Fat and fit
Professor says exercise,
sensible diet can transcend weight
February 17, 1997
Web posted at: 3:30 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Eugenia Halsey
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (CNN) -- The conventional wisdom is
that it's better to be thin than fat. But a University of
Virginia professor is challenging that long-held belief.
"The biggest lie is that weight tells us something meaningful
about our health," said Glenn Gaesser, author of "Big Fat
(64K/6 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Gaesser, a skinny man himself, contends you can be fit -- and
Gaesser, an exercise physiologist, says many studies show
that even if you're overweight by universal standards, you
can still live a long life. The key is exercise and a low-fat
diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and grains.
In fact, he says, an overweight person with a healthy
lifestyle could outlive a thin couch potato.
Gaesser says it isn't excess blubber that leads to heart
disease and diabetes -- it's inactivity and a high fat diet.
David Burke thinks Gaesser is onto something. Even though he
works out six days a week, watches his diet, and has normal
blood pressure and cholesterol levels, the former football
player is still 50 pounds overweight, according to standard
charts that match height and weight.
"I'm tired, fed up with trying to fit into somebody else's
standards," Burke said. "I mean, I know how I feel. I'm
extremely healthy. I feel great."
(87K/8 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
But Gaesser's critics say he's delivering a "feel good"
message that could lead to a further fattening of America.
Dr. JoAnn Manson, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston,
says it's a rare bird who exercises and eats right regularly
and doesn't eventually reach a healthier weight range.
"I think it's not very common to be truly physically fit and
obese, though it is theoretically possible," said Manson, who
co-authored a well-known study that found thin nurses live
longer than overweight ones.
(86K/8 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Gaesser's defenders include Dr. Reubin Andres, the clinical
director of the National Institute on Aging. Andres says it's
hard to know the ideal weight range is because it may vary
depending on age.
(76K/7 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
In his own defense, Gaesser says he is not saying it's OK
to be fat -- just that it's more important to be fit.
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