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“SKINNY FAT” is NOT a myth – The DANGERS of hidden body fat! February 3, 2010

Posted by fitmontclair in Fat Loss, Fitness, Health & Exercise, Montclair, Women's Health.
Tags: , , , , ,

Hi Everyone,

I just wanted to share a VERY important article that was forwarded to me by a client. I suggest you all read it in its entirety and then forward it anyone you think can benefit from the information.

As always, take a deep breath and remove all the breakables before proceeding on for what follows is quite SHOCKING!

The article deals with the health risks of  “Normal Weight Obesity” or what I and many health professionals call the “Skinny Fat” syndrome. It details how the Mayo Clinic has recently published medical research showing that total body composition is more important than overall scale weight or appearance in regards to health; specifically risk of cardiovascular disease i.e. those that use scale weight, dress size, or body size to estimate their risk for coronary problems can be at just as much risk for life-threatening illnesses as those who are obese; “Being thin is NOT an automatic guarantee of HEALTH!

I have hi-lited the most important facts in “BOLD” type to aid in reading the information. 

From the Wall Street Journal:

* JANUARY 26, 2010 *

The Scales Can Lie: Hidden Fat

New Study Argues Even Thin People Can Face Health Risks From Fat; It’s ‘Normal Weight Obesity’


Can you be normal weight and fat at the same time? 


 That’s the implication of a provocative recent report from the Mayo Clinic, which suggests that fat in your body can get you and your heart into trouble even if you don’t look fat and if the scale tells you you’re healthy.

The Mayo researchers, led by cardiologist Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, have coined a term for the phenomenon: normal weight obesity. In a study that looked at data from 6,171 Americans with normal body size, as measured by body mass index, those with a high percentage of body fat were at significantly greater risk of future heart problems than those with low amounts of fat. Their bodies “behave like they are obese, but they are not,” Dr. Lopez-Jimenez says.

Even some thin people could be at risk for health issues typically associated with individuals who are fat, Ron Winslow reports.

People don’t have to be overweight to have excess body fat. Instead, these people have a higher ratio of fat to muscle tissue than do people with low body fat. Indeed, even people of the same weight, or those with comparable body mass index, which factors together weight and height, can have different body-fat percentages.

Based on results of the nine-year study, as well as U.S. Census and obesity data, Dr. Lopez-Jimenez and his colleagues estimate that as many as 30 million Americans may fall into the normal-weight-obesity category, many of them unaware they may be at increased heart risk.

The study “drills down on a population where we’re making assumptions that everybody is healthy. It may well be that they’re not,” says Robert Eckel, an obesity and metabolic-syndrome expert at the University of Colorado, Denver, who wasn’t involved with the study.

But Dr. Eckel and other medical experts caution that the findings need to be validated with additional research. Big epidemiological studies such as the Mayo report are useful for spotting important trends and raising hypotheses for further inquiry. But they are not necessarily reliable for prescribing specific remedies for individual patients.

People can measure body fat at home with specialized scales, such as by Tanita, which pass a small electrical current through body tissue. Many health clubs offer body-fat assessments.

[Gordon’s Note: Many of these health club assessments are HIGHLY INACCURATE The only accepted medical & scientific research methods are by hydrostatic weighing i.e water displacement or by DEXA scan – although some others are useful, most notably Plethysmography (air displacement i.e. The Bod Pod).

Electronic scales, infra-red and other devices (ESPECIALLY home units are NOT reliable), skinfolds done with calipers have a  4 -7 % error rating even when done by a very skilled person with professional calipers – Professional calipers start around $300 and can go as high as $1,800 and are usually NOT found in gyms & health clubs but in professional sports & medical settings (they are not the CHEAP plastic devices sold as a bonus with diet scams etc].

