Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Truth about Skinny Fat

The Truth about Skinny Fat (Part 1)
By Bob Wells, PES
April 10, 2012

The phenomenon of skinny fat has become part of our collective consciousness, and the term part of the lexicon of any gym goer or reader of Self, Shape, or Women’s Fitness. But what’s wrong with being skinny fat?

A lot it turns out, including increasing risks of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. We normally associate such health issues with people who are overweight or obese. (Note the following BMI chart for an example of overweight or obesity.)

Weight Range
5' 10"
124 lbs or less
Below 18.5
125 lbs to 168 lbs
18.5 to 24.9
Healthy weight
169 lbs to 202 lbs
25.0 to 29.9
203 lbs or more
30 or higher

It is true, according to the most recent research, obese people are more likely to have more cardiovascular risk factors than their slim counterparts. However, in a 2008 report in The Archives of Internal Medicine, the findings indicated that at least 50% of overweight people and one-third of obese people are “metabolically health”. This means that despite their excess weight, they have healthy levels of blood glucose, blood pressure, “good” cholesterol, and other risks for heart disease.

This same study reported that one out of four skinny people, as measured by weight, have at least two risk factors normally associated with obesity. This has led to a paradigm shift about weight as a reliable indicator of overall health. It has instead started to shift the focus to body composition, or percentage body fat.

BMI which determines appropriate weight, relative to height, doesn’t factor in muscularity accounting for extra poundage.

For example, according to BMI charts, the NFL running back, Thomas Jones, pictured left, is considered obese at 5’10, 215lbs, and yes 5% body fat (10-19% is norm for males, 18-26% for females). While BMI doesn’t take into account the person’s build, body fat measures help to give a better, more complete picture of one’s fitness level and potential risk factors.

In a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers looked at death rates among nearly 3,000 adults, aged 60 and older over a period of 12 years. It was no surprise that death rates were highest among those with a B.M.I of 35 or more. However, the most striking finding was that fitness level, not B.M.I was the strongest predictor of mortality risk.

So, what’s wrong with being skinny fat? A lot.
Bob Wells is a nationally certified personal trainer, as well as a former Division I athlete and coach.  He can be reached at bob.wells@alumni.duke.edu


  1. people should really pay more attention to their bmi's then their weights. everyone is built differently and not everyone should weight a certain weight solely based on their heights. great post :)


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