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We're Fatter than We Think


According to the most recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 36% of the American adult population is obese, and 17% of American children are following suit. If this trend continues, a recent study predicts that 86% of Americans will be overweight or obese by 2030, and by 2048, every single American will be either overweight or obese. We are progressively getting fatter, and alarmingly enough it appears we no longer recognize how large we are becoming. With the advent of vanity sizing, women who would have worn a size six or eight fifty years ago now fit into a size zero or one. Children are not aware of their size because they see everyone around them at the same size. Michelle Justus of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement said “part of it’s the way our lifestyle is now.



The norm is getting more and more overweight, so at first look a child may not seem overweight compared to the other kids in the class.” Arkansas is one state out of approximately a quarter of the country that requires its school districts to measure the heights and weights of its students and notify the parents of the results. The goal of these body mass index measurement projects is to identify students who may be at risk for weight-related diseases such as type II diabetes, which is becoming more and more common among young people. Unfortunately, the benefits of the screening program have yet to be fully recognized for a number of reasons, including the fact that parents admit they have not reduced the number of times they dine out (a frequent issue in weight maintenance), nor did students themselves make substantial changes in their dietary habits, even though a majority of them did express concerns about their weight after the project was implemented. Schools themselves struggle to get the information to parents, citing the financial costs of mailing the information and the potential physical and emotional costs should the information regarding a student’s size get into the hands of bullies.




Across the board, people from cultures around the world tend to underestimate their size, and therefore, the state of their health. A group of researchers at the University of Illinois asked 3,622 young men and women in Mexico to estimate their body size. They were given categories ranging from underweight to very overweight from which to choose. While the normal-weight individuals selected the correct category about 80% of the time, 58% of the overweight students wrongly described themselves as normal weight, and 75% of the clinically obese students placed themselves in the overweight category. Interestingly, a small group of people considered to be at a healthy weight classified themselves as underweight. Multiple studies conducted in the United States, Canada, and Europe have arrived at the same conclusions, leading researchers to believe it is partially the complex process by which the brain forms our body images. Perspective, of course, may also play a role. Children who feel normal in a class full of similarly overweight students may also be influenced by the size and shapes of their parents. A study performed in Quebec resulted in findings similar to those of the University of Illinois study: nearly 70% of the overweight and obese children identified with a slimmer size. However, the researchers also noted that the children with the heaviest parents were far more likely to underestimate their weight than the children of normal-weight parents and peers.



Clearly our perceptions of what is considered an appropriate weight have become skewed. Not only are families as a whole becoming larger and more accepting of this new, larger status, but researchers who had long feared that our body image issues would be shaped by their constant exposure to images of superfit or superthin celebrities are finding the opposite is true. Certainly we are bombarded daily with pictures of people who are too skinny, too heavy, or otherwise imperfect. Every five-pound weight gain (or loss) is documented and analyzed, and people are judged not by their accomplishments but by whether or not they fit into a particular size. At the same time, the population as a whole is becoming more complacent about our steadily increasing size, to the point of denial. However, while with some individuals it is easy to see that they need to lose weight, it is often harder to tell with normal-weight people, and this can create willful ignorance to the risks of diseases normally associated with clearly heavy people.



If a doctor or researcher were to examine a celebrity’s overall body composition, the results might be surprising. For over a century, researchers, medical professionals, and trainers have used the Body Mass Index, or BMI, to determine an individual’s body composition. The BMI takes into account the height and weight of an individual and is used to identify the person’s risk of disease based on this information. Individuals are considered healthy if they fall into the BMI range of 18-24.5. People are considered overweight if their BMI falls between 25 and 27, and they are classified obese if their BMI registers greater than 27. In recent years the BMI has come under fire for inaccuracy; muscular individuals are often classified as overweight or obese because the dense muscle tissue takes up less space in the body than an equal amount of fat, but the additional muscle shows up as excess weight on the scale.




 Conversely, thin individuals who don’t weigh a lot relative to their height may be classified by the BMI as normal weight, or even underweight, but if they have their body fat checked they might find that they are clinically obese and therefore at risk for a host of diseases of which they might not even be aware. Because they are thin, however, and therefore fit a socially acceptable size, these people may not see the need to exercise or eat properly, especially if the thinness is a genetic “blessing,” so the risk of disease further increases. These “metabolically obese but normal weight” (MONW) individuals have been identified at increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases even though their appearance in the mirror is one of health. Because there is no clear definition of MONW, identifying individuals who may be at risk is difficult because of the prevailing notion that a thin person is a healthy person. However, any person, regardless of size, who carries excess visceral or subcutaneous fat increases their risk of developing metabolic disease. Two similar studies, one in Poland and one in Korea, examined this increased risk. Of the 8,987 Korean individuals assessed, 14.2% of the men and 12.9% of the women were classified as MONW. Risk of MONW was identified through high total cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and LDLs, with the men having better odds of their status being identified. Both groups of researchers felt that early intervention could help prevent the onset of disease in these MONW individuals, with the Polish team specifically identifying physicians as the first line of screening. 

