Skinny but fat?

Amrita Prasad
Sunday, 18 June 2017

While we are fussing over being obese and overweight, those who are ‘thin but fat’, are also at various health risks

While we are fussing over being obese and overweight, those who are ‘thin but fat’, are also at various health risks

Do you have a lean frame and fall under the category of what we call ‘slim’ but there are love handles, or flab on your tummy, loose arms and cellulite on your thighs? If you identify with these conditions, then you are probably ‘skinny fat’. Skinny fat - medically known as metabolically obese normal weight, became a buzz word in 2014 after TIME Magazine did a detailed feature on it. According to research by the magazine, “Skinny fat refers to someone who has a weight and BMI that are normal for that person’s height but has much more fat and not enough muscle recommended for optimal health. On the outside, you look skinny, but internally, your body composition is unbalanced.”

What causes it?
In skinny fat, the ratio of fat to muscle is more in one’s body. Your legs may look thin but since there is no muscle covering your bones, what lies inside is only fat. What can cause this condition? Says Dr Ramakant Mishra, a physician from Gurugram, “Unhealthy lifestyle, overconsumption of carbohydrates and fatty food, no physical activity, weight-loss, overeating, lack of sleep, lack of protein in their diet are some of the reasons why a person becomes skinny fat. The accumulation of fat certainly gives rise to many health risks - diabetes and cardiovascular problems are some. Advising on how to attain a healthy body and lose fat, Mishra says that regular physical activity, walking, cycling, sports, strength training and so on are the ideal ways to lose fat. He adds, “Besides physical activity, keeping your calories in check is also equally important as those who are normal obese have the tendency to binge and generally, even their meal comprises a much larger portion than what an overweight person eats, irrespective of their gender. Hence consuming protein and fibre-rich diet and a balanced diet is important.” If you thought dieting would be a great idea to lose fat, remember dieting will help you lose weight but without exercise, after weight-loss your body will become even more loose.”

Don’t go by BMI
People with normal BMIs (body mass index) will never consider being skinny fat, but to find out if you fall in that category, only measuring BMI is not sufficient. You may weigh perfect on the scale and may have a normal BMI but how do you decide if you have the right proportion of bone weight, muscle weight and fat? Says Mishra, “Many people just assume that if their weight and/or BMI is normal, they have nothing to worry about as there is a misconception about BMI’s usefulness in assessing weight and health. For example, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), if your BMI is between 18.5 and 24.99, you are considered to be in the normal range for sufficient health. But does it define fitness? While BMI is just a simple measure of the weight of a person scaled according to height, body fat percentage is an estimate of the fraction of the total body mass that is fat mass, as opposed to lean body mass (muscle, bone, organ tissue, blood, and everything else that makes you work).” Hence body fat percentage is a much more accurate way to measure excess body weight than BMI.

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