Professional Caliper Approx. $300

Indeed, Dr. Eckel says he doesn’t think the study’s results mean people should have

Highly INACCURATE plastic calipers

their body fat measured to assess their cardiac risk. Generally, a little extra weight around the middle among normal weight people should be a sufficient wakeup call, other doctors say. More research is needed to determine whether reducing body fat percentage in such people would lower risk of heart disease.

Still, body-fat assessment is a common feature at many gyms. At Equinox Fitness Club, a national chain based in New York, members get a body-composition test as part of an initial assessment before they begin a training regimen. “This is a culture obsessed with weight, but very little attention is paid to the composition of that weight,” says Geralyn Coopersmith, an exercise physiologist and senior national manager for Equinox’s training program.

Among some of the Mayo Clinic study’s findings: High body fat among normal-weight men and women was associated with a nearly four-fold increase in the risk for metabolic syndrome—a cluster of abnormalities including elevated blood sugar and blood pressure. This syndrome is common among people who are obese and is an increasingly important precursor to diabetes and cardiovascular disease. For women, high body fat meant a heightened risk of being diagnosed with cardiovascular disease over the course of the study. Both men and women had a higher risk of abnormal cholesterol and men with high body fat were more likely to develop high blood pressure.

The research suggests that body mass index, or BMI, the tool doctors and researchers often use to determine whether a person is obese, may fall short in some cases as an indicator of good health. BMI is obtained by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. People with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9—the range for the participants in the Mayo study—are considered to be normal weight under government guidelines. A BMI of 30 or higher indicates obesity, while people in the range from 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight. The overweight category in particular has generated controversy because many people who exercise regularly and are considered fit have BMIs above 25.

[ Gordon’s Note: almost every professional male athlete and some female athletes all have a BMI above 25 and you would consider none of them overweight or obese ]

Fit Versus Fat

BMI, or body mass index, is a key indicator of healthy weight –  or is it? NOT according to new Mayo Clinic findings!

To determine your BMI you can use the following formula:

* Calculate by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. Or go to http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/BMI/bmicalc.htm  for an online tool and plug in your particulars. Body fat can still be high, even when weight is healthy.

* Calculate body fat percentage using a process known as bioelectrical impedence analysis, which passes a small electrical current through body tissue. Specialized body fat bathroom scales for home use are available for purchase at drug stores or online, but offer varying levels of reliability. Skinfold tests are another technique. While some doctors may offer such tests, you’re more likely to find them at health clubs.

* Generally, body fat percentages over 25% for men and over 35% for women are considered high. Preferred targets are considerably lower. But there isn’t a professional consensus on an optimal level.

[To read more on how ludicrous BMI measurements really are and to see who profits financially from using the BMI scale (It’s not you!) click here to read my post:   “Thin is in!” – In at the Cardiac Rehab Ward: An update on the”Skinny Fat” Syndrome and what BMI (Body Mass Index) REALLY means!” ].

More important info:

Source: WSJ research

Dr. Lopez-Jimenez says that measuring body fat could help identify previously unappreciated risk in the normal-weight population. He likens the issue to cholesterol. Total cholesterol below 200 has long been considered a heart-healthy target, but research has also shown that people can have “healthy” total cholesterol but low levels of HDL, or good cholesterol, and high levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol, that put them at heightened risk for heart attacks.

Monika Sumpter, a 34-year-old training manager at Equinox Fitness in New York City, says she once weighed 170 pounds and had a body fat percentage of “a little over 30%,” a high reading. She says she lost 45 pounds with diet and some aerobic exercises, but reduced her body fat percentage only to about 25%. So, over the past 18 months, Ms. Sumpter says she added strength training and other exercise to her cardio workout. Although she has put 20 pounds back on, her body fat percentage is down to 14%, she says.

For consumers, conversations about body fat and body composition are more likely to happen during a workout with a personal trainer than at a doctor’s office during an examination. The test isn’t a widely accepted clinical measurement. And there isn’t a consensus among medical experts about what percentage of body fat is “normal” or what level indicates higher risk.

