Skinny Fat–it’s a term that’s been around for a while, but how can someone be both skinny and fat?
I am surprised as more and more people come into my studio with just this problem. On the surface (and on the scale) they are completely “normal.” Their Body Mass Index (BMI) and weight are both in an average range, but they are experiencing many of the same health issues that someone who is obese experiences, such as high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and lower bone mineral density. So while on the exterior, skinny fat people might look perfectly normal, on the inside, their bodies may be at a high risk for a number of serious health issues. Bottom line: looking skinny does not mean you are necessarily healthy.
You need to understand what your body is made of. Once you calculate reliable information on your body fat percentage, lean muscle mass, and skeletal mass, you can then begin to map a true picture of your body and what’s really going on in there. Three of the most common ways to analyze these numbers are calipers, clinical testing, and Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) scales.
Calipers: aka the fat pinch test. I hate this one! Who wants to stand around while someone (is this person even qualified) pinches all your most hated bits and then calculates your fat? Although this can be an accurate test if done correctly, there is also a huge margin for error.
Clinical Testing: These are fantastically accurate—the DEXA scanner and the Water-Dunk test, but these machines are hard to find and expensive.
BIA Scales: These devices use small electric currents to measure body composition. They are quick, easy to use, and depending on the quality, accurate within a few percent. This is the one we use!
If you find out you are skinny fat through body composition, the next step is to figure out how you got there and how to improve. Some of the top contributors might surprise you:
- Sitting all day
- Eating an unhealthy diet
- Skipping workouts
- Eating a too-calorically-restrictive diet
- Excessive amounts of cardio
- Minimal weight lifting
Sound like you?
The solution is simply to improve your body composition—increase muscle mass and decrease fat mass. And how do we do that? With good, old-fashioned weight training. Muscle is heavier and denser than fat, meaning that if you weighed the same as you do now (or even more), but you had more muscle than fat, you could actually appear thinner! Except in this scenario, you would be healthier.
This is why understanding your body composition is so important. If you base your overall wellness on a scale and a mirror, you may never know what health problems lie beneath.
Weight alone cannot determine your health and wellness. Don’t aspire to be skinny, aspire to be healthy. Because healthy always looks good!