Concealing the truth is an American pastime. We do it everyday in our conversations or even job interviews; we make sure our presentation rarely blends with reality. The fashion industry allows people to hide their body shapes without shame, marketing fashionable women’s clothes via emaciated female models or tailored men’s suits that cover up most males’ unflattering, undeveloped regions. As long as person is put together well, no one really wants, or has the time, to question what’s underneath the allure.
In this culture, for most people, unhealthy is synonymous with fat. Obese people walk around with their addiction, or infliction, in full sight, much to the chagrin of these hapless people who are subject to instantaneous, negative judgments. America is in the grips of an epidemic, but are obese people unfairly made the scapegoats?
Conversely, the people who are at the greatest risk of health complications are the ones deemed “skinny fat.” Skinny fat people walk around anonymously because they don’t carry the stigma of obesity. Since it’s rare for a skinny fat person to encounter anyone constantly hassling or shaming them into better shape for health reasons, they tend to eat as poorly, or even worse, as an overweight person and make weight gain or loss decisions based upon superficial reasons.
Skinny fat is a colloquial term for people who have a skinny frame but may carry visceral fat deposits around the midsection, chest, or buttocks. Men who are skinny fat usually can be a little easier to spot, as they will have undeveloped arms or legs with the presence of “man boobs.” On the other hand, women may have fat deposits in fetishized places, like the breasts and buttocks, but they will also have “love handles” or a “double chin.”
According to health professionals, a skinny fat person has a disproportionate amount fat to muscle ratio, usually 2:1 or higher. In comparison, the healthy fat percentage ranges from 17 to 26% for women and 14 to 22% for men.
There is no one way to become skinny fat. There are people who become skinny fat that maintain a healthy diet but do not exercise. Another person might overeat nutritional defunct food yet exercise consistently.
Raw foodist and other alternative eaters fall victim to this syndrome partly because of the “healthier than thou” mantras they may adopt when leaving behind the Standard American Diet (SAD).
Yasmine Benjamin, 27, fell victim to the ugly side of Veganism when she began eating loads of starches without counterbalancing her food choices with a consistent exercise regimen.
“I only ate starchy carbohydrates–beads, pastas, potatoes, and rice–sparingly, but I never exercised because I felt so much better as a Vegan, but without fail, I began noticing a ‘muffin-top’ developing and a ‘cottage cheese’ backside.”
The harsh self-critique Yasmine describes is what now helps fuel the latest trend of non-essential cosmetic surgeries. Liposuction, breast augmentation, and Botox are replacing responsible eating and exercise. Young and old alike are opting to bypass the slow and often disciplined approach to looking healthy by choosing shortcuts that hide underlying body image issues. Many of these same people are likely to abuse their bodies further by succumbing to eating disorders when funds are unavailable for surgery.
In the past decade, news sources have illuminated the body image issues men deal with when underweight. Men have started to show similar unhealthy practices that have been unfairly stereotyped as women’s dis-eases such as anorexia and bulimia. On the other end of the spectrum, many men over-train and consequently damage their muscles trying to escape the humiliation of uncovering their frail bodies in front of others.
There are several ways to combat skinny fatness. First, the best way is to clean up your diet. Eating infrequently or excessively will always lead adverse effects upon your body. Keeping a consistent eating pattern, with the help of a food journal, will help keep cravings in check and missing meals to a minimum. By making sure your diet doesn’t consist of highly acidic foods–like diary products, grains, and meat–as your primary sources of energy, your body will begin to heal and respond to fruits and vegetables.
Secondly, skinny fat people should strive to mix-up their workout. Overdoing the cardiovascular workouts and neglecting resistance training can lead to frustration and plateaus. The human body burns muscle before fat, thus training exclusively one way, either weights without cardio or vice versa, will always end up with the same result: an overabundance of fat.
Finally, rest is essential to losing weight properly and developing muscle. There are plenty of “gym rats” who never seem to gain the muscle or lose the fat that burdens them. Sleep plays a role in protein synthesis, the release of growth hormones, and gives you the necessary energy needed for rigorous workouts. Disregarding sleep will derail any improvements in eating or exercise, plus it will keep you running to the local coffee shop or supplement store for latest high-priced faux energy substitute.
Skinny fat is a damaging but easily reversible health issue. A few healthier lifestyle changes usually will do the trick, transforming a skinny fat body into lean, toned, yet muscular physique.