Does Being Skinny Mean You Are Healthy?

Fact about risk of diabetes for skinny and obese people
Skinny people are often assumed to be healthy because they look the part. But there is a hu-u-uge difference between looking healthy and being healthy. So let’s shoo the elephant out of the room right away.

No. Being skinny does not mean that you are healthy.

Well, it depends on how you define ‘healthy’ and ‘skinny’. If you define healthy as merely ‘anything but fat’, and skinny as ‘Keira Knightley’, then yes, all you skinny people are ‘healthy’. But is health merely a visual absence of obesity? Go on, take a guess. If your answer is ‘yes’, you are gravely mistaken!

A healthy person has a sound body, mind, and spirit. Even if we ignore the psychological and spiritual aspects of health for the matter of this discussion, skinny is not a sound state of body. In nature, too much either way of any optimum is harmful. So, while obesity is a much-publicized danger, the other end of the spectrum is also harmful, possibly even more so. Here’s why.

‘Obesity’ is Not Always Unhealthy

Health fanatics and most physicians depend almost exclusively on a parameter known as Body Mass Index, or BMI, to assess general health. This is based on the incorrect assumption that the ratio between your body weight and your height is enough to make a diagnosis on whether you are obese, and that this ‘obesity’ is inherently unhealthy. Granted, a BMI of more than 30 is almost always unhealthy, but here’s an interesting fact. Dwayne Johnson weighs about 265 lb, and is 6′ 5” tall. That gives us a BMI of 31. LeBron James’ weight is around 245-250 lb, and he is 6′ 8” tall. That gives us a BMI of 27. Let’s not even get started on Shaquille O’Neal! So, according to the BMI scale, The Rock, Shaq, and King James are overweight – dangerously so! Someone should warn them, and get them to work out more to shed those unhealthy pounds, right?

The reason why LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, and Dwayne Johnson are ‘overweight’ is that they have large, heavy muscles, and thus weigh more. However, their ‘rotund bellies’ are healthy, and packed with rock-hard muscles, instead of flabby fat.

This is where the fallacy in BMI is exposed. It is not your total body weight that determines whether you are obese, it’s your Body Fat Percentage.

Check Your Body Fat, Not Your Paunch

Body Fat Percentage shows how much of your body is made up of fat, regardless of your total body weight. A high body fat percentage (more than 25-30%) is linked to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and the likes, but a high body weight can’t be linked to the same diseases.

Since very few ‘obese’ people are muscle-maniac NBA or WWE stars, it is likely that having a BMI higher than 30 corresponds to a high body fat percentage, but the converse is not true. In simple terms, overweight people are likely to have a higher body fat percentage, but that doesn’t mean that thin people are likely to have a low body fat percentage. You can be thin and weigh in at your ideal weight, but that could just be because of your weak, undeveloped muscles. Thin people are just as likely to have a high body fat percentage as overweight people – it just doesn’t show.

When you visit the doctor next, ignore your BMI-approved weight and insist on getting your body fat percentage checked. You may be in for a surprise.

Skinny AND Metabolically Obese is a More Dangerous Combo

We think obese people should watch their diet, and not even think about grilled cheese sandwiches for the rest of their lives (no, no, think about something – anything – else!). Well, sure, people looking to lose weight should indeed watch their diet, but this doesn’t mean that skinny people can get away with anything. Since skinny people don’t weigh or look obese, they think it’s okay for them to indulge in processed, high-carb, sugary meals. But since metabolic obesity doesn’t depend on weight, their ignorance can lead to them eating even larger amounts of such risky foods than visibly obese people who are obviously more cautious. In fact, studies have shown that being obese and being severely underweight is equally dangerous in terms of heart trouble and hypertension.

I’m Skinny, Am I Metabolically Obese?

Body Fat Percentage
As mentioned before, check your Body Fat Percentage. If it is less than 20%, you have nothing to worry about.

Blood Test
Get a blood test done, and insist on including an insulin response test in your next physical checkup. High blood sugar level and insulin response indicate that you already are or are at a risk of becoming diabetic.

Just Ask Yourself!
Do you feel great? Are you happy with the way you look? Do you run out of stairs before you run out of breath? Do you sleep well? Are you immune from periodic bouts of cold and flu? If your answer is yes, great! Your body is probably fine. If not, you may be ‘skinny obese’.

How Do I Become Truly Healthy?

Cut Out the Cardio
First and foremost, cut out the heavy-duty cardio, and start lifting weights. This applies to skinny women as well – stay off the little pink dumbbells, and start lifting heavy. Cardio does burn fat, but also eats into muscles. Weight training, on the other hand, pumps up your metabolism and thus increases your hunger, which should only be satisfied via healthy foods that increase muscle mass and help burn fat. Larger muscles need more calories for sheer sustenance, which, combined with a smart diet, are obtained by burning fat. Also, there is no scientific way to say this – larger muscles look hot!

Eat Fresh
Cut down on processed foods, and start eating fresh foods. Those daily burgers that you thought were fine will bite you in the bottom one day. Instead of the hastily gobbled burger or Sub, have a fruit or a salad. It takes even less time to prepare than the supposed ‘fast food’, and is infinitely healthier. And if you think fruits taste bland, that is what real food tastes like! You have just become used to the hokey and horribly harmful layers of sugars, flavoring agents, and trans fats.

Eat More Natural Fats
There are good fats (high-density cholesterol) and there are bad fats (low-density cholesterol). ‘Real’ foods such as fish, nuts, eggs, and fruits contain healthy fats, which are essential in the proper maintenance of our body. Good fats actually help prevent heart disease, and better our brain functioning. Good fats can be obtained through something as easy as switching to olive oil. Frying chicken or potatoes in olive oil is better than other options, but deep-frying is still harmful.

Eat More Proteins
Proteins are essential in increasing muscle mass. Have a protein-rich breakfast (e.g. boiled eggs, omelets, stir-fried chicken, baked beans, protein shake), and include some form of protein in every meal. For those of us who like to snack between meals, install nuts or chopped fruits as your snack food. The best forms of proteins are found in animals, i.e. white meat, eggs, and fish, but vegetarians have the options of dairy, non-processed cheese (the ones that stink), beans, nuts, etc.

As with any natural phenomenon, straying too far away from the optimum physical condition in either direction has terrible consequences. The best option is to eat real, wholesome foods, and exercise regularly like our life depended on it – it does! Our body is a result of genetics, but modifying it is completely in our hands, and maintaining it is nothing less than a responsibility.