Last week the Wall Street Journal wrote up an article about a recent study from the Mayo clinic. This study basically concluded that you could be a healthy weight or even considered thin, but still have the same problems as an overweight person. I loved how this study aligned with what I felt was true with actual evidence.
One researcher, Francisco Lopez-Jimenez has now coined the term, “normal weight obesity.” But, what is that? This means that while the number on the scale may be low, if a person has a high percentage of body fat, they’re just as much at risk to disease as someone who’s number on the scale is high.
In this study, Jimenez looked at data from over 6,000 Americans over a span of 9 years as well as the U.S Census and obesity data to estimate that over 30 million people may be at risk of this problem today.
Now doctors are wondering if body-fat composition tests would be more a more reliable test to base health off of, not BMI. “This is a culture obsessed with weight, but very little attention is paid to the composition of that weight,” says exercise physiologist, Geralyn Coopersmith. Coopersmith is also the senior national manager for Equinox gym, a gym that does these body-fat tests.
The Mayo clinic found that high body fat among “normal” weight men and women had 4 times the risk for metabolic syndrome, which increases blood sugar and blood pressure and is a precursor to diabetes and heart disease.
The main problem? Just as BMI is being questioned as a good method to measure health, doctors cannot agree on “acceptable” ranges for body-to-fat ratios.
So what does Jimenez suggest doing now to prevent this? Exercising is important as it increases your lean muscle mass at the expense of extra fat. This will also increase your metabolism and if needed, help you lose weight. Of course, eating a healthy and balanced diet will also help you lose extra fat, but that doesn’t mean to restrict. Restricting calories will only make you lose body fat AND lean muscle which will not help your composition.
So what’s important to you- the number on the scale or how your body’s made up?
I will admit that I didn’t have any concern regarding my weight when I was growing up in elementary to high school. I had no idea how many calories were in foods and my favorites foods were chicken, pasta, ice cream, and bread. I was the carb queen, but I also danced up to 20 hours (or more) a week so I was just fueling my body continuously. When I went away to college, that’s when my eating habits changed. I hated the gym, missed dance and didn’t fit in the social life of counting calories and then drinking. I “took control” (or so I thought) my sophomore year and started counting calories and working out (dance classes for credit and swimming). All I was worried about was the number on the scale or the number of calories I was eating and burning.
You obviously know what happened next if you’ve been following me (if not, click here), but as I got healthy again, I had to take the whole idea of numbers away. I would focus on them too much but that number truly didn’t tell me anything about myself. It didn’t tell me if I was healthy (which I wasn’t), it didn’t tell me how people perceived me or who I was as a person. It was just a number and thus where my viewpoint on no labels and no numbers has come from.
I also focused more about myself as a whole person. How was I feeling? What did I want to eat? Usually if you can connect to your feelings and know what you want to eat (even if it’s chocolate or cake), that “extra weight” doesn’t sneak on. At the same time, physically how did I feel? If I was sore, I’d evaluate it. Did I need to rest today or was it a good sore that just needed to be stretched?
This took me a long time to accomplish and to learn what my body needed. More recently, I started hot yoga, which means you should wear as little as possible in that room- usually a sports bra and shorts or capris. Many women don’t feel comfortable with that, but yoga is more about focus and how you’re feeling in your body than about looking at yourself. In the 4 classes I’ve taken, I can already feel changes in my body regarding my strength and tone and that’s what’s important to me.
I’m healthy. I’m getting toned. I mentally and emotionally feel great (especially after yoga- it’s cleansing!) and that’s what matters. If you asked me how much I weigh, I could probably give you range, but a solid number, I have no idea and I like it that way 🙂
Which do you concentrate or have concentrated on? The number or how you feel in your body?
Do you think the standards of health should be changed as the article says?