I began writing this on a bus headed for the Rose Bowl. Ali Vincent led a walk there, and I got up at absurd o’clock to get there in time for the event.
I have nothing but respect for Ms. Vincent. After she won, she has been strongly advocating health over simple weight loss, although if pressed she’d likely not agree with my advocacy of health at every size, and my evidence-based opinion that fat and fit is possible.
One need only look at Sarah Robles. She’s big. But she’s also able to lift many times her weight and is currently the strongest woman in the Western Hemisphere.
As you can see, she does not exactly look like a supermodel. But would you say she’s unhealthy? An unhealthy person can’t compete as a world-class weightlifter. And yet, one of Sarah’s teammates in 2012, Holly Mangold, is headed for The Biggest Loser this year. The reason she wasn’t competing in the Pan Ams this year was because she was prepping for the show.
Scale weight is not a great gauge of overall health. It is notoriously bad for differentiating the athletic and massive from the obese. Michael Jordan in his prime had a BMI that put him in the obese category. And there are lots of people who are ideal weight and sickly. There are also the “skinny fat,” people who weigh normal on a scale, but have a high percentage of body fat and a goodly amount of visceral fat.
So why not create a competition that uses several metrics to judge the health and fitness of the contestants? Not just scale weight, but blood pressure, metabolic blood panel, fat to lean ratio, and performance tests like how fast you travel a mile, be it walking or running, how much weight can you deadlift, and so on. It would be rigorously monitored by doctors, exercise physiologists and physical therapists.
It would be visual, too: the best way to find out body fat percentage is an underwater weighing. Imagine how that would look on screen! The tank of truth. The winner of this contest would be the most improved over the most metrics. You’d probably want to weight (no pun intended) some of those metrics a bit: someone reversing their type 2 diabetes would be a more impressive feat than someone who can box jump higher than the rest, or had lost the most scale weight. A broader set of metrics would mean more size diversity on the show. You might see a big person win this contest. It would be a very important message to send to people: fat does not necessarily equal unfit.
I’m giving you a gift, TV industry. Call this new competition Survival of the Fittest. I guarantee it will be a hit.