term that reflects the metric system I know and love) recently, to the point where I’ve gone from the most perfect weight a human being has ever weighed to having only four kilograms of wiggle room before I’m no longer in my target BMI.

It’s very distressing because I lead, on the whole, a very healthily lifestyle and if Rob Lyons is to be believed you could probably even drop the “on the whole” qualification.

Still, after a long day of carrying my fat body around, I do enjoy sitting down and catching up on Stuart Ritchie’s Twitter feed, which provides a refreshing change from the normally interlectually void stream of inane nonsense that normally comes through (Alex, Lil and George while at Fab, though I enjoy that stuff as well).

Recently, he tweeted about a new report which suggests that female body dissatisfaction is primary caused by inter-peer competitiveness, and not the media.

Based on the results of the study, the report concludes that media exposure actually has minimal impact on how unhappy women are with their bodies, in comparison to the significant effect that inter-peer competitiveness has.

So why are we always being told that it’s the media that are ruining our teenage daughters?

This reminds me the video games cause violent crime argument. It was a fact that a lot of people spread, and then we looked at the actual evidence and it turned out that video games do not cause violent crime. Though even after that, people continue to toot that horn.

In both cases, you have to wonder who is spreading this? Presumedly, it isn’t the media trying to give themselves a bad name (of course it could be different sectors of the media attacking each other). Is it just genuinely honest but misinformed people running pressure groups? Do we just assume that it is the case because it seems to fit the puzzle?