Some gyms have their own guidelines. At Equinox Fitness Club, trainers consider body composition and waist circumference—another indicator of body fat—more important in assessing fitness of many members than weight. The club’s Ms. Coopersmith says that, based on data from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise, Equinox considers body fat percentages between 25% and 31% for women, and 18% to 26% for men, as “acceptable.” Women with body fat of 21% to 24%, and men with 14% to 17%, are “fit.” People who reach even lower levels of body fat are considered “athletic,” she says.

The findings of the Mayo study, which was published in November in the European Heart Journal, suggest that reducing heart risk requires increasing the percentage of lean muscle mass at the expense of body fat. That underscores the importance of exercise in maintaining cardiovascular health—including weight lifting and other resistance training, which helps build lean body mass.

[Gordon’s Note: when I interned in cardiac rehabilitation at St. Joseph’s  and later Mountainside Hospitals there were almost equal numbers of men and women in the program; however there was one major difference. The men ranged from normal weight to obese but there were almost NO  overweight or obese women. The majority of the women were normal weight or underweight; I suspect they were in the “normal weight obesity” category for although they were thin they were physically weak and unfit with high percentages of body fat i.e. “Skinny Fat”.

DO NOT take this to mean that overweight or obese women are at LESS risk, their risk is the same or HIGHER. It is my own personal theory that the obese women are so unfit and physically weak they do not survive a heart attack or a surgical intervention so they never make it to cardiac rehab – It is  common medical fact that MORE women DIE from heart attack & stroke than breast cancer!]

Eating a healthy diet is important in reducing body fat, too, but Dr. Lopez-Jimenez observes that if you only restrict calories, you risk losing an equal amount of body fat and lean muscle tissue and thus you could end up weighing less without significantly reducing the percentage of body fat.

[Gordon’s Note: This is the “Skinny Fat” syndrome I have blogged about and it is RAMPANT in women (and some men) who crash diet or eat low protein diets and do large amounts i.e abuse aerobic exercise with minimal or no weight training!!

The increased body fat not only poses increased health risks but with nothing to support the skin i.e. muscle you are left with overstretched, hanging skin that is associated with “grandma” arms.  Once you have the loose, hanging skin IT CANNOT BE FIXED WITH EXERCISE and requires surgical removal that is most often NOT COVERED BY INSURANCE.]

Sara Bakken Lee, a 39, a Mayo Clinic staffer, is stepping up her weight training as part of an intense regular exercise

“You CAN’T diet or exercise away loose skin!”

program in an effort to get her body fat percentage to 23% from about 26% in December.

When she began to target body fat in her exercise program two years ago, her BMI was 26, just slightly into the overweight category. “I didn’t like being in that category when I didn’t think of myself as being overweight.” Her body fat at the time was 33.7%.

This December, after losing weight on a diet and continuing with a six-day exercise program, her BMI was 23.4, with body fat at 26%. “I’m in the moderately lean category, which makes me very happy.” She hopes to reach a body fat level of 23% by June by adding a third day of weight-lifting to her workout routine.

“If you’re at a sloppy normal weight, that’s not going to be good for you,” says John M. Jakicic director of the physical activity and weight management research center at University of Pittsburgh, who wasn’t involved with the study. “It argues that exercise is the intervention we should be targeting.”

As always I hope I gave you something to think about!!

*** Click the following link for my Oct. 24th 2010 post updating the “Skinny Fat” syndrome:***

“Thin is in!” – In at the Cardiac Rehab Ward: An update on the”Skinny Fat” Syndrome and what BMI (Body Mass Index) REALLY means!”

If you have questions, comments or want a good training program to prevent the “Skinny Fat” syndrome and all the health risks that come with it, please contact me so I can help you.

My first real post for 2010 with all the GREAT info and updates I have been promising is coming – CHECK BACK SOON!

Make 2010 your year, get healthy & get strong!



Using Science to Maximize Health & Performance

“Our results begin where other programs end!”



