Can You Be Thin & Still Be Fat?

Thank you Dieters, Waist Watchers and Health Nuts. Thank You McDonalds for supersizing everything at irresistibly low prices and thanks to religious fans of The Biggest Loser. Thank you for keeping my Workout World thriving based on the fear of fat.

Fat, fat, fat.

As a fitness trainer and group exercise teacher,That’s my bread and butter if you don’t mind my saying so. On a daily basis, I hear the refrain

“How can I lose this fat ?”

while you grab, for instance, the invisible roll of skin directly above the waistline of your size zero jeans.

By the way, the size of the belly roll doesn’t matter.

The belly roll that is grabbed can be a half centimeter or

an entire handful of fat

but hatred for fat does not discriminate.

People hate their belly rolls no how much or little they spill over the belt.

Belly fat is despised as vociferously in a microscopic amount as it is in large amounts.

This is also good for business because, luckily, no matter how thin all my students could get, they will most likely never be happy at their present weight, thus securing my job and pushing back my aerobics instructor retirement into my 70’s.

But my question is really not

Can You Be Too Thin

because no one thinks they can be. My question is

Can you Be Thin and Still Be Fat?

Of course, I try not to ask questions here that I myself cannot answer.

So, I will respond to myself by saying YES,

one CAN be very thin and still be over fat and that is usually because we don’t spend time building muscle.

I don’t want to freak you out but twenty some -ahem- years ago,when I had a real job,meaning a job that I thought was appropriately ambitious,( although really it was just terribly boring, and P.S. I was bad at it),I ran to stay in shape.

I really had no idea how to stay in shape.

I just knew running was hard and efficient,

lots of bang for my butt, I could say.

I weighed much less than I do now but I can tell by looking at old pictures of me that my body fat percentage was higher back then.

I have an old picture of me at the finish line from my one stab at a mini marathon in Central Park in 1988 or so.

I try to ignore the fact that the woman in the picture just ahead of me that I sprinted four miles to catch up with is in the “60 and over” age group and she still beat me.When I was 27.years.old.

that she STILL beat me. Me, the 27 year old.

To think that I now miss THOSE days.

Anyway, back then, I was only doing cardio by running and it did the trick to keep the number on the bathroom scales in range.

And then something weird happened. I started doing strength training.

I got fired from my job which was okay because I was so terrible.

SO, I started teaching aerobics classes that incorporated strength training using weights.

Then a full-time job as a Fitness Class Director became available and I said to my parents,

“Thanks for the expensive college education.

Now that we’ve made it to New York City,

I want to become an aerobics instructor.”

I started doing much less cardio and more weight work and although my weight went up, I felt like I looked leaner.

Do you hear me? I weighed in heavier but looked (and felt) thinner.

All of this is a way of saying that lifting weights has more benefits than just building muscles and strengthening your bones.

It also shocks your metabolism into burning more calories because muscles require more fuel (calories) to support than fat.

As if that’s not enough reason to hit the weight room, there is more exciting news to get me revved up.

Some great new research has also shown that by lifting heavy weights (and by that, I mean so heavy that you cannot do more than twelve to fifteen good reps) your body will burn, not only more fat calories but also,

more abdominal fat.

This means that even doing biceps curls will whittle your waist, IF the weight is heavy enough.

Why does this happen?

The body is such a brilliant piece of equipment, we are only now beginning to understand how and why it responds the way it does.

The best way to envision this is that when your body is pushed to it’s physical exertion limit, it kicks into survival mode, thinking it has a challenging emergency to deal with (like being chased by a bear maybe) so it starts burning fuel from it’s special cache-

the fat stored in the belly, or the visceral fat,

as it is known in the scientific world.

It’s this same visceral fat that is more dangerous

to carry around since it is stored near your vital organs, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant.

So it comes down to body fat percentage,

NOT body weight in pounds, not the magic number on your scales.

Most health clubs can quickly and accurately calculate your body fat with some nifty fitness gadgets, I know mine does.

This will help you see your actual muscle to fat ratio and this will determine how good you look and more importantly, how good your body feels,not to mention how well your jeans fit.

In other words, DO NOT BELIEVE your bathroom scale.

So why is the fashion industry obsessed with models that are so skinny that they look like boys?

I have no clue.

I’m guessing that designers get so used to looking at their clothes on racks that they want the bodies wearing their clothes to look equally rackish.

Do the clothes hang better on women that resemble hangers?

And just think, if we, as adults, feel this much pressure to be THIN, imagine what our daughters will have to deal with as impressionable, yet-to-be-shaped female minds.


Also, why is the media and the fashion industry obsessed with being so skinny then ? The trend is even affecting the male figure too. Men on the model runways are absolutely skeletal this year.

I throw my hands up in disgust. If clothes hang better on skeletons, maybe we should leave those clothes on the hanger.

This all just goes to show how bad the body dismorphia (distorted body image) is in our society.

But back to my current rant,

What is a the range for body fat percentage? Well, this is very general but here’s a ballpark:

*30% & over-too little lean body mass, you need to lift weights

*24-30% you are in the healthy range.

* 21-23% you are lean and strong

*17-21% is pro athlete range.

Ideally, we should just focus on how we feel in our body. Set a fitness goal, like doing a pull-up (anyone care to join me?), running your first 5K or climbing a mountain.

You pick it.

Find something that gives you joy even if it takes some time to achieve (like my pull up).

Set a goal. Like hitting the weight room.Today.


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