Fit and fine: How to get rid of ‘skinny fat’
I had an interesting meeting the other day. A young man said to me, since he was very lean and thin, he considered himself healthy and fit. In fact, he was always being complimented on his lean appearance and how he must be very fit. This is a very common refrain everywhere and media perpetuates it – if you are thin, then you must be healthy and fit! That’s why the current obsession with size zero. So much so that people are ready to adopt any means to lose the flab – surgery, pills, starvation etc. But does being thin or having low body fat on the surface make you healthy and fit?
This is not necessarily true, especially in the Indian/Asian context. People with seemingly perfect BMI scores are developing Diabetes Mellitus and associated lifestyle diseases like high cholesterol and high blood pressure, that too at a young age. Before I go any further let’s look at BMI.
BMI or Body Mass Index
Body Mass Index is a useful tool used by the medical fraternity to classify people as under weight, ideal weight, over weight and obese. It’s a simple formula where your weight in kilograms is divided by the square of your height in meters. The good range is 18.5 to 24.9. Anything over 25 is considered overweight while 30 and beyond is obese. BMI is good for the general public but is woefully inadequate for the people who are very muscular i.e. athletes, weightlifters etc.
But here comes the twist which pretty much destroys BMI – lots of Indians who score 24 and under on the BMI formula are developing lifestyle diseases like high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes. A new hypothesis was put forward – Thin on the outside but fat inside or TOFI. We see many who fit into this model – thin arms and legs but with a pot belly. Some may be lean overall but have loads of visceral fat, i.e. inside the body. This visceral fat is way more harmful for health than subcutaneous fat.
And the solution is:
People assume being lean equals being fit but that is not the case. Fitness is task specific. You might be fit to run a marathon but not fit enough to throw a shot put! Also as we learn daily that the older ways of eating were better. Time to go old school in terms of nutrition.
•Adopt an exercise programme now. Does not matter what you do, as long a you do it for 5-6 hours every week.
•Strength training is imperative. It has so many positive effects on the body that it would be truly nonsensical not to include some form of weight training.
•Avoid all types of processed foods – burgers, pizza, biscuits etc. are spoiling our health and fitness and making us ill.
•Increase the intake of protein in your diet. In India, vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians are protein deficient in their diet.
•Avoid re-using your cooking oil.
• Add some ghee to your daily diet.
Thus do not assume that if you are naturally lean or even skinny that all is good with you. That you can slack off on increasing physical activity or even eating right. Develop the correct habits so that the TOFI phenotype does not apply to you. Now go lift something heavy!
Author bio: Kamal Singh is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who has been coaching for 15 years
From HT Brunch, December 1, 2019
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