Most of my clients who carry more weight than they’d like believe that they cannot be healthy or fit because they are fat. They hyper-focus on weight, shape, body discomfort, and how others view them, and feel helpless and despairing over their size. They believe that fat equals unfit. Research tell us this is not the case, so listen up.

A study published in the March 2009 issue of BMC Public Health proves that some people can be fat, yet fit. Their research concludes that both overweight and obese individuals can have healthy cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels if they eat healthfully and exercise. A Mayo Clinic study (American Heart Journal, 3/11) “found that overweight, high fitness (determined by cardiopulmonary exercise testing) subjects had a much lower risk of dying compared with normal-weight, low-fitness subjects.” Another study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (9/11), focuses on people who are obese and do not have metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that elevate your risk for diabetes and heart disease. It found that metabolically normal but obese people “were less likely to develop heart failure over a six-year period, compared to people of normal weight who had metabolic syndrome.”

If you weigh more than you would like and have given up on health and fitness, please take a minute to consider these facts. Contrary to what we’re constantly told, fat does not equal unfit and thin or thinner does not equal fit. Research tells us that you are not doomed to be unhealthy because you’re fat and that you are not helpless to improve longevity or quality of life. Of course, you can doom yourself by continuing to believe so, especially by not exercising or being active. Rather than despair, encourage yourself to be hopeful that in spite of your weight, you can do something to improve your health.

Are you so attached to the idea that you can’t be healthy or fit because you’re fat, that you don’t even try? Acknowledge that you may be using your weight as an excuse to not take care of yourself in ways that you could. Recognize that your problem may not be weight, but your inability to care for your body merely because you love and value it. Remember, there are thin and normal-weight people who also take poor care of their bodies—they smoke, drink, take drugs, over-exercise, or deprive themselves of nourishment. Think and act as if you can make a difference. The positive things you can do for your body are not exclusively weight dependent, but are born from how much you value yourself and the lengths you’ll go to show your body that you care. Start making small changes to become more fit and healthy today and have a better tomorrow.