Tag Archives: Body Composition

The Shocking Risks of Being Skinny

As a culture, we fall into a pattern of focusing on the dangers of being overweight. Supplement companies and exercise brands play on heartstrings as they dangle images of lean, fit individuals in trendy fitness apparel racing down the street or pleasantly sipping a shake. Many people (women AND men) quest after that “fit” look and think the skinnier, the better. But this is a delusion. There are some major pitfalls of being really skinny, both for people who have achieved this through diet and exercise and for people who are naturally slender.

 

 

When a woman’s BMI is less than 18.5 she is at a heightened risk for numerous ailments and chronic conditions…we’re even talking death. Skinny isn’t always healthy! So think again the next time you’re feeling envy monsters growling and baring their teeth inside you when your super skinny friend constantly eats junk food or skips the gym “without consequence.” I’m telling you, there’s more to the story underneath. It will eventually show up.

Oh – another kind-of-crazy note is that those friends of yours who can eat a ton and never exercise (while staying rail thin) might have a genetic deviation from the general population that makes it harder for them to absorb nutrients. In other words, they’re eating a ton and their body isn’t gleaning the stuff it needs from all that food, putting them in a position of greater susceptibility to internal health problems. Suddenly, those friends aren’t as enviable. Am I right?

 

Here are the top (very serious) risks of being too thin:

 

Osteoporosis

Low-calorie diets are associated with bone loss because of a lack of nutrients to support estrogen. When estrogen takes a major dive, bones can become brittle and experience density loss. Also, if someone is on a low-calorie diet because of the desire to be skinny then they’re less likely to be incorporating healthy weight training out of the misplaced fear of being “bulky.” Weight training can help prevent some bone less plus it won’t make women bulky.

 

 

Fertility

Women at a low BMI are more prone to amenorrhea or irregular cycles which means they’re either not ovulating regularly or may have trouble with their uterine lining. Additionally, they may be more likely to experience miscarriage. Science Daily says, “Women who have a low body mass index before they become pregnant are 72 percent more likely to suffer a miscarriage in the first three months of pregnancy, but can reduce their risk significantly by taking supplements and eating fresh fruit and vegetables.”

This is pretty upsetting stuff. As a woman who has one child and in the process of trying for a second has suffered a miscarriage, I wouldn’t wish this loss on anyone. It’s extremely devastating even though the vast majority of cases of early pregnancy loss are for reasons that can’t be identified. One doctor explains, “The majority of the time miscarriage is a random, isolated event and we can’t pinpoint a cause.” That said, if you know that you have a risk factor while TTC (including low BMI, an immunologic disorder, uterine or cervix abnormalities, current smoker and/or PCOS, to name a few), it’s worth speaking to a health professional about how you can help your body and reduce your risks.

If you think fertility at a low BMI is only a female challenge then you’re mistaken – men with low BMIs are 22x more likely to have a sexual dysfuntion than their healthy-weight peers. Eeerr…you can read here about more of those details.

 

Anemia

When someone isn’t consuming enough nutrients they become more susceptible to anemia, a condition of red blood cell and/or hemoglobin deficiency. When the red blood cells don’t have enough iron, B-12 and folate to do their thing (i.e., support oxygen transport throughout the body and carbon dioxide transport to the lungs), a person’s entire body suffers. For obvious reasons. Anemia is marked by low energy and fatigue and routinely goes hand in hand with amenhorrea. Making sure your body is getting REAL nutrition is key no matter what weight you are.

 

Lowered Immune System

A lack of nutrients due to low-calorie diets and/or inadequate absorption means that a person is more likely to become immune compromised. A steady, strong supply of nutrients helps support gut health and immune function. People with lowered immune systems are more likely to contract seasonal viruses and bacteria and may also be at a heightened risk for serious illnesses such as cancer.

NOTE: People can also overeat but still have poor nutrient density in their diets – so lowered immune function isn’t just a consequence for people who are too skinny. This applies to everyone making poor dietary choices. Our bodies need fresh, nutritious, quality foods to thrive!

 

 

Heart Disease & Diabetes

Kind of surprising that the risk for heart disease and diabetes is high for really skinny people in addition to obese individuals, right? The tricky thing about being thin is that it can give people a false sense of confidence in their health, especially in cases where they’re not taking care of themselves through a healthy lifestyle. Some skinny people may assume they’re healthy thanks to their weight and continue to eat unhealthy foods, skip medical checkups and opt out of the gym. All of this can make for a silent, raging storm under the surface.

Also, there’s a genetic variant that causes some lean people to store more fat directly around their organs, giving them the appearance of being healthy while hiding their heightened risk for heart and organ issues:

“A new study hints that being lean doesn’t get you entirely off the health hook either. In a genetic analysis involving more than 75,000 people, an international group of scientists led by Ruth Loos at the Medical Research Council in the U.K. found that lean people with a specific genetic variant were at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease despite their lower body fat.”