The Korean study analyzed the results of both men and women, but a study in Switzerland essentially classified MONW as primarily a woman’s concern. Termed normal weight obesity (NWO), the team of researchers assessed the body fat of over 6,000 men and women. Because only 3% of men presented with NWO, compared to 5.4% of the women, the researchers only analyzed the women’s results. NWO women had higher levels of body fat than overweight women, as well as higher blood pressure, dyslipidemia, and fasting hyperglycemia than lean women. Overall, the women with NWO were at greater risk of developing cardiovascular diseases than the lean women, and again, the study team felt it was important to incorporate screening for NWO would help to reduce the prevalence of cardiovascular disease among women. Women often do not present with the classic symptoms of a heart attack; rather than chest pains or tingling in the left arm, women may feel lethargic, bloated, or otherwise tired. These symptoms can often be mistaken for other issues, leading to increased concerns that women may not get the treatment they need for cardiovascular disease.




Because the risk of cardiovascular concerns is not readily identified in thinner people, these studies and others have shown perhaps it is time to re-evaluate the BMI scale. Two studies conducted in India have raised the possibility that the upper end of the “healthy” range of the BMI may need to be lowered, especially if body fat percentage is used to establish an individual’s obesity. In one study, researchers measured the body fat percentage of 1,111 males between the ages of 18 and 69. Of these men, 44% had levels of body fat greater than 25% even though their BMI was between 24-25; numbers which represent the high end of the normal range. They were at greater risk of diseases such as hypertension and type II diabetes, even though their BMIs were considered healthy. In the other study, researchers examined 123 Asian Indian men and women and found that the conventional BMI cut-off underestimated overweight and obese individuals when the body fat percentage was used to define overweight. In both cases, the researchers suggested that lowering the BMI scale may be crucial to preventing the prevalence of disease among these populations. Because their BMIs place them in the healthy range, individuals who carry excess body fat may not be aware of their risk for cardiovascular disease.



  Among all the studies, several points were consistent. One, body weight alone is not enough to determine one’s risk of disease. Because muscle is denser than fat, a muscular person may weigh more than a person of the same height with less muscle. Alternately, just because one is thin does not mean one is healthy. Two, a lack of physical activity and poor dietary choices were prevalent among those individuals who could be classified as MONW or NWO. In many cases, the heavier people were less likely to participate in exercise or be aware of good nutritional principles. Three, reducing the current range of healthy BMI is key. While no one study identified an appropriate range, it is clear that the risk of disease and early mortality due to factors as controllable as our weight, physical activity, and consumption habits must be slowed before the epidemic becomes uncontrollable.

Weight Loss & Cardiovascular Health

Weight Loss and Cardiovascular Health
Date:  May. 17, 2012

Obesity is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, especially if the weight is concentrated in the region above the belly button. Regardless of whether one follows a low-carb diet or a low-fat diet to lose weight, researchers have found that the greater the loss of belly fat, the greater the improvements to blood vessel function and the better the flow of blood throughout the body, both of which reduce the risk of vascular issues. Researchers at Johns Hopkins performed a six-month study of 60 men and women who weighed an average of 215 pounds at the outset and recently presented their findings at an American Heart Association scientific meeting that focused on cardiovascular disease prevention.


Half the participants followed a low-carb diet that included up to 30 percent of calories from carbs such as bread, pasta, and certain fruits; 40 percent of calories came from fat found in meat, dairy, and nuts. The other half consumed a low-fat diet that contained no more than 30 percent of calories from fat and 55 percent from all carbohydrates. All participants consumed approximately the same number of calories each day, regardless of which plan they followed, and incorporated moderate exercise into their daily routines. The low-carb dieters lost an average of 28.9 pounds versus the low-fat dieters, who lost 18.7 pounds over the course of six months. In order to evaluate vascular functionality, researchers constricted circulation in the upper arm of the participants for five minutes using a blood pressure cuff. The healthier the artery, the more quickly it will expand when the cuff is released.


 Researchers measured how much blood reached the fingertips before, during, and after the test and found that the more belly fat an individual had lost, the greater the blood flow to the finger, an indication of improved functionality of the artery. Researchers noted that individuals who followed the low-carb diet did not exhibit any cardiovascular issues as a result of the higher fat content in their diets, and they lost more weight at a faster pace, a result that is similar to those of other studies. Lead researcher Kerry J. Stewart, Ed.D., a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said that eating higher amounts of carbohydrates can slow down the rate of body fat lost while on a reduced-calorie plan, potentially making low-carb diets a viable option for weight loss. Higher carbohydrate intake, particularly from simple sources, increases insulin, the hormone at the root of weight gain.


