Over the years we have always judged our health and fitness levels on one thing…………what the scales say. As long as the weight on the scales is not going up, then we are fine right? Wrong!
I am here to help enlighten some of you in that just being light on the scales does not necessarily mean you are in good health. I want to give you some information on this subject that a lot of people do not know much about.
The term ‘skinny fat’ is used quite often in the fitness world. ‘Skinny fat’ refers to men or women who have low levels of muscle mass and way too much body fat. For example, you may have two girls who both wear the same dress size. However, one has a low body fat percentage and more muscle mass, whereas the other has high body fat percentage and low levels of muscle mass. When wearing their clothes, both girls look relatively the same, but if they removed their clothes their body compositions and health would reveal two completely different looks.
Being ‘skinny fat’ also comes with some significant health related issues as well, such as poor blood sugar level (poor concentration, low energy), high blood pressure, chronic stress, poor sleep patterns, hormonal imbalances, and poor digestive systems. It is therefore amazing to think how many people out there fit this profile of being ‘skinny fat’ but are completely unaware of the health complications that they also have. Would it then amaze you if I said that if we started to address these health issues and improve health that large amounts of body fat would be lost and lean tissue would be built at the same time.
One of the most common reasons that people end up skinny fat is the amount of cray diets that they undertake. They predominantly consist of low-calorie eating, lots of cardiovascular exercise (e.g. running, cross-trainer, cycling) and the promise of large losses in scale weight each week. However, despite having rapid early success with this style of dieting, much of the weight loss also comes from loss of muscle tissue. When we come off of the diet we tried and return to eating poor food, we regain the majority of it back because there is less muscle there to burn up the extra calories we are now eating. Consequently, we gain it all back and more with the majority of the weight gain coming as body fat. As you gain body fat, the cycle begins all over again as you find a new diet to try and help shift the unwanted weight again. Time after time the cycle continues, each time you gain more body fat and lose more muscle tissue, but bodyweight can remain roughly the same.
Each time we go through this cycle, we are actually wreaking havoc with our health. The more stress we place on our bodies through these cycles of dieting, the more inflammation we have. We often think if inflammation as the swelling and redness we get after we have injured ourselves. Well this can happen on the inside to, resulting in unseen damage to our digestion and gut health. Furthermore, inflammation is heavily linked with depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, weakened immune system and asthma. More than this, inflammation will also lead to a loss in muscle mass, lowered metabolic rate and can make you more prone to osteoporosis, all without you even realising it.
After going through some of the health issues that are associated with this poor dieting regime of trying to maintain scale weight rather than to focus on body composition and body fat percentage, I am sure you are wondering how you can take steps to turn improve body composition and body fat percentage.
The initial habits we recommend you try and begin to implement are:
- Start your day with protein (e.g. meat, fish, eggs, etc.) and consume some at each meal.
- Dramatically reduce your intake of refined, sugary foods such as breads, cakes, sweets and fizzy drinks in favour of vegetables.
- Start resistance training. Make it a goal to get strong and develop some lean muscle tissue (you won’t get big and bulky, I promise).
- Make sure you get 7-8 hours of sleep.
- Consume vegetables and essential fats (e.g. coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, nuts) with each meal.
These steps should help to get you on the road to improving your body composition and health, not just your bodyweight.