Monday, September 10, 2012

Are You Skinny Fat? Find Out Why.


 When it comes to meals there’s breakfast and lunch but then there’s brunch. A similar combination exists when it comes to weight, there’s skinny and fat and then skinny fat. Skinny fat is a person who’s thin for the most part but has a high body fat percentage. Skinny fat can also apply to that friend who you think can eat “whatever she wants” and stay skinny. Skinny fat people may weigh the right amount for their height, they may look fine in clothes but under it all there’s extra, some mush, less muscle mass.
What type of exercise makes you skinny fat?
For some reason cardio, in particular spinning, takes a lot of heat for its connection to skinny fatness. A trainer named Charles Poliquin was asked about spinning in Oxygen magazine and let’s just say he was not a fan.
In spinning exercise, the body adapts by storing both intra-muscular and subcutaneous fat in the thigh and hip areas to provide a more readily available source of fuel for the aerobic recovery periods. The body figures out, if I store fat there it reduces the time to get to the muscles to provide the energy source. Result: Kobe beef thighs and butt, all plump and marbled with fat inside.”
 I enjoy spinning (I’m a Flywheel fan) but I think the key word in the harsh (Kobe beef thighs?) quote above is “adapts”. Our bodies adapt to anything. I think those most in danger of being skinny fat, or not changing their bodies, are those who only spin. We need more than spinning and ultimately more than cardio too. Whether it’s superslow training, barre, Crossfit you need some strength work and variety. Getting better at something may be when your body gets worse. And let’s face it,  some skinny fat people don’t exercise at all.
When you eat may make you skinny fat
Another ingredient for skinny fatness is erratic eating.  Some erratic eaters skip breakfast, others “save up” for dinner. Or the biggest clue when I’m talking to a client when it comes to skinny fat is “I’m not hungry.” You’re not hungry when your body assumes food isn’t coming in regularly, so it hangs onto that fat. Hungry people are the ones burning through all their food.
Sitting
This information was relatively new to me. I mentioned it when reviewing Drop Dead Healthy. Sitting isn’t bad because you’re not moving. It’s worse than that. Lipase helps muscles absorb fat. When we sit, we don’t produce lipase so fat can “go off and do naughty things”
Does Veganism Make You Skinny Fat?
Vegan Diets get picked on for making people skinny fat. I’m not a vegan but it’s not all vegan diets it’s vegan diets or any diet missing one of the following
  • Protein- I know I’m going to hear it (read some of the comments in “are meat substitutes worse than meat”) but when I drop my animal protein down, I feel a little skinny fat. Organic chicken, wild fish, grass-fed beef, if you aren’t morally against them, may help. And yes, some vegans get plenty of protein.
  • Good fats- certain types of fat, consumed strategically can decrease body fat. Omega 3’s in fish, omega 3 eggs and chia seed. We’ve also discussed the power of sunflower seeds. And finally, a little coconut oil is a good saturated fat.
  • Vegetables- every 10-gram increase in fiber decreases body fat by over 3 percent in a couple of years. Not everyone who avoids animal products is automatically consuming enough fiber and certainly the same can be said of most omnivores. Salad is not enough. Try for produce at every meal and hone in on crucifers: broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy and kale. I also think cabbage needs more love.

We can joke at this skinny fat term but doctors are seeing lots of young people who aren’t overweight but exhibit signs of pre diabetes. You can be skinny fat on the inside too. Mark Hyman writesthey are normal weight but metabolically obese with all the same risks of disease and death as the obese. One in seven normal weight kids has pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes.”
There are also some skinny fat variables are out of our control. Getting older with the natural decline in muscle mass can lead to complaints of skinny fat. And some may feel skinny fat is fine. The New York Times documented the hipster belly among men that don’t want to be muscleheads. Just one more way I’m not hip.
Are you aware of the term skinny fat? What do you think it's about? If you spin, are vegan or sit a lot I'd love to hear from you.


32 comments:

  1. As someone who loves Spin, that quote is freaking me out! But i do do other types of cardio, as well as strength training, so hopefully i'm ok...

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  2. I'm so glad you posted this. Particularly the fact that many of those people who you think can "eat whatever they want", probably can't!! I definitely know what "skinny fat" is, and I wish people understood it more. So many clients and/or FRIENDS of mine think they are healthy because they are "normal weight", but they are definitely skinny fat. It's hard to start that conversation....awkward sometimes.