1. Trauma Queen - June 13, 2011

omg – I just realised I am skinny fat! all started when I started living on my own and eating a lot of crap cos I never had the time to cook healthy food

i am beginning to get grandma arms and a flabby tum…i swim a lot but that does not seem to help….I also have a sciatica/scoliosis problem so was worried that weight training might affect my back

I am also a South Asian/rice eater and we guys tend to get paunches all too quickly. I am also a vegetarian

any advice from you will be appreciated!


fitmontclair - June 13, 2011

WOW!! That’s a lot to put into a short reply, but I will do my best.

Swimming is a great cardio exercise but research shows that since resistance is low due to floating in water, you don’t build a lot of muscle or keep muscle tone you have; also the cold temperature has been show to slow fat loss by keeping a layer of fat as insulation against cold water, there may be other effects such as a lowered metabolism due to the cold as well.

Eating healthy is a challenge, the best thing is to adopt an 80/20 lifestyle where at least 80% of the meals you eat you cook yourself and the ingredients must be fresh, single ingredients – NO processed or microwavable food! i.e nothing from cans, frozen boxes, fast food restaurants etc.

You need to add resistance training to increase strength, muscle and metabolism – too much aerobic exercise results in the skinny fat syndrome for the muscle is used for fuel. You want to add muscle to prevent loose, hanging skin and increase your metabolism over a 24 hr period (aerobics DON”T do this!)

Because of the scoliosis & sciatica you need a Physical Therapist who also trains athletes or a VERY knowledgeable personal trainer who can teach NON-compressive exercises that will not injure your spine – I would go to http://www.CHEKconnect.com and find a trainer certified by the CHEK Institute to help with exercise program design. You need to stay away from seated machine based exercises and learn proper training. (seated exercises actually increase pressure in the lumbar spine) .

As for eating rice, you might be o.k. – usually a bloated or distended stomach is the result of posture and food allergies. Correct training can fix the posture and a food allergy test can tell you which foods to avoid because those foods cause abdominal swelling & bloating. (rice is usually hypo-allergenic and o.k. for most people if consumed in reasonable amounts; however being that it is a grain based carb it will hold 3X times its weight in water and this can lead to some swelling & bloating – all grains & starchy carbs do this). The Life Extension Foundation has a great food allergy test you can order and have the results sent to you. http://www.lef.org.

As for being vegetarian, it can be a challenge especially if you are Vegan.You need to get HIGH quality proteins and many plants are deficient in amino acids; you need to learn food combining to avoid any deficiencies. You also need lots of Omega -3 fats (there are now vegan approved Omega-3 fat supplements). Being a vegetarian can also alter hormonal profiles making it hard to gain muscle and lose fat; it can also accelerate bone loss. I would look to athletes/ coaches that are vegetarian and seek their advice or ask them for resources. 2 vegetarians that are hormonally sound, healthy, fit, lean, muscular,and athletic are: Mike Mahler and Jon Hinds. They could possibly provide you with the nutritional information and resources you need: http://www.Mikemahler.com and http://www.monkeybargym.com for Jon Hinds.

I hope this info helps!!

Thanks for reading my blog and I should have all new posts & links to new articles coming soon! Feel free to refer people to my blog or place links to it, just please give me the credit or an acknowledgment if you do place links to my blog (As I give credit to all the people & resources I write about in my posts & articles)

Have a great day!


2. Hermila Ellman - July 22, 2011

I like what you guys are up too. Such smart work and reporting! Keep up the superb works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my website :).

fitmontclair - July 23, 2011

Hi Hermila,

Glad you like my blog! I will do my best to keep up the quality it is just getting harder being “a one-man” operation for I have to write for 3 other publications, another blog and work with all my clients while training to have a life and squeeze in my own training and education.

Feel free to ask any questions, refer people to my blog, and place links where ever you deem appropriate just please give me credit for the post as I always give credit to all the sites & resources I cite in my posts.