 

As you can see, being too skinny can carry some risks with it. What’s important is that we’re tuned into our internal health instead of relying on our external health as the only indicator of what’s going on in our bodies. Our weight is only a piece of the puzzle. Only a fraction of what makes us truly healthy.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

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7 Ways to Ditch Your Scale

There is a better solution than weighing yourself on the scale! It’s called circumference measurements. I will explain exactly how to use circumference measurements on 7 different places of your body. It’s quick, simple and measures REAL results. The weight on the scale is meaningless!

Weighing yourself on a scale may not reveal the true results of your fitness or eating habits. Why? The scale reflects your weight, not your body composition (a reflection of how much fat vs muscle your body has). Without the need for additional evidence, we all know that adding muscle to your body can result in many health benefits. What women oftentimes don’t know is that muscle takes up less space than fat. In other words, you can look smaller but weigh more.

WW Scale

Hello, old enemy!

 You’re probably thinking “say whhaaat?” Yes, it’s true! For example, before my wedding I was doing a lot of cardio exercise to burn stress. Since I was less focused on weight training, I actually lost some strength during this time. Today, I weigh a solid 8 pounds heavier than I did on my wedding day because I reinserted weight training into my regimen. But get this – at a heavier weight, I’m still the same dress size thanks to gains in muscle!

The saying “muscle weighs more than fat” is a myth. One pound of muscle = One pound of fat. Again, the difference is that muscle takes up less space than fat. When I was studying Exercise Physiology in undergrad, a professor explained it to me this way: “Imagine a bag of cotton balls. Five pounds of cotton balls will take up a lot of space. Now, imagine a rock. A five pound rock will look very compact when compared to the enormous bag of cotton balls that weighs the same.” In this example, cotton balls = fat and rock = muscle.

Check out the following website’s images to see what I’m talking about (especially the first two – you will be shocked!): 

http://paleozonenutrition.com/2012/04/25/what-does-your-body-look-like-on-the-inside-more-reasons-to-lift-weights/

Many women I’ve trained have had challenges wrapping their minds around the fact that while becoming more lean and fit they might not lose weight (they might even gain weight)! If the scale is used to assess progress these women will be disappointed and confused.

Weighing yourself on a scale every day doesn’t always help you understand the changes happening in your body. It also can lead to obsessive check-ins and emotional highs and lows. Your weight fluctuates throughout the day and can quickly vary by 5 pounds or more! This can happen because of bloating, what you have eaten, not going to the bathroom, and the timing of your menstrual cycle (your period and ovulation can cause water retention and/or bowel changes).

WW Woman Upset

Measure your body, not your worth!

If you want to keep track of your weight, try weighing yourself once a week. Make sure you are weighing yourself at the same time on the same day. Also, keep in mind that if you ate a high sodium dinner and haven’t had a bowel movement in the past 24 hours that it will be reflected in the number. Try not to panic. Always take the higher perspective and think about the various factors impacting your body. The same is true for circumference measurements. They can vary from time to time but all said and done, they are better assessments of your progress.

At last, to answer your question, “what are circumference measurements?”

Circumference measurements assess size at key sites on your body. They are a good way to measure progress since even a few pounds of fat loss can mean exciting changes such as losing an inch on your waist or feeling your pants fit better. I recommend women follow the same instructions mentioned above for weighing on a scale. Try to do circumference measurements once or twice a week, same time/same day, and bear in mind the various external factors that can cause your results to fluctuate (ex: you just got back from vacation, you attended a cocktail party, you’re under stress, etc.).

There are 7 sites that I recommend women measure: Arm, Chest, Waist, Stomach, Hips, Upper Thigh, and Lower Thigh.

Check out the following image tutorial:

Arm:

 WW CM Arm 2

Measure mid-way between your elbow and shoulder, at the thickest part of your arm.

 

Chest:

WW CM Bust

Measure straight across the nipple line at the fullest part of your bust.

Waist:

PART_1416104040662_20141114_175630

Measure at the smallest part of your midsection. You can find your natural waist by dropping your arms by your sides. Where your elbows fall is where your waist is.

Stomach:

WW CM Stomach

Measure directly across your belly button while letting your stomach relax.

 

Hips:

2014-11-14 15.40.58 (1)

Measure around the center of your gluts (aka your booty). The tape should run across your pubic bone, the bony area on the front of the hip. Keep your heels together for consistent measurements. 

 

Upper Thigh:

PART_1416103996213_20141114_180117

Measure around the thickest point of your thigh, approximately an inch or two below groin.

Lower Thigh:

WW CM Lower Thigh

Measure right above the knee where your muscle and fat begin, not on the bony part of your knee.

 

Now that you know how to better track the changes in your body, remember that in the spirit of wellness, we must drop judgment of ourselves. Measure your body, not your worth.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

 

Maggie

 

 

References:

http://www.jillianmichaels.com/fit/lose-weight/myth-weighing-yourself?xid=nl_LosingItWithJillianMichaels_20130902

http://www.niashanks.com/stop-weighing-on-the-scale-for-weight-loss/

http://www.niashanks.com/10-commandments-for-simple-fat-loss/

http://paleozonenutrition.com/2012/04/25/what-does-your-body-look-like-on-the-inside-more-reasons-to-lift-weights/