First off, I will say that I hate the word skinny! Somehow women seem to correlate skinny with happiness and health, but really these women are not healthy. I hear it all the time though, “I want to be skinny,” or “I wish I was skinny.” Not “I want to be healthy and live a long-functioning life.”
Let’s take a look at these pictures; who would honestly pick to look like Tori (top left) or Nicole (bottom left) over Gabrielle Reece and Halle Berry? The first two I would put into the skinny fat category.
What is skinny fat, you ask? Skinny fat is appearing to be thin (in clothes and what not, wearing tiny sizes), but really their body fat is not within the healthy range. They have hardly any muscle tissue and carry more fat than their frames should.
Women become so fixated on the scale, thinking constantly of their goal weight, or getting to that certain size (I don’t understand what happens when they reach this though; are they happier, healthier or a better person?). On BMI testing they may fall within the healthy range, but really this is a bullshit test that doesn’t tell us much of anything.
People are built in different ways and can’t be expected to all fit within a box. What needs to be done?
Body fat composition (calipers, hydrostatic weighing, electro-impedence, BodPod, or DEXA) testing can be done to determine health. A healthy range for women is 15-25% and men is 10-15%. The goal is to be lean rather than skinny.
Although these women may appear to be small and look ok in clothes, just check them out in bikinis! There’s no definition in their arms or legs (they look skeletal.) Of course we don’t want bulky bodybuilder muscles either (more on strength and women later), but these women are what I call soft. Their muscle tissue is so low!
I’ve had clients come in with 70-80 pounds of lean mass and they weigh under 115 pounds (if they weigh 115 and their lean mass is 80 that makes them 30%). On the other side, I have clients who weigh 140 pounds with 112 pounds lean mass (that’s 20%). These women weigh 25 pounds more yet they have less fat, look better, and are healthier than the smaller women. This shows that we’ve got to get over our fixation with the scale and impossible numbers, because in order to get their you’ll end up sacrificing muscle in most cases.
Worst of all, it’s not good for you in the long run. We’re constantly thinking of the now and quick fixes to looking good now, rather than how it will affect us in the future. Weight loss takes time (1-2 pounds a week is considered good, any more and you worry about muscle), so these fad diets where you drop weight fast and briefly look ok in clothes is taking away from your future.
Skinny fat can lead to conditions like osteoporosis (check out our previous post) or sarcopenia later on. So you fit into a size 2 now, but when you’re in your 50′s you’ll be shuffling around, afraid of a fall, because your bones are so brittle that you’d probably break something. Low muscle mass makes for low bone density.
What should you do?
- Monitor and lower your body fat to a healthy range, you’ll look better in your clothes (and even more better without them) and you’ll be fully functioning and mobile when you’re older.
- Take the weight off gradually (avoid the grains, starches and sugars and regularly circulate protein and monounsaturated fats).
I know that I would pick Halle or Gabrielle over Tori or Nicole any day.