Is There Any Truth to Benign Obesity?: February 19, 2014

Who doesn’t want to drop a few pounds? Suzanne Davies works at her weight - keeping it in check.

“I’m not exactly the trimmest I can be; there’s a number of us who have a little bit of a weight problem, but if you live a healthy lifestyle I still think you can be healthy,” says Davies.

Far from obese, Davies believes as many Americans do, that it is possible to be fat but fit. But in-depth studies find it too good to be true.

“When you sugar coat recommendations, people take them half-heartedly. They go home feeling like well it’s not really that much of a problem, so I don’t have to work on it that aggressively,” says Dr. Sal Lacagnina, vice president  health and wellness with Lee Memorial Health System.

Research focused on obese people who were metabolically healthy. Meaning they didn’t meet the criteria for metabolic syndrome, a precursor for heart disease. After following them for a decade, the study found they were 24% more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event.

“People don't realize the gravity of the situation. They develop a heart attack, they go into a hospital, they have bypass surgery and they come out of the hospital and they go back to their old lifestyle. And that’s usually because we haven’t done the best job of educating them that it was the lifestyle that created the problem,” says Dr. Lacagnina.

The light didn’t go on for Davies until she hit her 50s and her lifestyle started weighing her down.

“When I was working I was pretty sedentary. It wasn’t until we’re retired that we both actually got into exercise programs, starting to eat healthier, more fresh foods, less meats and so forth,” says Davies.

Bottom line: fat but fit doesn’t pass the taste test, there’s no such thing as benign obesity.