Being Skinny Fat Could Be More Dangerous Than Being Obese

How you lose weight matters.

It matters big time.

The way that over 80% of women lose weight now is the absolute incorrect way to lose weight… and could be creating a situation which increases their likely hood of death by chronic disease and illness. Pretty serious huh?

It’s called skinny fat. You are of normal weight and you even appear to not really be out of shape. However, you still carry the majority of your body fat in your stomach region. Plus you have not supported lean muscle mass and you’re actually losing it because your body is using it as an energy source.

This is close to skinny fat… not quite there.

Here’s the Study:

The study included 12,785 subjects who were 18 years of age and older from the National Health and Nutrition Examination. It’s supposed to be a good representation of the US population.

Fat from waist was really measured using both the BMI system, but in this case the most important was the waist to hip ratio. The higher the waist to hip ratio, the bigger your waist and the more fat you’re carrying in that area. BMI was to determine a “healthy” weight.

Waist to Hip Ratio

They did consider all other factors such as does the person smoke? do they have diabetes? and if they had pulmonary disease or cancer, they were excluded from the study.

The mean (average) of the population used was 44 years old and 47.4% were men. The median follow up with each person was 14.3 years. So there were some that were longer and some that were not that close to 14.3 years in follow up.

The Results:

  • Total deaths – 2,562
  • Cardiovascular deaths – 1,138

Those people that had normal BMI, indicating they were of a healthy weight, but that had a high waist to hip ratio… indicating they were carrying fat in the stomach region…

  • Had the highest cardiovascular death risk in all subgroups of the population, 2.75x higher.
  • Had the highest death risk from any cause in all subgroups, 2.08x higher.

So What Does This Really Mean?

It means that if you lose weight, you have to do things the right way. If you cut calories and either just run or don’t exercise at all, you’ll force your body to use lean muscle mass for energy.

This means the body will store more fat for future energy because your energy balance is completely out of whack. So you may be getting smaller because your lean muscle mass is breaking down, but you’re storing more body fat… that leads to skinny fat.

Not all skinny fat women or people are at this high risk. You are really only at this high risk if you tend to carry all of your fat in your abdomen.

However, other studies confirm that just being skinny fat puts you at the same high risk as being obese. Clearly stomach fat is the single most damaging type of body fat.

What Should You Do?

You can keep the same schedule you’re on now and just tweak it. If you’re like most women you probably get at least two jogs in a week.

Start by stopping the jogging. Add some bodyweight circuit training into your schedule instead. These are actually shorter in duration but much much higher in intensity. You get both the cardiovascular benefits as well as resistance training to either maintain lean muscle mass or build some.

Second, just slowly start working on your diet. Chip away at the things you know you should not be eating. If you don’t get family support, forget about it… do it anyway.

Learn more by of course staying up to date with my blog and you can also learn more about Fit Women’s Weekly to help with programs.

To read the rest of the study, click here.

  • Teegen

    Hi Taylor,
    I am 25y/o, about 112lbs, 5’6″, and I wear a size zero, but I am skinny fat. I am afraid to lose my belly fat because I don’t want to get any skinnier. I have started working with weights to add size to my arms and thighs, but I don’t want to lose the inches from my waist that my belly fat gives me. Is there anything I can do? Thanks!

    • TaylorR

      the weights are a great place to start Teegan, but I do recommend adding more calories (~300) to your day to support muscle building, this will help increase muscle, support your workouts and combat the fat. I know it sounds crazy but seriously, try it and see the difference. The trick is to make sure you’re eating the right kind of foods!? Clean protein and whole grains. Have you tried any of the free workout programs on the blog? This might help:

      • Teegen

        Thanks Taylor! I would love to try the workout program but unfortunately, due to where we live, our Internet is through our cell phone data package, so anytime we download or stream videos it eats up all of our data. I will work on incorporating more calories into my diet. I have tried that before but it has been difficult to gain the weight. It seems to be easy for me to lose weight but hard to gain weight and keep it on!

  • Amanda

    Lots of women have a high waist to hip ratio no matter what. It can’t be helped. Everyone has a different shape, stores fat in different places, and there’s nothing we can do about it. We can build muscle and lose weight, but we’ll always proportionally have more fat around our abdomen.

    I don’t even have a waist. My hip bones come all the way up to my rib cage, almost touching, so it’s literally impossible for me to have a low waist to hip ratio. I wish people would take things like this into consideration instead of trying to mold us to an impossible standard. It’s really discouraging.

    • Sophie Gonzales

      Yep. And not to mention me; I’ve always had a very low hip to waist ratio, when I was a size eight and all the way up to when I reached a size 14 and quite overweight. I had curves in all the right places, doesn’t mean I was healthy.

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