Have you heard the one about the middle-aged, overweight bloke who ran the London Marathon in three hours flat?
No, me neither. As a large study recently proved, the idea that you can be 'fat but fit' is just another in a long line of myths attached to the health industry. The study of 3.5 million Britons' health records between 1995 and 2015 found that excess fat increases the risk of suffering heart disease by half – even when blood pressure and cholesterol levels are normal. Obese people were also seven percent more likely to suffer a stroke.
To this list of risks we can add a roll call of diseases that you don't want to mess with: type 2 diabetes; gallbladder disease; osteoarthritis; cancer of the breast, colon, gallbladder, kidney, and liver. Essentially, your chances of dying from anything other than a wasp sting or a fall down the stairs are higher if you are fat – and yet, as a nation, we seem to have accepted the notion that it's OK to be obese. In the UK a staggering 67pc of adults are overweight – that's not far behind the US, which sits (never runs) at 71pc.
Britain: you should be ashamed. But instead, it seems to me that we increasingly make excuses for our obesity – a trend exhibited by social justice warrior types who think it's insulting to call someone fat. I emphasised the words if you are fat in the previous paragraph because somehow these kind of comments have become offensive. Being concerned about the words if you are fat is as emotionally twisted as being concerned about the words if you drink drive, you are more likely to have an accident. It's a statement of fact, not a topic for debate.
This liberal apology diarrhea also runs into the common refrain, often shared by plus sized models, that “fat is beautiful”. While I entirely agree that young people need to see a variety of body shapes in media and advertising, rather than just perfectly sculpted and Photoshopped models, there's a danger that we go too far and convey the message that it's good to be obese.
It categorically is not. Subjectively, fat is rarely beautiful because we are hard wired by evolution to want to pass on the best genes from the healthiest bodies. More importantly, it's not good to be obese for precisely the reasons that this week's study has shown.
No one is arguing for “cigarette smoker acceptance” because we know that fags cause ill health and smokers bring it on themselves. Being obese is the same thing, yet somehow criticism of being overweight is conflated with racism or sexism. You don’t choose your race, gender or sexual orientation, but other than in the drastically rare cases where you have a metabolic disease, you do choose to be overweight.
The real “fat acceptance” movement should be all about taking personal responsibility for your fatness. That doesn't mean shaming others – people can choose to be the weight they want – but it does mean putting an end to all the excuses. As a personal trainer, I’ve seen countless people who have finally had enough of their own excuses and decided to draw a line in the sand. I’ve also encountered the people who promise the world and never deliver (to themselves). They are not bad people, but they only have themselves to blame for being overweight.
A word to the wise about what being overweight means. You are not “overweight” if you don’t have a sixpack – that's a damaging misconception. This is not about instilling unrealistic expectations on the population. The standard UK classification for obesity is simply a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or over. It's worked out using a very generalised formula that has a huge margin for error – but it is at least a useful benchmark, and it will help to tell you whether or not you're part of the 67pc.
You can find out your BMI right now, using the NHS's online calculator. And if the result is worse than you expected, remember: losing weight is often as simple as making small lifestyle choices. Making excuses is not one of them.