Are You As Fit As You Look?

Or do you just hide your fat well?

If you’re relying only on your scale to tell you whether you’re healthy or not, you could be in for a shocking surprise.

A recent Mayo Clinic study estimates that up to 30 million Americans have a condition known as NWO (normal weight obesity) or “skinny fat.”

While skinny-fat people look trim and healthy on the outside, their body fat percentage, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure rival that of obese people and they are vulnerable to the same obesity-related risks. Remember that slender does not equal healthy. If you seem to be blessed with a perfect metabolism, take a closer look to make sure you are as healthy on the inside as you appear to be on the outside.

fit-1fit-2These two women are the same height, have similar clothing sizes, and similar weights. Both of their body mass indexes (BMI) show that they are in a healthy weight range.

But the similarities stop there.

One woman is healthy, fit, and strong while the other is at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other obesity-related illnesses.

Jamie exercises four days a week for an hour at a time. She incorporates cardio and strength training into her workouts. She avoids processed foods and eats healthy.

Height 5’4″
Weight 135 lbs.
BMI 23
Body fat 23%

Vanessa has always been naturally slender. Diet and exercise have never been a priority for her. She eats whatever she wants and doesn’t have a formal exercise schedule.

Height 5’5″
Weight 132 lbs.
BMI 22
Body fat 33%

While both women look great in their jeans, Vanessa is considered metabolically obese at a normal weight or “skinny fat.” Even though Vanessa’s BMI is lower than Jamie’s, she is four times more likely to develop metabolic syndrome and twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Her risk for hypertension and diabetes is also greater.

Slender does not equal healthy. Remember that even those who seem to have supernatural metabolism can’t neglect their health. So when it comes to assessing your fitness, focus less on your pant size and more on your body fat percentage. Ask your doctor for an assessment and follow the age-old advice: eat right and exercise.


3 ways to determine your percentage

  • Skin fold calipers: measure skinfolds to calculate subcutaneous fat. They are probably the best balance of accessibility and accuracy.
  • Bioelectric Impedance Analysis (BIA) can be found on high-end scales. A small electrical impulse measures the density of fat versus other tissue in your body. Accuracy is often questioned, but you can get an estimate and track your progress.
  • Hydrostatic Weighing weighs you underwater. It is very accurate but time consuming and expensive.

Are you skinny fat? Blast away your inner obesity with these tips.

Know your numbers.

Don’t rely solely on a scale or BMI. Purchase a scale that tells you your body fat percentage. Healthy body fat percentages are 17-31% for women and 10-24% for men. Get an annual wellness exam that measures your triglycerides, HDL, LDL, and glucose levels.

Exercise regularly

Cardio is important for heart health but don’t overlook strength training. Muscle mass helps regulate blood sugar levels and keeps you strong and svelte as you age

Eat healthy

Limit processed foods and refined carbohydrates. Opt for lean protein, fruits, veggies, and whole grain.