Ed's Letter

1 March 2014

You can’t tell at a glance whether somebody walks to work every day, swims three times a week, or is a keen tramper – nor whether they live on coffee and adrenalin or three healthy balanced meals a day. But at first glance we’ll, often subconsciously, make a judgment on whether somebody is ‘skinny’, ‘fat’, or some nebulous ‘in-between’ using our own scale of whether someone has an ‘unhealthy’ (or unfashionable) physique.

We know that most of us will never be skinny – nature makes us in all shapes, sizes, and metabolisms. But for millennia, nature also never gave us access to a superfluity of high-energy food or freedom from hard physical labour. So modern life has given us the potential to be obese like never before.

Should we be worried? Yes and no. American law professor Paul Campos argues in his book The Obesity Myth (2004) that the research shows that a person’s cardiovascular and metabolic fitness are more significant measures of a person’s health than their BMI.

The latest longitudinal Whitehall research findings, following a cohort of 6705 London civil servants, also raises big question marks over the accepted relationship between recent weight gain and type 2 diabetes. The vast majority of the 645 developing type 2 diabetes were not obese and had been “stably overweight” for a decade or more before diagnosis and showed only minor insulin-resistance.

From my own technically overweight perspective, I’ve no desire to live my life hungry or spend every spare minute at the gym. But having lost too many friends to cancers they couldn’t prevent, I think it is only fair to their memory that I do my best to eat well and exercise regularly so I can live as long, and as healthily, as my lifestyle, genes and luck allow.

And isn’t positively supporting ourselves and others to live as healthily, and happily as possible what it’s all about? Now where are my running shoes…

Fiona Cassie