OK In Health - Fitness

Fit vs Fat - March 2012

Preconceived Notions

By Shannon Romano

walking trails

Ever heard the phenomenon of people putting off joining a gym or exercising until they lose a little weight? I hate to admit there was a time in my life when I thought this way and believed thinness was synonymous with fitness. Our societies reverence for thinness has in fact contributed to our expanding waist lines and decreased activity levels. Thankfully, a more enlightened cohort now understands that movement and fitness is for all sizes.

There is a growing body of doctors and researchers that are challenging preconceived notions about body weight in relation to fitness. They say that being overweight does not necessarily mean you are unhealthy and that fitness is much more important than being thin. Most of us hold the misconception that a thin person is healthier than a heavier person and that a heavy person cannot be fit. Recent studies challenge this belief.

Dr. Glenn Gaesser is a professor and director of Healthy Lifestyle Research Centre at Arizona State University. He makes the controversial hypothesis that weight is a poor predictor of health.  What I love about this research and hypothesis is that it encourages people to get active and exercise regularly despite their size. We often hear that we are experiencing an obesity epidemic in North America. Dr. Gaesser believes that we need to be much more concerned about the epidemic of inactivity than we do about obesity. He goes further to say that a persons cardiovascular fitness is a much more important indicator of good health than a person's weight. To learn more about Dr. Gaesser's work you can read his book,” Big Fat Lies”.

One organization that supports Dr. Gaessers' hypothesis is Health at Every Size (HAES). HAES is based on the premise that the best way to improve health is to honour your body by finding the joy in movement and physical vitality. This body of work acknowledges that health can best be realized independent from considerations of size and clearly differs from mainstream thought which gives a disproportionate emphasis on weight and body image. To sign up for the HAES pledge and begin to make peace with your body, visit www.haescommunity.org

I was introduced to this perspective early on in my training. When I was taking my certification to become a Personal Fitness Trainer, my instructor shared one thing his years of practice taught him which was never to judge someones fitness by looking at them. He went onto say that he had trained overweight people who were more fit than many of his thin clients which led him to believe that being fit is not dependent on being thin. 

Botbiking trailsh as a motivation specialist and someone who has struggled with weight issues, I can assure you that people are much more motivated by feelings of accomplishment and strength than they are by focusing on deficits and imperfections. Weight loss is often a result of becoming more active and fit but as long as we maintain the misconception that thinness equals fitness we are doing a disservice to ourselves and others, inadvertently contributing to the growing epidemic of inactivity.

I encourage those that struggle with poor body image, weight cycling, and low motivation to drop any preconceived notions they may hold about fitness and body image, and start moving. Throw out the scale and honour your body by paying attention to what foods fuel you and what foods deplete you; what activities excite you and which ones bore you. Then listen to your body and intuition to make the food and activity choices that are healthiest for you. After all, you are the best judge of what a healthy body size is for you.

Rediscover the joy of challenging your body and feeling strong, regardless of your size or weight.  Enjoy the mental health benefits of exercise; improved mood, clearer thinking and a more positive outlook. Possible side affects may include growing optimism, increased creativity, and decreased stress.


Shannon  RomanoShannon 's Bio: Shannon Romano is a BCRPA certified Personal Trainer and Motivation Specialist. She holds a Masters degree in Clinical Social Work and has worked with a variety of populations in both group and individual settings, addressing psycho emotional wellness, behavioural modification, and motivational counseling. After earning her Masters degree in Clinical Social Work, she spent 5 years at Interior Health Authority counseling people with health challenges and addiction issues. After her time in the healthcare field, she worked in the private sector providing counseling for women. Today, as co founder of Motivation Medics, Shannon combines her clinical experience with her certification as a personal trainer to assist people in renewing their motivation toward good mental, spiritual and physical health. Starting with a desire to help individuals struggling with weight issues and unhealthy relationships with food, she has come to realize that regardless of the substance or behaviour used to temporarily numb difficult emotions, a reconnect to self is what offers long term relief from emotional pain. Today, Shannon has a special interest in helping others reconnect. She believes our real health epidemic is not just obesity, diabetes and heart disease but the existential void that exists for many of us. She understands one of the most powerful indicators of the lifestyle choices we make is our self-knowledge. Shannon lives in Summerland where she enjoys spending time near the water with her husband, two kids, and two dogs.

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