Are You Skinny Fat?

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles | August 21, 2018

Does the bathroom scale tell the full story?

Not at all.

The "perfect" number doesn’t guarantee perfect health. All too often, we look at the number in between our toes, and we use it to make conclusions about our health. While many people feel the need to lose weight because they believe their numbers are too high and possibly unhealthy, there are those who know they’re terribly unhealthy despite being the ideal weight.

Being “thin” does not always tell the full story. “Thin” individuals can be as dangerously out of shape and unhealthy as an overweight individual can be. In fact, it’s sometimes worse for the former because there is no external motivation to make healthy changes. Many people think that they don’t need to eat healthy or exercise regularly when they’re already thin.

Dr. Mark Hyman from the Institute for Functional Medicine says that 23 percent of healthy-weight adults and 37 percent of healthy-weight children are “metabolically obese but normal weight” (MONW), which he calls “skinny fat”. Those who are skinny fat are at risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers and every other disease that overweight individuals are at risk for due to their poor eating habits, lack of physical activity and sedentary lifestyle.

Medical doctors will not often dig deep into risk factors if one's weight is normal. They look healthy and are considered healthy in the absence of symptoms.

Are you “skinny fat?” Ask yourself whether or not you make healthy eating choices most of the time and exercise regularly. Do you have excess fat in your abdominal region, sugar cravings, high blood pressure, or a family history of cardiovascular disease? If so, discuss the term “skinny fat” with your doctor and dig a little deeper.

Making changes in your diet by focusing on whole foods, increasing fruit and vegetable intake, and lowering saturated fat and processed food intake will help boost your health in the right directions. And don’t forget to get out and exercise! Even moderate exercise, such as brisk walking or hiking, and a moderate strength training plan, which can include push-ups, squats, lunges, and planks, will set you in the right direction.

Whether you’re skinny fat or overweight, healthy lifestyle habits can have a positive impact on your overall health.


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Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles

Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.

Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/Active.com Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.

She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.

Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!

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