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post : Can I Have a Normal Body Weight and be Obese?

Can I Have a Normal Body Weight and be Obese?

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By Todd Killebrew, ND August 14, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

Diet and ExerciseTypically when you or your doctor take your height and weight you end up with a BMI (body mass index) measurement. This is simply a ratio of weight to height and is a somewhat useful tool for determining overweight or obesity when looking at a large population. On an individual level, however, it tends to fall short of revealing the whole story. For example, one can have a very high muscle mass and be labeled as overweight or obese. This is typical of many athletes and bodybuilders, but does not reflect the average person.

By contrast a condition referred to as normal weight obesity is a more common concern among the general population. This describes someone who is at a “healthy” BMI but has a high body fat percentage and relatively low muscle mass. In fact a Mayo Clinic study from 2008 found that more than half of American adults with a normal BMI (<25) had too high body fat percentages. These people would normally fly under the radar of obesity yet are still susceptible to its risks. This is where measuring body fat percentage becomes an indispensable guide to better health.

Obtaining an accurate measurement of your body fat percentage can help you make more educated weight loss goals and help keep you motivated. As discussed, when you just see your weight on a scale it doesn’t tell you how much of that weight is lean (muscle, bone, water, etc.) vs. fat, and a typical occurrence when someone begins an exercise program is that initially their weight may stay flat or even increase, due to gaining more muscle. This can be discouraging to say the least. If, on the other hand, body analysis measurements can be done showing your muscle increasing and your fat decreasing you will naturally remain motived.

When looking at the numbers a body fat, composition of 30% or less is generally considered healthy for women while 20% or less for men is healthy. For optimal fitness women should aim for under 24% and men for under 17%.

However, these body fat percentages only tell part of the story. Most of the fat that we can visibly see on ourselves is subcutaneous fat. This is the squishy type that you can pinch with your fingers which while not visually appealing is generally less detrimental to health. It is, however, the visceral or deep fat that surrounds the organs and leads to a protruding belly that carries the most serious health risks. This is the fat the produces inflammatory cytokines, increases insulin resistance and disrupts sex hormone levels, essentially acting as an organ system unto itself.

Visceral fat consequently increases risk for heart disease, diabetes, dementia, sexual dysfunction, osteoarthritis and sleep apnea to name a few. The bad news is that visceral fat tends to accumulate more readily than subcutaneous fat, but the good news is that due to its rich blood supply it is also more responsive to catecholamines (fat burning hormones) than subcutaneous fat and thus can be lost relatively quickly with the proper regimen.

A combination of diet and exercise is needed to effectively lose visceral fat. Anaerobic exercise, especially the high intensity interval variety has been found to be the most effective at targeting visceral fat. Ideally a combination of these lifestyle changes along with optimizing hormone levels will help reduce visceral and total body fat and ultimately reduce the risk of chronic disease and degeneration. At Longevity we make it one of our top priorities to help keep our patients’ visceral body fat low. Our new In-Body machines not only measure body fat percentage and visceral fat but also help us keep accurate track of patient progress. When you start our program we will work with you to help identify and lower the risks that come with normal weight obesity.

Todd Killebrew, N.D.
Staff Physician
Longevity Medical Clinic

Posted in: NutritionExercise
Tags: diet exercise bmi
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