A Red Herring

Weight is a red herring. 

It's the season of New Year's Resolutions. It's the time when a lot of people fixate on weight loss. 

I've mentioned in previous posts how people talk as if losing weight were some kind of magic tonic. It's starting to really piss me off because it's not the best barometer of health. Health is measured in a million different ways. 

You may want to be healthy. You may want to live a long time. But if you're focusing on the weight, you've caught a red herring. 

Weight is not the direct cause of early death. To be clear, obesity is correlated with other health complications like heart disease and diabetes. However, it's not the direct cause. Doctors don't write on death certificates, "obesity." People most frequently die of heart attacks, diabetes, and cancers.

As I've pointed out before, studies show that when people engage in healthy activities, namely not smoking, moderate drinking, eating five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and exercising regularly, they live longer.  Golda Poretsky points out in her TED talk, a woman who is 5'5'' and 135 pounds and a woman of the same age who is 5'5'' and 300 pounds have the same risk for mortality if they engage in these 4 healthy behaviors. 

In many articles, people often identify obesity or being overweight as a"risk factor." I don't like this particular language because it makes it sound like obesity causes death. What people really mean by this is that weight could be a symptom of poor health. And you're not going to cure the cause of poor health by treating a symptom. That's like trying to cure lung cancer by whitening teeth (smokers usually have yellow teeth for those of you following along at home). 

Being healthy is a totally legit resolution but focusing on weight is not the way to be healthy. 

If you need to increase your cardiovascular fitness, you don't start with weight loss, you start with exercise. If you want to eat healthier, you don't start with weight loss, you start with adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet. If you want to decrease stress, you don't start with weight loss, you start with finding ways to de-stress like meditating or taking a hot bath. 

So, this year, if you want to be healthier in 2016, forget the weight.

Focus on your health. Focus on how to stop smoking. Focus on keeping your alcohol intake to 1-2 drinks a night. Focus on eating MORE fruits and vegetables. Focus on moving your body a little bit more. Find more time for sleep. Find more time for people you love. Find ways to decrease stress in your life.  

The weight is just a distraction.

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