  These long-term results indicate that weight loss, coupled with exercise, is necessary for improving vascular health; additionally, following a low-carb diet rather than the traditional low-fat diet may not have any negative effects on the cardiovascular system. (American Heart Association, 2012)

Choosing the Right Training Modalities

Choosing the Right Training Modalities By: NCSF  on:  May 16 20120  Comments     The proliferation of functional equipment and related devices provide personal trainers with greater opportunities to challenge their clients through engaging activities. These products offer added diversity in movements and oftentimes allow for training in environments that previously presented limitations and obstacles. Fitness entrepreneurs now commonly have a trunk full of equipment that can turn any park or playground into a viable training zone. Suspension devices, battle ropes, kettlebells, and the like all add to the exercise selection both in and outside the traditional gym setting. This is particularly helpful for trainers or clients that do not have access to facilities, or for trainers that schedule clients on Monday at 6 pm.The discovery of these modalities often excites newer users, and it is common to want to exploit the potential in these devices. But, be cautious of the temptation.


Too often, trainers become overzealous in their use of a particular modality, gravitating towards an inappropriate level of favoritism. When you take a weekend class to become “certified” in a modality, you do not become a kettlebell trainer or TRX trainer; rather, you become a personal trainer with a potentially greater ability to use a particular device with your clients. Centering your programs around a single piece of equipment does not make sense if other devices or resources provide a better option. Likewise, clients must be aptly capable of using the equipment for its defined purpose. Consider the application simply another tool in the trainer’s tool box. Sometimes it is a great idea to use a particular modality, especially when it best creates the desired stress for the client. In other cases, while the potential for improved adaptations may exist, in less-conditioned clients, the continuum of safety versus effectiveness suggests a different course of action may be necessary.


Another word of caution: be careful about exploiting the equipment’s potential in the public domain. Attempting to stand on a physioball or stacking kettlebells overhead may present an interesting challenge, but these challenges would be unsafe for most participants, and the risk-reward relationship is too out of balance. Personal trainers performing feats of strength or impressive stability acts in front of fitness enthusiasts can potentially encourage the witnesses to attempt the dangerous act themselves. Think of it this way: since trainers are assumed to be knowledgeable in exercise safety, why would they perform an exercise if it is unsafe?When using new modalities in training, it is important to ensure the equipment is safe and can stand up to physical forces. When using suspension devices, be sure the equipment is properly secured to an immovable or stable object. Incidents of unanchored equipment being pulled over are on the rise. Likewise take the time to instruct clients on the new equipment in a controlled environment, using an appropriate load. Do not assume a single demonstration is adequate for motor readiness; inexperienced individuals mirroring kettlebell snatches can be badly hurt without proper instruction and management.


 Likewise, ensure the movements and stresses are appropriate for individual capabilities, particularly when using ballistic exercises that require deceleration. In some cases, only limited options are available due to the cost of the equipment. Gyms often have the full spectrum of dumbbells, but they may only offer a few kettlebells, or they may only be able to provide one or two ropes. The weight of these pieces of equipment plays a significant role in their use; always match the equipment to the user and be prudent in the decision-making process. Never force a modality when the loading is not appropriate for the client. The functional modalities can motivate clients and make their workouts seem more entertaining. However, keep the following in mind when using the equipment, and remember that more instruction is always better than not enough.  

1.     Become competent with the device and the methods of instruction


2.     Ensure the client is ready for the level of stress the equipment demands and can safely use it


3.     Be sure the environment is safe for the equipment and adequate space is available


4.     If the equipment suspends, be sure it is anchored safely


5.     Match the resistance or load to the exerciser’s ability


6.     Always error on the side of caution if you are unsure about the client’s safety 

Exercise for the fun of it

Exercise is important for your health and well-being. But if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you may not stick with it. Believe it or not, exercise should be fun.

Try these ideas:


·         Find activities you like. Sports, classes, and exercises that match your needs and interests will help you keep your healthy habits for life.


·         Choose the right time. If you’re not a morning person, but you’re dragging yourself out of bed to exercise, eventually you’ll skip a day, then two, and then three… and your routine may just fade away. It’s important to make exercise a priority, but choose a time that works for you

·         Remind yourself of your motivation. Everyone has a driving force. Are you looking to improve your overall health? Lose weight? Manage a chronic condition? Whatever your reasons, remind yourself of them often to keep yourself on task.


·         Consider it play. Remember when you were a kid? You probably spent your free time playing sports and riding your bike. That’s the way fitness should be—fun. Kick a soccer ball around with some kids, visit a local park, or gather friends for a game of baseball

.Exercise is an act of mind and spirit as much as an act of the body. Don’t let fitness become drudgery for you.

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