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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Fat on the inside?

Did you see this article that came out last week, Thin people might be fat on the inside?

The basic idea of the article is that even though you may appear thin from the outside, you can have a significant amount of fat deposits on the “inside.” By inside, we mean internal fat cushioning the organs like the heart, liver, pancreas, etc. The researchers scanned people with an MRI machine to show where they were storing fat. Surprisingly, many people who appeared thin had large deposits of fat on the inside of their bodies.

Risk factors for having too much internal fat in this study included:
1. Eating fatty, sugary foods but in quantities low enough to not get a lot of external fat
2. Not exercising enough to work off the high fat and high sugar foods
3. Controlling your weight through diet without exercise

This reminds me of the debate that many medical experts have: Is it better to be Fit and Fat or to be Thin and Unfit? Sounds to me like this research backs up the importance of staying fit even if you are carrying a few extra pounds. Carrying extra fat weight puts us at higher risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. Even if that fat is not visible to the naked eye, according to this article.

Just because you are thin to the eye does not mean you do not have a high body fat percentage. I remember when I was in grad school and had to do a lot of body fat testing using skinfold calipers (you know…those little things that pinch your fat). I would eyeball a person and think I could tell what his or her body fat was going to be. After a while I stopped guessing because I was wrong a lot more than I was right! Once I grabbed the back of their arm to pinch their fat I was shocked at how much fat the people who appeared thin had!

Muscle takes up space on our bodies. If you have a large amount of muscle, you will look bigger to the naked eye. If you have a layer of fat on top of the muscle, you will appear even more fat to the general public because fat is more visible as the layer on top of the muscle. That does NOT mean that you should not do resistance training and gain muscle. Having a lot of muscle is not a risk factor for disease.

Bottom line
You cannot get fit without working out. Doing aerobic exercise will help you to prevent storing fat on the inside as well as the outside of your body. Limit foods high in sugars and fat that are high in calorie density and likely to contribute to exceeding your calorie needs for the day.

PS. Obviously this cat is fat on the outside and I can only imagine that he is fat on the inside, too!

Photo courtesy of Yukari

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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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