Diet, Exercise, General Health

Are You Skinny Fat?

fatIt has been a colorful 2 weeks since I last posted.

I have been substitute teaching PE at an all-girls private High School.  When I took the 9th graders, split them into groups to do resistance exercises circuit-style, one group assigned to do sit-ups couldn’t execute a single sit-up with proper form.  One pretty young thing just lifted her head up and down while laying on her back. It was so sad.

I explained to them the many health benefits of exercise.  I don’t think they were incredibly impressed.

I explained how 65%+ of Americans are overweight – which puts them at all kinds of health risks from diabetes to heart attacks and cancer.  They could even quote back the statistics to me…and nobody seemed to think these numbers had anything to do with them.  If you look around, its usually like a carnival house of mirrors with all kinds of distorted bodies peering back at you – distended bellies and all, but this group was actually relatively thin looking.  From all outward appearances, you would assume they are a healthy bunch.  So I think the girls figured they don’t really need to exercise.

That’s simply not true!  There’s something called Skinny Fat – medically, the term is metabolically obese, normal weight (‘MONW’).  Not enough lean muscle.  Or your ratio of muscle to fat is off-kilter.  For instance, a body-fat of 24-39% is high by medical and health standards, but with good genes and bone structure you might appear thin.  Yes, its also true that if you fit into a size 2, but you still jiggle while you wiggle and your skin feels spongy…there’s a good chance you fit the definition of skinny fat.

Actually, a Skinny Fat person can have the same health risks as someone overweight/obese—or worse.  The shocking news published in the Journal of the American Medical Association is that nearly 1 in 4 skinny people have pre-diabetes and are metabolically obese.   Skinny people diagnosed with diabetes have twice the risk of death than heavy people with it.  Could be that having some extra muscle from lugging around that extra weight is protective?

In other words, a heavy fat person with a good amount of muscle might be healthier than you, Miss String-Bean!  Yeah, fit people come in all shapes and sizes is what I am saying.

Why am I so passionate about this subject?  Because I have been Skinny Fat myself.

Thanks to genetics and bone structure, I appear taller and slimmer than I actually am.  Many years ago, after the birth of my second child, I went for my annual physical.  The doctor looked at the results of my blood tests and asked what I did for exercise.  I told him “I chase toddlers. ” He went on to tell me that although I was active and exhausted from all the chasing of my kids all day long, I was actually 33% body-fat.  I was obese.  I gasped – but I’m not that heavy according to the scale!  He said if I were older, he would have put me on a statin drug because of my cholesterol numbers and that I should start an exercise program (I had not done regular exercise since High School) and eat oatmeal for breakfast.  I joined a gym and attended classes religiously, ate my oatmeal for breakfast, backed off on the fancy coffee dessert-drinks, and within 3-6 months I had lowered my cholesterol 13 points.  This was the start to my journey of becoming a fitness professional.

There are a number of tests your Doc can run to see if you are Skinny Fat, including a fasting glucose tolerance test, HDL, triglycerides, blood pressure, NMR lipid particle test.

So how to fix it when you are Skinny Fat?  Pair a lean protein with a healthy low GI carb at every meal in order to keep blood glucose levels steady.  For instance, an apple with some almonds, a hard boiled egg and oatmeal, celery and peanut butter, rice and beans, chicken breast and bell pepper.  Don’t drink your calories.  Get enough sleep.  Do resistance training with cardiovascular intervals…just like I have been doing with all of the classes I have been teaching at school this week.

Don’t worry – if you lift more than 2 lbs you aren’t necessarily gonna bulk up and look like a female version of the Hulk!  If you would like more help finding a fitness program to help you avoid being Skinny Fat, drop me a line or take one of my classes this week!

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