Skinny Fat

Skinny Means Squat

A thin frame does not a healthy body make. Exercise Physiologist Geralyn Coopersmith explains.

“Skinny fat” is nothing but a buzzy term for what has been scientifically named “normal weight obesity.” Over the past few years, research has shown that many people with an average body weight are secretly harboring dangerously high body fat percentages due to lack of exercise and poor diet.

It’s no longer enough to obsess over the number you see on a standard scale or fit into a pair of skinny jeans. It’s not about weight, but rather the quality of that weight that should be of primary concern. People who are “skinny fat” commonly house large quantities of visceral fat in their bodies, which is “invisible” fat entwined with muscles and organs — a danger in and of itself. 

The truth is, you’re actually better off weighing more on the scale if you’re able to maintain a healthy fat mass-to lean mass ratio.  The more muscle you have in your body, the more metabolically active you are. You’re less likely to develop joint problems, osteoarthritis, heart disease, diabetes and more.

It’s not about weight, but rather the quality of that weight that should be of primary concern.

Bringing awareness to the phenomenon is not about driving people — particularly women — to be skinnier. It's about educating them on their body composition. We want it to be clear that lower scale numbers don't necessarily mean better health.

Obesity is dangerous no matter what form it takes, and it’s our job as health and fitness professionals to raise the issue and help guide those affected towards a solution. There is a strong movement within the health industry to bridge the gap between what happens on the exam table and in the gym. Physicians are increasingly beginning to work closely with personal trainers to devise comprehensive health plans for patients, and with just cause.

The broad strokes: If you find (after being tested by your doctor or trainer) that you have a body fat percentage above 30 percent for women and 25 percent for men, you are at risk for normal weight obesity.

The best medicine: Eat a healthy diet with adequate protein and resistance train to increase muscle tissue as you decrease fat tissue. Combined, overall body composition will approve.

Filed Under: Research