Fitness After 50: Don’t knock the big guys, gals


By Vicki Morgan

A client of mine shocked me with a confession while on the elliptical one day. She said, “Sometimes when I see an overweight person struggling to walk, huffing and puffing, I judge them. I can’t help it. I know I shouldn’t look down on them, but I do.”

After thoughtfully considering what she said, I went to my locker and emerged with a 25-pound weighted vest. 25 pounds of dead weight is not light, by any means. She grunted audibly as I placed it over her small frame. Her eyes got really wide when she realized my evil plan … I would make her do the remainder of her workout with the vest on. The pull-ups, goblet squats and deadlifts that she executed with prideful ease were suddenly challenging in ways she could never imagine. Just walking around the gym was a challenge. The weights wobbled to and fro, forcing her to use her core to keep from toppling over. Everything was a struggle. Even sitting on the toilet took a sort of concentration and exertion she’d never known as a small-framed person.

I didn’t chastise her for her guilty confession. Some people, whether they realize it or not, judge the big guys and gals … not knowing what being large actually feels like. If you’re an obese individual, you know the very depth of what I’m referring to.

But here’s the good news: While you’ve been living with obesity you have actually been working out much harder than we skinny folk. You’ve been lifting more weight, doing heavier leg lifts, and burning more calories.  So believe it or not, when you set your mind to it, you’re going to lose weight much faster than your thinner friends. Here’s why:

As a bigger person, you have a higher metabolic rate naturally, which means you need more calories to maintain your weight.  When you go into caloric deficit (on a diet, for instance) you have more options for calorie reduction.  So if you need 3,000 calories per day, you can cut that by a third and lose weight without too much difficulty. From a physics standpoint, a heavier object will require more “work” to move than a lighter object. Work equals calories burned. Let’s say you weigh 200 pounds and your buddy weighs 150. If both of you work out at the same intensity for the same amount of time, you will burn more calories. If you both decide to eat 500 fewer calories a day, you will lose more weight initially, much faster than your buddy.  As you gain muscle, your metabolism will get a boost, resulting in even higher calorie burns and a healthier/leaner you.

And here’s the best news of all … underneath all that adipose layering, there is a beautiful set of well-developed muscles waiting to be revealed to the world. As an obese person, you’ve already been working hard for every step you take. Which means your muscles are already surprisingly developed. In fact, bodybuilders go through what’s called a “Bulking Phase” before they get “shredded” for competition. The Bulking Phase isn’t glamorous. You won’t see bulking pictures in GQ Magazine. But know this – in order to get competition-style muscles, you need to bulk up. So for those of you who are overweight, you now can tell your friends that you have been in a “Bulking Phase” and are getting ready for phase two.

Not everyone wants to look like a bodybuilder. Don’t worry … you won’t. Most competitive bodybuilders use anabolic steroids (and other drug cocktails) in massive amounts to achieve that look.  But know this … as you lose weight, you don’t have to be afraid that you won’t have any muscles at all. The muscles are there, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to carry yourself around. The larger you are, the more developed your muscles are likely to be.

Tim Bell is a perfect example of a healthy weight loss transformation. After encountering some family tragedies over a four-year period including loss of lived ones, financial distress, bankruptcy and many other challenges, he hit bottom.

“I had not been taking care of myself. I was a daily cigar smoker and had put on a lot of weight. I did not exercise, I was growing old fast. The Peach Tree Road race was being held on the 4th. It is the biggest 10K race in the world. My brother said to me, “Next year we should commit to running in it.” I said, “I am in”. The goal had been set. This was my opportunity to work on me. That was it. It was my calling. As I am writing this, I have lost 40.4 lbs., more important, I feel and see the change. It has been a difficult task but very well worth it.”

If you are a large person in a “Bulking Phase” and you’re considering a journey back to healthy weight, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. By being large, you’ve developed a thicker skin, a tolerance for failure and a determination to keep moving no matter what. These are necessary traits for athletes. The journey will probably take you between two and seven years. Get ready for the long haul.
  2. For every 5 pounds of muscle you gain, you burn 500 more calories per day. You will need to burn more calories than you consume each day. It takes a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose one pound. To do this safely, see a licensed nutritionist.
  3. When losing weight it’s important not to focus on the success of others but only to measure your progress based solely on yourself.
  4. The closer you get to your goal the harder it will be to lose the weight. There will be times of plateau and even times of setback.
  5. Finally, some words of wisdom from Craig Ballantyne: “The harsh reality is that most people do not want to see you succeed. People will try to hold you down. Find others who share your goals to lose weight, and so that you can leverage their knowledge, commitment, support, and success. Research shows that when you hang around others who succeed that you will also succeed.”

So bottom line, don’t knock the big folk. They’re working out harder than most of their peers just by being big. With the right weight loss and exercise program, they have a better chance of maintaining attractive, healthy muscle development than the rest of us.

REFERENCES: Troy Taylor, NASM Elite Trainer, National Academy of Sports Medicine, Ann Prokenpek, NASM Elite Trainer,,, FOX8 Cleveland,,

Vicki Morgan CPT ACTION is a Senior Strength & Fitness Instructor at Flex Gym and Fitness. You can reach her at 719-445-8566. Remember to consult a physician before beginning any diet or exercise program. If you experience pain or difficulty, stop and consult your healthcare provider. This article is not meant to take the place of any treatment or activity your physician has deemed necessary.


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