Have a great day!


3. Jamie - September 1, 2011

I am really glad I found out about this. I hate how people don’t understand why such a skinny girl is always on a diet. I always tell them I’m skinny but not really!! I am 5’2″ 115-120 lbs and my body fat percentage which is my own calculations so probably not accurate but is about 26%. I’ve always been this way since 7th grade (21 now) but lately I have made my problem 100 times worse by doing a series of crash diets (fasts) out of frustration and desperation.My whole body seems fat! My stomach is bumpy, my arms are flabby and so are my thighs. I feel very jiggly : (
The problem I’m having is I’ve been reading so much online from all different kinds of people who claim to know what they are talking about. Some say skinny fat is the easiest to fix some say its the hardest. The saddest thing I’ve read is that it’s really hard to build muscle while losing fat. I read that it is nearly impossible to build muscle while in a calorie deficit, which is required in order to lose fat. Some places say run everyday, some say stop hardcore cardio completely because it’s bad for something or another. I’m so confused and lost and upset. I need help! Have you heard of the book “The Skinny Fat diet” by Madison Moore? Do you know if that information is any good? Another struggle I have is I am an extremely picky eater so it’s hard to find a variety of good foods I can eat so I usually find one meal I like and will eat only that and after a week I’m so bored of it I either give up eating or go out and get fast food. Soooo hard.

fitmontclair - September 1, 2011

Hi Jamie!

Don’t panic! It can be frustrating but everything is fixable especially at your age. I will reply with some idea,resources later and hopefully get you started on the right track. One crucial thing is that if you are on ANY prescription (and some OTC) medications they can cause FAT gain and some can cause muscle loss (many antacids are anti-androgens and lower the hormones needed to build muscle & lose fat). The WORST drugs are SSRI anti-depressants i.e. things like Prozac. IF YOU ARE ON AN ANTI-DEPRESSANT, DO NOT STOP TAKING IT COLD!!!! You will need to work with a SKILLED M.D. to slowly come off and replace it with a natural alternative. – I really hope at 21 you are not on any meds, especially anti-depressants

Birth control needs to be NON-hormonal i.e IUD, Diaphragm or tell the guys “Wrap it or slap it!” If you can find the book ” The Bitter Pill” How safe is the perfect contraceptive” by Dr. Ellen Grant – you WILL NEVER TAKE A BIRTH CONTROL PILL / INJECTION AGAIN!! (Unless you have the I.Q of a “Door Knob” or Tracy Anderson!)


I would search the FITMONTCLAIR blog and read all the posts pertaining to nutrition, especially food allergies, aerobic training (the myth of), and even the “Abdominal Myth’s” series which has lots of training & nutrition info. Many the posts also have links & references to more source material.

This post IS A MUST READ FOR YOU ! https://fitmontclair.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/what-do-gwyneth-paltrow-runners-swimmers-and-cyclists-have-in-common/

Have a great day and DON’T GIVE UP!!


P.S. 26% Body fat is normal for women, 19 -20% is really lean and athletic. 16- 19% are genetically gifted and usually professional athletes, below 16% are SICK, USUALLY SUFFERING FROM THE FEMALE ATHLETE TRIAD (AMENORRHOEA, LOW BONE DENSITY, AND ANOREXIA / BULIMIA) along with other hormonal & psychological disorders, damaged thyroid (sometimes permanently) adrenal damage & fatigue etc. etc. THE SKINNY, WAIF MODEL LOOK IS DISGUSTING, EXTREMELY UNHEALTHY AND EPITOME OF “SKIINY FAT” !!! It is often achieved through eating disorders, drug use & abuse and asinine things like “smoking” when hungry instead of eating!!!!!

4. Ana - September 2, 2011


I enjoyed reading your blog very much, very helpful, and would like to ask you a couple of questions.