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  3. I have always worried about the insides of people who "eat whatever they want". I even mentioned this to a skinny friend yesterday who has reformed her habits a lot. Reading about how, when doing surgery, you can see fat around organs (see link above) is pretty powerful.

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  4. If all you ever do is spin, you'd be in trouble. I think the key is spinning is still on a bike so in some ways weight is supported vrs running. Additionally, we adapt to anything so if you've only done spinning for over a year, time to add something else to the mix. I am a fat of mixing it up at least a couple times a year.

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  5. Talking about "skinny fat" takes the focus off of thinness as the main measure of health. I know a lot of women who are thin but don't exercise and barely eat. I feel like that's just setting the body up for injury and other problems down the road. And also, I agree—cabbage totally needs more love : )

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  6. great info - most of the skinny fats I know are certainly not racing to spin class but that's interesting. Hadn't heard the hipster belly thing but it is so true, I'm tempted to google how many gyms are in williamsburg... also maybe beer/alcohol related?

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  7. Charles Poliquin obviously has no idea what he is talking about. First, all athletes store increased intramuscular fat for use as fuel - it's called the "Athlete's Paradox". If you are exercising at an intense level very regularly, this is most likely happening to you because your body is getting more efficient by using higher calorie fuel sources. Second, and probably more important, subcutaneous fat around the hips and thighs (especially in women) is actually shown to be PROTECTIVE against diseases. Visceral (belly) fat is the bad fat. Spinning (or cycling) has absolutely nothing to do with where your fat is deposited! In the fitness world, this is almost as ignorant as saying you can "spot train" certain areas to reduce fat (like doing crunches to reduce belly fat). Skinny fat people are in trouble because their PHYSIOLOGY is operating in an unhealthy way - increased blood sugar, decreased insulin sensitivity, high concentrations of inflammation (most likely due to poor diet and LACK of exercise). If you are spinning, or running, or zumba-ing....keep doing it! All movement helps with these disorders! www.strong-process.com @strongprocess

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  8. wow excellent post and excellent points! This is something I struggle with as a dietitian talking to "skinny-fat" clients. It urks me when "skinny=fat" people seem to brag bc of their body type. Sorry but there's no health involved! I will definitely be sharing this post! Thanks Lauren!

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  9. I've heard the term before and agree it shouldn't be overlooked. Simply because the ppl who are skinny fat at a young age will likely wind up with actual fat-related health issues in the long run.
    Most of the skinny-fat ppl I know eat very few times during the day, save-up for alcohol and going out on weekends and don't exercise much or at all. Essentially, a recipe for making your metabolism go to sleep.

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  10. While I don't 100% agree with everything Charles Poliquin says I think all cardio can be a recipe for skinny fat especially among women who have lost weight. While I agree fat around our organs (seen in the second type of skinny fat I described getting more common) is more dangerous, fat around our jeans or bra strap isn't something many women aspire to have. While spinning may not have to do with where we store fat, spinning once our body adjusts may have to do with how we utilize and burn fat. While all movement "helps" I don't think we should stick to one type for too long. Thanks for commenting.

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  11. I think when women, at a good weight, talk about losing "inches" many are skinny fat.

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  12. Yes and stops us from glorifying a small size. I personally think someone larger and firm and fit is more impressive than a small pile of mush.

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  13. Great post! I loooove me my Soul Cycle but I work hard to mix it up with running, yoga and lots of walking. I do sit a lot at work, though. I'm going to commit TODAY to get up every 30 minutes.

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  14. the body type is a mixed blessing and sometimes those are the people I worry about the most. You still have arteries I tell them.

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  15. "metabolism go to sleep" so true, pretty much all the converse of many things nutritionists say.

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  16. you should love your Soul but key is not to get stuck with solely soul. tweet when you get up, love that as a goal every 30 minutes, my rule (slacking?) is not to stay at computer for > hour.

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  17. I used to be skinny fat...totally agree that a lack of protein can do that to you. But luckily I saw the light and started eating fish again. It solved my problem and made me feel full!

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  18. There was actually an interview in the news here on this... I want to say it's been about 2 years now. But it, along with this article, is a good reminder that "skinny" or "skinnier" doesn't necessarily mean "healthy" or "healthier."


