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Thursday, January 03, 2013

From the New Year's resolutions file: Do you really need to lose weight to be healthier?

For those who have adopted a New Year's resolution to lose a thousand pounds during the first couple of weeks of 2013 ...

Big deal: You can be fat and fit

The other side of the case, though, is that we have to separate the personal from policy. I think there is solid research that says, yes, you can be both "fat" and fit and that many people are discriminated against needlessly because of the size of their waste line.

However, for the folks who have to figure out how to make sure our country's fiscal health is not done in by our growing pants size, we have to consider which policy makes the most sense and has the best chance of being effective for the most people.

Emphasizing smart, targeted, healthy weight loss does make sense because a lot of medical problems are associated with big weight gain. It's another of those delicate dances that we need to get right. It would be great if we could figure out which of us actually needs to lose weight to improve their health and which of us don't. There is a case to be made that when we make it a one-size-fits-all policy, the good that comes from it can be offset by the damage it causes. That is what has happened with our fight against heart attacks. We've essentially told everyone to make sure their (bad) cholesterol levels are below a certain point. That has saved lives.

But what some geneticists have found is that a low cholesterol level in some people leads to an increase in violent activity - and that the innocent people who have been harmed or killed because the wrong people have lowered their cholesterol levels have probably offset the lives saves from heart attack prevention. That tells me the policy has merit but has to be honed a lot to get us where we want and need to be. 

A couple of years ago, I lost about 40 pounds from my peak weighto and have kept off more than 30 of those pounds, mostly through a rethinking of eating habits and exercise. Because of that, I was able to get off the cholesterol-lowering and acid reflux drugs I had been taking every day. My cholesterol level naturally went back down and the acid reflux went away.

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