Who are ‘Skinny Fat People’?
Updated: Jan 8
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Being someone who used to be morbidly obese I’m used to having my health judged by the way I look as carrying extra weight people assumed I was unhealthy and to a point that was true.
You may or may not have heard of someone being referred to as “Skinny Fat”. I won't lie, it's not the nicest phrase (in my eyes the 3 letter F word is more detrimental than the 4 letter one!) so a new terminology has now started being used instead, TOFI, which stands for Thin Outside, Fat Inside.
You see, even if someone is a healthy weight and doesn't look overweight it doesn’t mean to say that they are actually healthy. They may in fact be carrying extra fat around their organs, known as visceral fat, which doesn’t show as clearly as subcutaneous fat, but is extremely dangerous and bad for their health. To learn more about the different types of fat in our body check out my post Body Fat…is it all the same?
Now, if you are wondering how can you tell how much visceral fat you have, there are procedures that can be carried out at hospital like MRI and CT, but if you want an idea in the privacy of you own home, you can check out your visceral fat levels on these body composition scales, like I do. They are not as accurate obviously as being scanned at a hospital, but they give a good ballpark figure.
Some health professionals will recommend you measure around your stomach with a tape measure at the point of your belly button and if you are a man and your tummy circumference is 40 inches or larger, or a woman and your circumference is 35 inches or larger then you have high visceral fat.
From personal experience I tend to steer away from the tape measure method as when Adam and I weigh in on our body composition scales, Adam’s visceral fat levels come in at the higher end of healthy on the chart when his belly circumference is only 35”, whereas my visceral fat level on the same scales comes in at the lower end of healthy, but my belly circumference is quite big still at 37” because I still have a fair bit of subcutaneous fat to shift. So for me it’s not a very true reflection of what's going on inside, and when you think about it you are going by an external measurement, how can it truly reflect what's going on inside!
Which brings me back to “Skinny Fat” or “TOFI” people, if someone who is not overweight, with a small stomach circumference under the recommended 40 or 35 inches the tape measure method suggests you as having high visceral fat, it’s scary as these people could be a ticking time bomb without even knowing it!
Visceral fat accumulates mainly from a diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods, which is why it is assumed that if you are overweight you will have high levels of this fat, as it is also assumed that anyone overweight consumes high levels of theses types of foods. This may be true in some cases, but it is also possible to overeat “healthy foods” too! So, just because someone can burn extra calories and maintain a healthy weight, doesn’t necessarily mean they are healthy, they could be accumulating nasty visceral fat if their diet is not up to scratch!
Adam and I are both proof of this as when our diet has contained extra carbs, sugar and alcohol than normal, say if we’ve been on holiday and our food fuel intake is not as much in our control as usual, our visceral fat readings go up!
The great news is, if you do have higher than normal visceral fat levels, all is not lost, it can be reduced to a healthy level over time with the right food fuel choices and exercise!
I try to keep my blog posts short and sweet as I know an overload of information can become mind boggling so be sure to check out my other posts here.