Fit, Fat, & Cold

It is rare when I truly love something I write or an idea that I have. I tend to be hypercritical and continually play devil’s advocate with myself. And though that is likely a good thing for science, it often means I get less joy from the grueling process I put myself through. This new article, however, is the exception.

Dr. Alexandra Niclou and I recently published a commentary in Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health. In this article, we not only tear down the current concept and broad use of body mass index (BMI), but also present how the suite of features we typically see among cold climate populations may confer a metabolically healthy obese phenotype (or the fit and fat phenotype). The idea of a fit and fat phenotype has been around for a short while – it suggests that individuals can have a high BMI/high body adiposity but not suffer any of the cardiometabolic consequences often association with a high BMI/high body adiposity.

I have been percolating this idea for a fair amount of time since working through the data on reindeer herders, who despite having high BMI/body adiposity, have relatively healthy indicators of cardiometabolic health. There is a growing body of evidence, though not without controversy, that a metabolically healthy obese phenotype is a reality, rare, but a reality. I began to wonder how some of the interesting physiological and morphological variation we ascribe to cold climate populations may predispose these folks to a metabolically healthy obese phenotype.

Schematic representing how the different suite of morphological, physiological, and behavioral characteristics of cold climate populations may lead to a metabolically heathy obese phenotype.

In this paper, Alex and I work through the evidence and present a fit, fat, and cold hypothesis that still needs a great deal of testing. Theoretical though it may be, I think this is an intriguing possibility and one that could impact how individuals with high adiposity (and low adiposity) are treated by medical doctors.

Cultural Cold Climate Coping Mechanisms among Reindeer Herders

Our new paper in ARCTIC is out! This paper looks at the cultural cold climate coping mechanisms among the reindeer herders we worked with in 2018 and 2019. We discuss different coping behaviors that range from physical activity style decisions, ecological knowledge, technology, clothing, food, and more!

A picture from this paper was also chosen to be the cover of the upcoming ARCTIC Issue.

Please contact me for a PDF!

Resting Metabolic Rates Among Reindeer Herders in Finland

The first of many papers on my work in Finland just hit early view. This is the result of a wonderful collaboration with Dr. Minna Turunen and Dr. Päivi Soppela from the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland as well as Ville Stenbäck and Dr. Karl-Heinz Herzig from the University of Oulu.

I was fortunate enough to spend May 2018, part of October 2018, and all of January 2019 in Rovaniemi, Finland in order to better understand the metabolic cost of inhabiting a cold climate among reindeer herders. You can read more about the whole project here.

Moomin snow sculpture in the center of Rovaniemi.

This paper discusses the fascinating results of the resting metabolic rate measurements we conducted. You can access the abstract of the paper here (contact me for a pdf!) or you can have a look at the infographic I made that sums up the study and results – Herder RMR Infographic.

I must say that I prefer the Arctic Circle in the dead of winter rather than the dead of summer. Yeah, you only get a few hours of dusk and it is so cold that your breath freezes on your eye lashes and you feel your frozen snot crackle with each inhalation. But, it is breathtakingly beautiful and serene.

Frozen fog on trees

My breath frozen on my eye lashes.









This project and collaboration has been an absolute joy, and I am beyond excited that the work is coming out. I also look forward to more papers in the future and the expansion of this project.

Research Uncorked

I will be giving the Research Uncorked talk next Tuesday titled: Let It Snow: Human Performance in Extreme Conditions!

When: Tuesday, December 10 @ 6pm
Where: Ironhand Vineyard’s Wine Bar
1025 Northside Blvd.
South Bend, IN 46615

Come see how many Star Wars Hoth-related references I can make in under 45 minutes.

Han Solo Hoth