    Thanks for the great info. It's nice to read up more on the different ways that nutrients can impact the body. And I'll definitely have to check out the article on meat substitutes. DH is a vegetarian, and we had a talk a while ago as far as if he was receiving the nutrients he needed - specifically protein.

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  19. What I don't know about this topic would fill volumes, but I do know that the women I know who run, including myself, don't lose weight once we get used to running.

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  20. as your skinny fat sister... this was a great article and caused me to go for a run over the brooklyn bridge tonight!! for me its def beer related (the belly)...as well as being 30 and having a slower metabolism (or is that just a rumor that it slows with age?) also, i was just talking to yuwei about how her professor said crossfit is really not ideal for so many reasons but mostly because people just get injured more than they benefit from it (but that's another debate)... now its time for an ab workout (aka wine) xo

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  21. 100% sometimes variety within running longer runs, interval runs can help but after getting in a solid cardio routine it's good to add other elements.

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  22. here is the link for meat substitutes, I should've included it http://foodtrainers.blogspot.com/2011/03/are-meat-substitutes-worse-than-meat.html

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  23. absolutely, there's a general "we all get plenty of protein" while that may be true for general health it isn't for body composition, it's also displacement more protein less carbs or sugar etc.

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  24. Great post! People seem to think that the effects of being "skinny fat" are way overblown. And I agree - I personally did not see major changes in my body composition until I started attending Refine Method regularly. Now I just can't get by with just cardio after seeing how effective strength training can be!

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  25. refine is a fantastic workout, thanks for commenting. I know the term is funny sounding but it's a legit visual/medical phenomenon and worth thinking about.

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  26. great post food for thought for folks and honestly Iceland is so worth visiting

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  27. I will get your Iceland tips if we go next summer, is it ever warm there?

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  28. Andrea@WellnessNotesSeptember 14, 2012 at 6:35 AM

    Very interesting post & comments!

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  29. I am definitely in this category.....How can I build muscles and lean out and get strong?

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  30. "[W]e shouldn't stick to one type for too long" - this is a similar issue with weight training too. It's not just a problem with people who spin or run. If you repeat the same weight lifting and core routine every time you hit the gym, you're muscles will become used to those movements and the routine will lose its effectiveness overtime.

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  31. This is for the article that was written with someone claiming that there are no women who can eat like hogs and get moderate to no exercise and stay slender. Let me tell you, just because women who cannot eat like hogs without blowing up cannot handle this does not make it so. Up until the age of 26, (NOT anymore now) but up until the age of 26, I consumed 2800 calories almost everyday. Now as far as exercise I would get a little exercise for health sake but after a month I would get lazy about and the next month go without exercise so in other word I would stick with 15 minutes exercise about 3 times a week for about a month and then the next the next month fall off the wagon altogether. When I described my level of physical activity during the months that I would fall of the wagon, three different doctors said that my physical activity level was well in so many words, pathetic. Oh and by the way I never played in sports and was never athletic. Even during the months that I got no exercise and was eating 2800 calories almost daily I still stay a size 3. Why are women who cannot eat alot without blowing up going around with the lie that there are not some women who can??? I will tell you why. This is something that some heavy women or women who have been heavy just cannot handle. Please nobody throw yourself off a bridge after reading my post. lol lol

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  32. It's because of metabolic set points that appear to be affected by epigenetics, which are changes made not to your DNA itself but to the way it is packaged, which changes the way your genes are expressed. Epigenetic changes can be inherited. For example, there is some evidence that if your grandparents were overweight, then you have a greatly increased risk of being overweight compared to someone with grandparents who maintained healthy weights. Something happens to the way the DNA is copied and the copies made into the components of a person's body that results in some people retaining excess weight, or having excessive anxiety, etc.

    So, this leads to a situation where two people can eat the same amount of food and maintain the same kind of activity levels, but still be at extremely different weights. Unfortunately, this is very new research and so not terribly much is known yet, but some day we may be able to manipulate such "set points" therapeutically, so that people no longer have such a predisposition towards being overweight.

    I absolutely agree that people who struggle with their weight sometimes assume others are simply starving themselves to make themselves feel better (although plenty of people do honestly believe it). It would be great if people could understand that individuals don't necessarily choose their size or body type. Metabolic set points play a very very large role and there is little that can be done to change that right now. We need to work on avoiding blaming and shaming people.

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