I was asked my opinion on a recent post on TODAY SHOW segment. The long and short of it is that British reality star Katie Hopkins consumed enough calories to gain 50lbs and has pledged to lose it in 3 months to show how easy it is to lose. Besides the blatant disregard for her health I do have some further concerns.
Her argument is that she just wants to show people that all you have to do to lose weight “is as simple as eating less and moving more”. This is kind of like saying “All you have to do to drive a car is get in and turn a key.” There is a lot more to it than just that.
It is true that at a very basic level eating less and doing more will yield some type of result, but a responsible person will dive in a little deeper. Eating an appropriate amount of calories is an important thing to consider, but calories come in many different shapes and forms. If I were to tell you to eat 2000 kcal of carrots–you wouldn’t be healthy. If I were to tell you to eat 2000 kcal of bologna sandwiches, I’m sure you would find some new and exciting health concerns pop up. What are healthy calories? Well, I wish that could be answered here but in all honesty that topic could take years to explain. Looking from a macro-nutrient position, we recommend a 30%-30%-40% (fat – protein – carbohydrates) split for our clients with the majority of calories coming from unprocessed sources.
Another point that pops up is the assumption that skinny is healthy. I can say from experience that your dress size is a poor indicator of health. We have had people come through our doors who told us they need to be skinnier. When we actually dive into some body composition testing, we find out that they are in fact underfat. Well, that doesn’t sound so bad does it?
Truth be told it’s very dangerous because the female body needs to have some fat. Things like not having a period may seem convenient but this a big indicator something is wrong. Having a regular menstual cycle is an important part of being healthy and fertility. There is this common assumption that fat is bad, but the truth is fat is a very important part of our body composition and we all need it. Hormones require fat to do their job, fat protects our organs, our bodies uses it as fuel reserves, and our bodies also use it to help insulate us.
The notion that health can be directly measured by your weight is a very archaic thought based on false assumptions. For instance, that everyone has a set amount of lean body mass and anything past that must be fat. This assumption doesn’t take into account the weight of your muscles, your skeleton, your blood, whether or not you have to go take a poop. These are all things that contribute to the number on the scale. We’ve all seen those charts in a doctor’s office that say at this height you should be this weight. Unfortunately for many this is taken as a gold standard to strive for. What many people don’t realize is that this number is there to give a doctor, who is very busy, a quick reference and to make a decision to send you for more tests to confirm an unhealthy body composition. In the stats world we call these false-positives. Simply designed to trigger further investigation. That’s where we as human performance experts can come and take a closer look at what is going on. Some of our clients are shocked to learn they are in fact in healthy body fat range.
I’m sure if any of us were putting on a publicity stunt we could dedicate the amount of time needed to shed 50lbs–note there is NO distinction between body fat or lean body mass in her stunt. And we also don’t have any indicators that she is happier at that body weight. Skinny doesn’t equal happy. She mentions that “[she’s] learned a lot about how it feels to be big, how difficult it is to be big, how horrible it is to have fat sitting on the top of your thighs, and how much more challenging it is just to do everyday life when you’re bigger” but these comments don’t touch on other points such as “fat shaming”, this down-the-nose attitude toward people who are overweight. The truth is some people who are seen as overweight are too scared to ask for help and publicity stunts that infer that being fat is a product of being lazy don’t help. Instead of showing how easy you can do it, ask someone how you can help them live a healthier life.
I will part with some words of wisdom: Eat to fuel, exercise to move, and enjoy every minute of it. Take a healthy lifestyle as an positive experience not as a challenge.