All that extra weight is linked to extra risks—and that’s not really loving yourself now isn’t it?

By Eric Nicole Salta | Photos by Tom Sodoge and Bethany Newman/Unsplash

There’s no greater myth in fitness and health than the “fat but fit” concept.

That’s according to research released last week in the European Heart Journal. Findings show that having all those unwanted pounds raises coronary heart disease risks by up to 28 percent.

On the basis of data from over 7,600 adults who have experienced cardiovascular incidents, Camille Lassale and her team from Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge explored the connection between “healthy obese” (those with normal blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels) and heart disease.

Using body mass index to categorize participants as either metabolically healthy or unhealthy—marked by high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low HDL cholesterol, and “elevated” waist circumference—the researchers discovered with careful calculations that the overweight and obese group with normal metabolic indicators, which would translate as “healthy,” were still at a much higher risk of getting coronary heart disease.

“Our findings suggest that if a patient is overweight or obese, all efforts should be made to help them get back to a healthy weight, regardless of other factors. Even if their blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol appear within the normal range, excess weight is still a risk factor,” said Lassale in a statement.

The researchers discovered with careful calculations that the overweight and obese group with normal metabolic indicators, which would translate as “healthy,” were still at a much higher risk of getting coronary heart disease

It’s an extraordinary result given the messages surrounding the “love your body” movement. Reducing the argument of weight loss to mere body shaming issues is a vicious notion. Self-acceptance is great but it’s also exhausting to see people get sucked into this psychological vortex where they’re being played to the bone by the rhetoric that fat is okay if you just embrace it. That’s like looking at the health implications with rose-colored glasses.

Further, a 2013 study in Diabetes Care involving 4,000 adults established that over the course of a five to 10-year follow-up, one-third of metabolically healthy obese participants dropped into a metabolically unhealthy state after showing risk factors.

The new research by Lassale’s team backs this up. “Our study shows that people with excess weight who might be classed as ‘healthy’ haven’t yet developed an unhealthy metabolic profile,” said co-author Ioanna Tzoulaki, Ph.D. “That comes later in the timeline, then they have an event such as a heart attack.”

So what’s the skinny? Being kind to yourself is merely step one of a 10-, 20-, 50-, or 100-step process towards becoming healthier and feeling better about yourself. You may feel healthy now, but who’s to say what’s going to happen five, 10, 15 years from now?

Encouraging people to lose weight isn’t an egotistical, self-righteous attempt at character assassination or an issue of body shaming or discrimination or body policing—it’s about taking down the belief that you can be fat but fit.