Cybex Fitness Blog

Avoiding the "Skinny Fat" Phenomenon

Posted by Brett Willey on Jul 27, 2012 8:19:00 AM

Think You Can Skip the Gym Because You Are Thin? 

In a shocking new study published online in Pediatrics magazine last May, researchers found that from 2000 to 2008, the number of teenagers aged 12 to 19 with pre-diabetes or diabetes increased from 9% to 23%. In this study of 3,383 children, aged 12 to 19, the most shocking finding was the fact that 13% of kids of normal weight were either pre-diabetic or diabetic.  A full 37% of normal weight kids had one or more cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. 

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 This is as true for adults as it is for children.  While most overweight Americans have “diabesity” (pre-diabetes or diabetes), so do 40% of the normal-weight adults. They are in fact “skinny fat” - normal weight, but metabolically obese with all the same risks of disease and death as the obese.  How does this happen? It is not too many calories.  It is about the type, quality and source of those calories and a lack of exercise.

Choose Calories Wisely
A lingering myth is that all calories are created equal.  Just eat less and exercise more, and you will be healthy; but biology is more complex than that. 1,000 calories of French fries or cookies and 1,000 calories of broccoli are processed differently by our metabolism. The food industry has manufactured combinations of sugar, fat and salt in processed foods that trigger biological cravings – which is why you “can’t eat just one” potato chip, but you can easily just eat one serving of broccoli.

Working Out Works
Whether you’re overweight, faux thin, or truly skinny, it’s important to exercise and eat a healthy diet. Working out will increase your amount of lean body mass, boost your metabolism, tone and strengthen your body, and increase your energy levels. Cardio and strength training are excellent ways to burn fat and tone up. Try doing at least 30 minutes of cardio a day (think Arc or treadmill) along with two to three days of strength training a week. Cardio can even be simple walking, as long as you are moving enough to break a sweat and get your heart rate up. For strength training you can lift weights or try a class such as yoga or Pilates.

Whole Food
When it comes to your diet, whole foods are best - unrefined and unprocessed. Load up on fresh fruits and veggies and stick to moderate amounts of healthy fats, such as avocado and olive oil. Choose from lean proteins like fish, eggs and chicken, and when it comes to grains stick to brown rice or opt for quinoa.

The bottom line: the number on the scale does not accurately measure overall health.  Restrictive eating of processed foods and lack of exercise can make you “skinny fat.”

Holly Aglialoro
Guest Blogger and Fitness Enthusiast

Topics: Healthy Living

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