Look it up

22 Nov

                                            nothing looks as good

 

I read an article recently, illuminating the link between obesity in women and occurrences of endometrial cancer, that really pissed me off. The article highlighted a researcher named Dr. Elisa Bandera, of Rutgers University, who is quoted as saying, “Women who are obese have two to three times the rate of endometrial cancer. People who are more active regularly tend to have a decreased rate of endometrial cancer.”

And here is where I take issue with this obviously well-intended article: why is it that even doctors, doctors who are pioneering research on the links between obesity and various medical conditions, still assume that obesity and inactivity are one in the same, as though one automatically represents or explains the other?

If Dr. Bandera had said something like, “People who have lower body weight tend to have a decreased rate of endometrial cancer,” I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought. But the fact is that even a knowledgeable doctor is using “obesity” and “inactivity” as weirdly-inappropriate little synonyms.

The fact is, they aren’t. Sure, one can make a reasonable argument that most people who are regularly active in their bodies aren’t obese, because regular activity (or at least regular strenuous activity) is going to entail the burning of calories, etc. But nothing is one size fits all, including the body’s response to activity (or inactivity, for that matter). As a personal trainer, I work with quite a few women who would be considered clinically obese. For that matter, I’m pretty sure that I,myself, am clinically obese! And yet, we are showing up to the gym and working our asses off, sweating and grunting and lifting to muscle fatigue, all in an attempt to gain that precious and valuable lean muscle mass…you know, the stuff that works to ward off, let’s say, cancer! My clients aren’t what I would call “inactive.” And neither am I.

So the article becomes confusing, in that I wonder if the real link is between cancer and obesity, or cancer and inactivity? There is a growing school of thought around the links between obesity and diabetes (A/K/A The Holy Grail of Fat Shaming), a link that is considered virtually sacrosanct in the media and in society at large. These new medical researchers and thinkers are questioning if it’s the state of obesity that lends itself to diabetes, or the lack of lean muscle mass that often (but not always) accompanies obesity. (If this argument can happen around diabetes links to obesity, it can and should surely be happening with cancer links as well.) And while it sounds like a bit of a “chicken and egg” semantic argument, it’s really more fundamental than that. Because this argument is the one that will ultimately determine if it’s possible, even theoretically, to be both fat and healthy.

I believe that it is. I believe that muscle mass and stamina and endurance and agility are possible at any size and at every shape. I believe it’s possible to be both obese and active, because I am surrounded by the people who prove me right every day. I believe it’s high time that the medical establishment get its act together and start using its words more carefully and precisely.

At its best, this article is confusing and therefore not very helpful. But at its worst, it’s adding fuel to the fat-shaming fire, a conflagration that, frankly, doesn’t need any more stoking. Inactivity is one word. Obesity is another. There’s a reason they have two different entries in the dictionary. Maybe it’s time for the medical establishment to look it up.

Best,
Lily-Rygh Glen
Flexible Fitness
http://www.flexiblefitnesspdx.com

Here’s the original article, if you’re interested:
http://www.today.com/health/sweet-starchy-foods-probably-cause-womens-cancer-study-finds-8C11124866

One Response to “Look it up”

  1. Angela December 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    Very well said. I am one of those people who has been labelled morbidly obese and yet I am quite active and healthy. Yes I have chosen to have a weight loss surgery to help me gain control of my weight. But the goal I am trying to obtain is still considered obese. But by no means would I be inactive. They ARE two totally different things. Thanks for writing on that =)

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