Thursday 14 December 2017

Karl Henry: 'Yes, we have an obesity crisis - but don't listen to the fatshamers'

Ignore the online trolls, says our fitness expert - the only person who can take real responsibility for your health and fitness is you

Karl Henry: stretching delivers so many benefits and can often be tougher than you think.
Karl Henry: stretching delivers so many benefits and can often be tougher than you think.
Changes: Trainer Karl Henry had to overhaul his lifestyle when he didn’t recognise himself in a photo.

Karl Henry

Did you know that being fat was once a sign of wealth and opulence? And being slim was a sign of deprivation? Back in the 17, 18 and even 1900s, this was the case. If you had money you could afford to eat more and eat lavishly and put on weight. Granted, the average life expectancy was incredibly low, but how times have changed.

Over the past few weeks several articles, radio and television programmes, have discussed the topic of fat shaming and body image with incredibly varied opinions. Does the State have a right to try help people become healthier by influencing the buying decisions with the use of taxes? Is it okay to view someone and judge that person by their weight? Is it okay to make the assumption that something is wrong if someone is overweight? Are we too sensitive as a nation and do we need to realise that some tough love is a requirement to provide the jumpstart to get healthier?

As with any debate and any group of passionate speakers, there will be valid and strong opinions for both sides of the argument. Personally, I have to watch my weight. I have to watch what I eat. I have to work at my fitness.

I have a certain weight that I will allow myself to hit and then know it's time to tighten things a little. I was unfit and certainly heavier when I was younger, and in my first year of college. The jumpstart I needed came in my late teens when I saw a photograph of myself at a party and I got a shock at the bloated person looking back at me.

I'm not talking a huge amount of weight - but I realised I had gotten out of shape. My second jumpstart moment followed weeks later when out hillwalking with a friend in his 60s, who beat me up the mountain by over 10 minutes. Then I knew I had to get fitter.

I learned more about food and changed my diet. I started a couch to 5k. Then half marathons, then marathons, and eventually Ironman and ultra marathons. I even go back regularly and run that mountain.

Now, health is what I do for a living. I believe my own experience is a crucial tool that has helped me in business and associate with clients. My market will never be the incredibly fit, or the very low body fat client base, and that's cool with me. I believe that I can have a greater impact on everyone else -those who just want to get healthier.

You see, no matter what your weight, I believe health is the most important component. Mental health, physical health, bone health, visual health, health in any way shape or form. I don't judge any client by their weight, but by the person I meet.

How do they sleep? What is their energy like? How radiant or dull is their skin?Are they happy? How is their lifestyle?

These are far more important. Your life or person should not be defined by weight, but by everything else.

Your weight will have an impact on all the above, especially if you are very overweight. Is it good for you? Of course not. We all know that.

But that gives no one the right to shame you. The keyboard warriors who live online and troll people while hiding behind an alias, they are simply cowards with an opinion - an opinion that doesn't matter anyway.

Monitoring your weight, waistline, clothes size or fitness level will simply give you a target to work towards; constant measurement helps to keep you focused and motivated on the path to getting healthier. With motivation comes the food, exercise and lifestyle changes that we all know you need to make, it helps you to make them. That is why it's so important to measure something, anything at all.

Before measurement, there needs to come the trigger. Ideally from the person themselves. You need to want to change for you and no one else. It is very difficult to externally make someone do something, if you don't want to do it then you won't. But maybe friends, family, doctors and possibly even teachers have a role to play. Sometimes we need to hear those conversations, take it on the chin and do something about it. By saying nothing, things get worse.

In an overly sensitised world, a world of compensation culture and political correctness, maybe it has gone too far. If nothing can be said then it will only get worse. The effects of an unhealthy society will affect us all.

How long was your wait when you last visited A&E? Well the health of the nation has a direct impact on that. Your health insurance bill? Your business insurance bill? Your tax bill? These are also directly affected by the nation's health.

We need to get healthier, we just need to decide if we are willing to accept this and take responsibility to change it, or place our heads in the sand and let it get worse.

Irish Independent

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