Are You Skinny Fat?Are You Skinny Fat?

By Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal

"Skinny Fat" is an epidemic. And while yes, those words are technically an oxymoron—you did read that correctly. You may appear to be within a normal weight range for your height, looking thin and not in any health distress. However, what's happening on the inside tells a very different story. In fact, on the inside, you're metabolically obese. The reasons vary. Lack of exercise, poor diet, and even genetics can be contributors. Being "skinny fat," despite not exhibiting any extra body or belly fat, is detrimental to your overall health and wellbeing.

The more significant issue at hand is that many go undiagnosed. Sometimes doctors are more concerned with numbers on the scale, rather than blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and more from "lower" weight patients. It's imperative that no matter your weight that you're getting regular blood work done to check those levels. Your yearly physical is a great time to get a comprehensive look.

You may know someone who is "skinny fat." Not only would you never know it, but also, that individual likely doesn't know it either. Most "skinny fat" people eat whatever processed food they please. They often never set foot inside a gym, and you'll never see them eating anything green. You may envy their seemingly good genes and metabolism, but there's nothing there to feel jealous over.

The cold truth is the "skinny fat" condition can even be deadly when ignored and untreated. A diet that's almost exclusively high in sugar and processed foods causes visceral fat storage. Ultimately, this can lead to all sorts of risk factors when a person's body holds onto it. Again, those who are "skinny fat" may not appear to look, well, fat, but the fat they're storing on the inside is dangerous. The visceral fat that coats the organs causes metabolic syndrome. That creates a variety of conditions, like high blood pressure and high blood sugar, that puts you at a higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, or stroke.

So how do you discover if you're skinny fat? The best way is through comprehensive bloodwork, but other signs and lifestyle traits can also signal you need to get tested. You can also check your body shape—if you're an "apple shape" and gain weight around your chest and middle; you're more at risk for being "skinny fat." If you're more pear shape and gain weight more in your hips and thighs, you're likely not at risk for storing visceral fat.

There are also lifestyle trademarks of being "skinny fat." This includes little to no experience working out (and lightheadedness when you do so) as well as a diet that significantly lacks protein but is full of carbs, sugar, and other processed foods. Intense feelings of fogginess, fatigue, low energy, and difficulty concentrating can be others. If these traits, feelings, and lifestyle choices describe you, it's time to make some sweeping and permanent changes. Eat more protein (especially protein like eggs, fish, poultry, and nuts), good fats, non-starchy vegetables, and whole grains. Lose the sugar/processed foods and get your heart rate up with a mix of cardio and weight training. Of course, also get a good night's sleep and eliminate stress.

Don't let genetics be an excuse or where you place your blame. Don't just look in the mirror and assume you're healthy because you're not overweight. Much of our health issues start under the surface. It's up to you to take control, find out what's going on and make sure you're not suffering from silent—and even deadly—issues like being "skinny fat.

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November 2019

Volume 17, Number 11

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