What is “Skinny Fat”?
Did you know that thin people can sometimes carry the most dangerous kind of fat—and not know it?
Obesity is a serious epidemic in the U.S., but the problem, doctors say, is that we are putting too much focus on weight. When the CDC released obesity numbers, we cheered that the rate had fallen so drastically for children ages 2 to 5, even though obesity rates overall remained relatively flat. Thinner people may not look the part, but they can have the same medical issues as an obese person: type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and out-of-control blood sugar. It should be obvious, but a culture obsessed with weight doesn’t always remember that appearances of health can be only skin deep.
“I see these people all the time,” says Dr. Daniel Neides, medical director at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute ... “On the outside they look incredibly healthy, but on the inside they’re a wreck.” You likely know someone who’s “skinny fat.” They never eat vegetables, love steak, and haven’t exercised since eighth grade gym class—and yet they’re still thin. Perhaps it’s you. But while some of us are envious of our thinner peers who can eat just about anything, doctors say we shouldn’t be. Skinny fat is a real, and remarkably common, phenomenon—even fatal.
A 2008 study found that about one-fourth of U.S. adults with normal weight have some form of an unhealthy heart, like high blood pressure or cholesterol. Older adults with normal BMIs but high levels of body fat are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease and death than previously realized, according to a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Cardiology. More recently, a 2014 report on people with “normal weight obesity”—normal BMI, high body fat—found that they have a significantly higher risk of metabolic problems and death from these diseases than any other group.
“When you’re eating a diet high in sugar and processed foods, it causes visceral fat storage, and that can lead to all sorts of risk factors of being overweight,” says Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. Sometimes a person may not have a lot of fat stored up overall, but what they do have is the most dangerous kind. So a person may not be heavy, but their organs could be coated with visceral fat, whose origins, researchers recently discovered, are genetically different from that of subcutaneous fat. This can cause metabolic syndrome—when someone has several conditions, like high blood pressure and high blood sugar, which put him or her at a high risk for heart disease, diabetes, or stroke.
While the U.S. continues to battle the bulge, many of us are forgetting about the importance of also getting fit. The reaction to a 2012 study that showed that overweight people can be fit goes to the heart of our misunderstanding about fitness. “Everyone got really fixated on the people who were obese but not metabolically sick due to high fitness levels, but what was lost in the message was that we had plenty of people with a BMI below 25 but were unfit and at a high risk,” says Dr. Timothy Church, lead author of the study.
Weight is just one clue doctors look to for an indicator of poor health. “The scale is not a proxy for your health,” says Dr. Church, director of the Laboratory of Preventive Medicine at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. More research on lifestyle changes is showing remarkable impacts on chronic disease. A 2013 study found that people at a high risk for developing type 2 diabetes could avoid the disease by developing healthier diets, exercising daily, managing stress, and quitting smoking.
Research has given us a general idea of what amounts of different nutrients will be helpful to most people to achieve a healthier diet. Be sure to take the recommended amounts of nutraceuticals. This is especially true in situations where you know you will need to fight infections or heal a wound. Nutraceuticals can help your body face any extra stress on your system.
Eating right and adding nutraceuticals will make sure you have all the raw materials you need. This combination will help you repair every day wear and tear. It gives your body a much better chance to deal with damage from disease, accidental injuries, or surgery.
So don’t focus so much on your weight but your fitness levels! When you fitness level goes up your weight will go down.
Now is the time to make a change… you just have to do it!