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How can I be skinny AND obese??!?!

By April 15, 2008 - 5:06pm
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So I've just learned that I'm obese. And I had NO IDEA. But not only that, no one I've shared this with believes me! Not even my team here at EmpowHer! People have been laughing and rolling their eyes at me all day long. And I can't say I blame them because when you see me, obesity is the farthest thing you think of.

For one thing, I've been athletic practically my entire life. I ran marathons when I was a teen and into my 20's, and have always been on the very thin side. I'm 42 and continue to jog, walk, practice yoga, and I especially love a spinning class at a local YMCA. Through these activities, I do strong cardio workouts roughly 5-6 days a week. I've always thought I was in pretty decent shape.

So I was at the Y recently and they were offering a free Body Mass Index (BMI) and Body Fat Percentage test. They wrapped this device around my upper arm that had some kind of a laser that went through my muscle and could read how much water is in my system as well as how much fat and lean tissue I have. I did it for fun, but was I in for a surprise!!

I'm 5' 8.5" tall and I weighed 137 at the time of the test. Thus, my BMI is great because I'm on the "skinny" side. I look great, right? HOWEVER, the percentage of body fat that I have is nearly 30%. That means that roughly 40 pounds of my 137 pounds is fat.

This kind of freaked me out because according to the American Council on Exercise, anyone with 31% or greater body fat is considered obese. So I'm considered "borderline" obese because of my body fat ratio. YIKES! What does this mean???

I went to the NIH web site and discovered an article from Healthday dated April 1 that stated that more than half of the "normal-weight" Americans have a high percentage of body fat, making them more susceptible to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and more, and they're completely unaware. The article quoted a study that was recently announced at the American College of Cardiology's recent annual meeting in Chicago.

The article stated that "women whose body fat is greater than 30 percent are suffering from 'normal weight obesity,' the study authors said, even though their weight may be normal for their size."

That's me --- I have "normal weight obesity" (!!!)

"Many people whose body weight is in the normal range are anything but," said Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine.
"Even a small amount of extra fat where it matters most can wreak metabolic havoc, increasing risk for diabetes and heart disease, while leaving you with a body weight that looks perfectly innocent," Katz said.

I'm really, truly stunned. And heart disease and diabetes both run in my family. I'm at very high risk as long as I continue to be obese. And then there's breast cancer, which I've read can be associated with diets high in fat....

SO WHAT DO I DO? I certainly don't want to lose weight -- I'm nearly underweight for my height as it is. I only want to get rid of some of the fat (5% would be nice. But how do I do that?

I asked my spinning instructor about it last night and she said that the biggest step is being aware (preaching to the choir here!), and that now I know, I can easily do something about it. She suggested that I start weight training, cut back dramatically on my cardio workouts, and eat more protein.

This means a pretty big adjustment for me -- a real mind shift since I've been a high cardio and major carbs person for decades. It doesn't help that I find weight lifting incredibly boring.

So I've got some work to do.....

Add a Comment7 Comments

You are right, you can do weight training at home. Some people find it easier to workout at home, others need to go to the gym to get motivation.

I just read Kim Lyons' new book (she is the Red Team trainer on the Biggest Looser), "Kim Lyons' Your Body, Your Life. This book has soooo much wonderful information. She also has a whole chapter dedicated to your workout. It has three different workout plan levels and each level is arranged into circuits, strength training being one of the workouts. The book has pictures also.

www.kimlyons.com (Here is her website)

There are also many websites that have weight training workouts.

April 18, 2008 - 5:12am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to MelissaW)

Thanks so much for the info -- I've not heard of Kim Lyons, but I'll definitely check out her book -- sounds great.

I lifted weights this morning at the Y while my kids were at a pottery class. I spent more time on the circuit than I ever have before, and felt really motivated when I thought about how strong I'm going to get.

Now, my body totally feels like jello....

Kristin Park

April 19, 2008 - 4:25pm

Hi, Kelley:

Not to downplay the value of going to the Y, by any means, but you can have your own weight/resistance/strength training program without leaving home or any fancy equipment.

Here's some information from UC Berkley on simple weight/resistance exercises you can do at home: http://www.berkeleywellness.com/html/fw/fwFit03StrengthTraining.html

April 17, 2008 - 6:07pm


The Flexx class sounds like what I have been looking for. I take a 2 mile walk every morning which is great for my cardio but I'm 44 and keep hearing I should be incorporating some weights. I am not a member of the Y but may go to the YMCA by my house to check out this class. Thanks for the great tip-very helpful

April 17, 2008 - 11:31am

Your spinning instructor was right on when she said you need to add weight training to your workouts.



You already have the cardio part down and I know that weight training can be boring. You said you work out at the YMCA. I am an instructor for the Y and we have a class called FLEXX. This is weight training in a class setting. The class is put to music and works all of your muscle groups at once. You might want to find out if they have one at your Y.

Let me know how it goes!

April 17, 2008 - 5:31am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to MelissaW)

Hi, Melissa! I'm so glad to know that you're a Y instructor!! Here I've been going to my neighborhood Y for 6 years and I've never paid attention to the FLEXX classes. (Anything that wasn't cardio I just ignored.) I'll definitely try this class -- so great that it has music!
Thanks for letting me know, and I'll definitely keep you updated on my quest for strength.

Kristin Park

April 17, 2008 - 5:08pm

This is truly a wake up call for me Kristin especially knowing that you run marathons and are so devoted to spinning. While my husband and I try to follow a fitness program, I always seem to gravitate toward the cardio portions of it.

My husband always tries to motivate me to do resistance training but I've ... well ... resisted. Time to hit the deck and maybe do a few push-ups. Thanks Kristin. This was excellent information.

April 16, 2008 - 9:33am
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