Friday, December 3, 2010

Skinny Fat

by Kris Pitcher

I was reading an article recently which introduced me to a new term, "average weight obese". We know these folks as "skinny fat". But hearing the concept in more medically accepted terminology brings both merit and attention to an issue. Slim people who are of average looking size yet carry more than the acceptable or recommended percentages of fat (adipose tissue) fit this category. They are obese. Wow, won't they be surprised when they get their body composition tested? And believe me, softening the language for these folks is difficult..."You're carrying over 35% body fat, you are over fat - you fit in the obese category." Wha!?

The greatest challenge is also the good news for our skinny fat friends. By adding strength training they can build lean body mass. Think about your muscle cells, or fibers, like empty snack size zip lock bags. We, for the most part, have all of the cells (empty little bags) that we're going to have. Those little snack sized bags are inside a bigger bag - a quart sized freezer bag. Are you with me? That freezer bag is our muscle, let's say it's our biceps. (Yes smarty pants, there would be two freezer bags, bi-ceps...but let's keep this simple.)

Think of each fiber or cell like a snack sized zip lock bag.

Through strength training - putting the muscles through progressively increasing work load we build those cells - our snack sized bags (fill them up). Why? Because we're asking our muscles to do more work. The more work we do, the more cells we need to call into action, or recruit. Those snack sized bags which are now full press against the bigger freezer bag, and bingo-bango we have a toned muscle! Man I love this stuff!

If we're skinny fat, we've stopped asking those cells to do work, and they're empty - deflated, empty, lazy bags. Increase the work load by lifting weights, and we fill up our bags, make sense at all?

Once we fill up the bags, we need to keep asking these cells to do more work. Use it or lose it. You've heard that before. We call that the principle of regression, when we stop asking our muscles to do work, we lose our strength...empty bags. Forget your skinny fat friends for a minute, think about your aging loved ones. Strength training is the number one, in my opinion, key component to maintaining independence. Maintaining lean body mass is critical to being able to live on your own and take care of your needs. Period.

So, being average weight isn't necessarily an indicator of health. Average weight obesity could be lurking under those skinny jeans, and that is not healthy. Don't be afraid to fill those empty bags up by strength training. The last thing we want is to be skinny fat. And by all means don't worry about your muscles, er uh, bags getting too big...if that were ever to happen, you'd just enlist the principle of regression.

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