Skinny Fat: A physique, while not overweight (and possibly underweight), lacks any visible lean, striated tissue.
– Definition, Urban Dictionary
Conventional wisdom would suggest that if you are overweight you are generally unhealthy, and if you are thin, you are healthy. However, new research points to just how dangerous being skinny can be. Well, if you are a “skinny fat” person, that is.
The medical term for this is metabolically obese normal weight (MONW), or skinny fat. Basically, this means that you are carrying too much body fat and not enough lean muscle (generally belly fat).
Women are more commonly to be hit with MONW syndrome or skinny fat than men. A common theory is that men usually aren’t afraid to lift weight in the gym (and, to be fair, men naturally have more lean muscle than women).
On the other hand, women generally have the misconception that lifting weights immediately makes you look big and bulky (which couldn’t any further from the truth) and prefer group fitness classes like as Zumba and/or Aerobics or spend all of their time on the treadmill, stairmaster or a spin bike, not to mention inventing a million bizarre weight loss diets (with equally bizarre names).
Simply dieting can eliminate weight, but it will not strengthen anything. Also, because of physiology unique to women, the fat cells in the lower body just happen to be world-class hoarders.
Starting at an early age
In America, studies on teenagers found that 37% of skinny children had one or more signs of pre-diabetes, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or high cholesterol. Yes. You read correctly. Almost 4 out of 10 normal-weight children are pre-diabetic!
Nearly one-third of children are overweight or obese in the America. However, it appears that only 20% are healthy. This means that 8 out of 10 children in America are either overweight or have pre-diabetes or type-2 diabetes. Countries like Australia aren’t that far behind.
Processed and fast foods, video games, social media sources, reduced sleep quality and inactivity are all causative factors in developing these conditions in children.
It probably isn’t helping that many of the role models in our society aren’t exactly the picture of health, ie: skinny runway models, or super skinny guys without an ounce of masculinity in them. Whatever happened to the track and field champions of past Olympic Games? Fast, fit, strong, conditioned men and women able to compete in multiple events.
Health issues related to Skinny Fat Syndrome
A person who is skinny fat is susceptible to the following conditions (but not limited to):
- Cardiovascular disease;
- Fragile bones from calcium and other nutrient deficiencies;
- Elevated blood pressure and cholesterol;
- Chronically low energy levels; and
- Infertility (both men and women).
How does a person become Skinny Fat?
In no particular order, these are several of the most common ways a person can become skinny fat:
- Eat a vegetarian or vegan diet. If you don’t eat any meat, the body will eat itself instead;
- Eating lots of Gluten. Lectins, phytates and other anti-nutrirents setting the stage for systemic inflammation that damages the digestive tract making it harder to utilize nutrients from the rest of your diet.
- Excessive cardio. Training your body to be catabolic, breaking down muscle tissue and to store fat;
- Fat burning pills. Potential short-term fat burners, but in the long run they are more muscle burners and long-term fat storers;
- Not lifting weights… Ever. Do I even need to comment here?
How to turn it all around
Reversing the effects of skinny fat syndrome is very similar to that of someone who is overweight and pre-diabetic. Using the following steps one can easily turn it all around start improving their quality of life:
- Eat a nutrient dense, low glycemic load diet (basically a whole food or Paleo type diet). Lean meats, seafood, eggs, fruits, vegetables, healthful oils, nuts and seeds;
- Avoid flours and sugars. Including gluten-free flour products. Even whole grain flour acts like sugar in your body;
- Don’t drink your calories. It’s always better to chew you calories. No soft drinks, juices, sweetened drinks. Reduce alcohol to no more than 2-4 glasses of wine per week;
- Lift and move your body. A training routine that combines both strength and cardio is important;
- Sleep well. Sleep deprivation alters the metabolism and increases cravings for carbohydrates and sugars. Aim for 7 or more hours per night; and
- Did I say lift? I can’t stress this enough. A simple solution to many of the problems women face. Osteoporosis, the beach season, the belly fat that wont budge… weight-bearing physical activity is the answer.
What is most alarming is that many people who think they get a pass because they are thin should actually be taking a second look at their health. It is possible to be skinny and sick and be metabolically obese, which is potentially even more dangerous.
The good news is that it is a solvable condition. By following the above points or speaking with your medical practitioner you will be well on the way to becoming a healthier person that is full of energy and has a much better overall body composition.