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Does Being Skinny Mean You Are Healthy?

Tanmay Tikekar Aug 29, 2020
Skinny people are usually the object of envy. But should it in fact be the other way round? This story explains why being skinny is not quite as healthy as one might think.

To be, or not to be skinny?

Being underweight and being overweight is considered equally harmful, but being 'fat and fit' is in fact healthier than being skinny.
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.
Disclaimer: This story is for informative purposes only. It does not intend to replace the advice offered by a medical professional.

'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.

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 islikely 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.

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.
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.

To your health!