We may be bombarded with images suggesting that thin equals healthy, but this isn’t always the case, say our experts…
Don’t worry if you don’t look like the bodies in magazines. Healthy bodies can come in all shapes and sizes. ‘In fact, it can be healthier to be heavier and have more muscle mass than to appear thin but have low muscle mass and high body fat,’ explains HFG expert Professor David Haslam, chair of the National Obesity Forum.
Could you have skinny fat?
The term ‘skinny fat’ describes someone who looks slim on the outside but who has too much dangerous fat inside. This is called visceral fat and sits around the vital organs. ‘As visceral fat increases, so does our risk of insulin resistance, diabetes, gallstones, heart disease and cancer,’ says David. One way to check if you have too much visceral fat (even if you appear slim) is to check your waist-to-hip ratio.
Move and lose it
Exercise is key to reducing visceral fat. Health guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. ‘That’s anything that gets you at least a bit out of breath and sweating,’ says David. It doesn’t matter if you break up the 150 minutes (in five 30 min sessions, for example). ‘And include some strength training (weight-bearing) exercises, as well,’ he says.
‘Diet is vital, too, so keep an eye on portion sizes and keep in mind the proportions of the Eatwell Plate, the guide to a well-balanced meal’, says Amanda Ursell, our Nutrition Editor. ‘In one large study conducted by Tufts University in the US, it was found that people tucking into fibre-rich carbohydrates (the “good guys” of the carb world, such as wholemeal breakfast cereals, brown pasta and rice and wholemeal bread and pitta) had significantly lower amounts of visceral fat than those wolfing down high glycaemic-index (GI), refined versions.’