Fit and Fat or Skinny Fat

By Toria Cornett

skinny fatWinter is behind us and spring is upon us. How difficult was it for you to be active this winter? Skiing and snowshoeing are excellent ways to stay active in the long Vermont winters. However, it is difficult to do those things when there isn’t any snow! So if you haven’t started already, now is the time to get ready to slip into your dress and become fit and healthy.

There are thousands of fad diets available for you to try, from the Grapefruit Diet to the Zone Diet. How many have you attempted? How many of you failed? 95 percent of people who diet regain the weight they lost (and in some cases gain even more). So what if you are skinny fat or fit and fat? We are going to look at what kind of body type you are and give helpful hints to help you become the healthy, fit person you want to be regardless of your body shape.

There are three basic body types: endomorphs, mesomorphs and ectomorphs.  skinny fatEndomorphs are fat retainers, mesomorphs are athletic and ectomorphs are skinny. These are your body frames and bone structures. You are born into your body type and you cannot change it.  However, you can look fabulous in your own skin if you understand which body type you are.

At the doctor’s office, to determine if you are overweight or obese and at risk for certain disease the doctor calculates your body mass index. If your BMI is over 24 you are overweight. However, these charts do not take into consideration your lean tissue mass,  body type, age or gender. So which body type are you?  If you are an endomorph and curvy and you are striving to become a tall and skinny ectomorph you are not setting a realistic goal.

Ectomorphs are at a high risk for being skinny fat. What is skinny fat? This is somebody who looks fabulous in clothes, can eat anything s/he wants, not exercise and stay skinny.  However, when that person is flabby with no muscle tone, s/he actually has more body fat verses lean muscle mass.

Being skinny fat is dangerous. Dr. Steven Blair, obesity expert from the University of South Carolina, says “Normal weight people who are sedentary and unfit are at much higher risk for mortality than obese persons who are active and fit.” Why is this? The fat that we cannot see is surrounding the organs (liver, heart, etc.). This leads to illness and disease––not to mention cellulite!

Skinny fatBeing a smaller size and carrying less weight does not necessarily mean that we have a better body. What is your body composition? In other words, what is your lean tissue compared to your fat tissue ratio? There are several ways to figure out what your body composition is. The most common, more convenient way is body fat analysis.

This analysis can be done at the gym, or even in your own bathroom. It is bioimpedence testing that runs an electric current through your tissue to determine how much fat verses lean muscle tissue you have. Another tool is skin fold calipers. Skin fold calipers can be found at your local gym. A tool is used to take measurements at skin folds from your abdomen, thigh, triceps and other areas to determine body fat content. However, you have to trust that the person taking the measurements is qualified to make accurate skin fold samples.

Now let’s look at the fat and fit. People correlate being fat with being unhealthy.  However, skinny fatstudies are showing that this is not the case. Two-thirds (67 percent) of Americans are overweight or obese! As I previously mentioned, you can be fat and healthy. A study was done at the Mayo Clinic with 855 coronary artery disease patients. The conclusion was that overweight high fitness level individuals had a much lower risk of dying compared with normal weight low fitness subjects.

So before we get angry at our ectomorph friend who is the same size as us and stands on the scale at 115 pounds, take a look at your lifestyle and body type (mesomorph maybe?). What it comes down to is not the number on the scale, but how we look and feel in our own bodies. When we are healthy, we are happy.

How do we combat the skinny fat or fit and fat syndrome? First get a body composition measurement. Then combat body fat with resistance training, cardio workouts and correction of your poor diet. Perform weight-training workouts three times a week and do intense cardio trainings three times a week. Make sure to keep a food journal to ensure you are making healthy food choices.

You need to be well no matter what your size. Your fitness goals should focus on striving to be healthy and fit. We cannot change our genetics, but we can perfect what we have. We can be happy and comfortable with our bodies. This means setting realistic goals when it comes to weight management and pant size.

I am always repeating to my clients, “Do not worry about the number on the scale. It is too easy to become obsessed with it. Pay attention to how you feel, what you look like and how your clothes fit.” Don’t focus on losing weight; focus on getting active and eating properly. Take care of the body you have now.

Here’s to you being happy, healthy and in shape!