I’m naturally thin, used to be very active, but as of a little over a year now, I’ve cut my exercise routine to almost none….I only exercise when I remember and when I’m in the mood, which it doesn’t happen often at all. But when I exercise (even just once), I lose weight immediately, or at least I feel lighter, anyway. When I was 20, I had my metabolic rate measured and it was up to 85%. Now I’m 24 and went to the same doctor. Back at 20, I weighed 47 kg (but that was an exception, I only weighed that much once, and it was then), lost 3 kg since and never gained back, no matter what. Moved to Germany, where processed foods and junkfood is very widespread, and I made no exception from eating it. Realized that I didn’t gain any weight at all, even if I eat fatty foods and other unhealthy stuff. What I did notice, as a result of blood tests done, is that I tend to have high cholesterol levels, even when I eat more healthy. To be more precise, my cholesterol levels increase very fast, going over the ”normal” limit line. So, I don’t gain weight, ever, it stays constantly the same 44kg, and no matter what, even if I gain 1 or 2 kilos, it goes down to 44 no matter what. BUT, my cholesterol goes over the limit. Does this mean I also fit into this category described here? What could I do to keep my cholesterol levels down, without having to swallow all kinds of pills and stuff?

Thank you in advance! And looking forward to hearing from you!

fitmontclair - September 3, 2011

Guten Tag Ana!

Thank you so much for reading my blog; I am still amazed by the fact that people can read my blog from all over the world. I will be happy to answer your questions but it may take a day or so; it is Labor Day weekend in the U.S. and I am away visiting with friends but I will reply to your comment as soon as I return.

For now these links will provide some quick information & references on cholesterol & health – Primarily THAT CHOLESTEROL DOES NOT CAUSE heart disease: (these are an excerpt from my reply to another reader’s comment)

in case anyone still thinks cholesterol is the cause of heart disease, you need to read this article by Ron Rosedale, M.D. “Cholesterol is NOT the cause of heart disease!” and for even more in depth information on the truth about cholesterol and heart disease please read the works of Uffe Ravnskov, M.D., PhD one of the foremost experts in the world on cholesterol – “The Cholesterol Myths” and “Cholesterol & Fat are GOOD for you!” Both can be found at Dr. Ravnskov’s website: http://www.ravnskov.nu/about_the_author.htm#about

NOTE: If you are interested in the books by Dr. Ravnskov I mentioned as well as others PLEASE SCROLL down to the bottom his page that the link above takes you to; the books are listed AFTER all the good Dr.’s numerous scientific publications (can you say “prolific genius!)

Have a great day!

5. Stephan uterine - November 23, 2011

Looks good, i went ahead and bookmarked it on Digg under ““SKINNY FAT” is NOT a myth – The DANGERS of hidden body fat! FITMONTCLAIR Blog by Advanced Fitness Concepts”. Cheers!

fitmontclair - November 27, 2011

Hi Stephan!

Thanks for the comment & posting up on Digg – I have yet to explore Digg, Linked in, Stumble upon etc.

Glad you liked the post and feel free to send it to anyone you think it can help or post it where it can do some good!

Thanks again!


P.S. Sorry for the delayed reply but your comment was in the spam filter…

6. muscle building for women - November 28, 2011

Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed! Very useful information specially the last part 🙂 I deal with such information much. I was looking for this particular info for a very lengthy time. Thank you and best of luck.

fitmontclair - November 29, 2011

Thanks so much for reading my blog!

Please feel free to add links to my blog, forward it to anyone who it can help! I always credit anyone I use in my blog posts; I believe it is just being polite and appreciative of their work and that is all I ask in return.

If you have any questions you can post them here or e-mail me directly.

If you liked the content of this post you might find more useful info at my FREE article database which has all the magazine & newsletter articles I have written on various fitness related subjects:


Thanks again!


7. bodyweight workout - November 29, 2011

Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your webpage? My blog is in the exact same area of interest as yours and my visitors would really benefit from a lot of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this ok with you. Appreciate it!

fitmontclair - November 29, 2011


Please feel free to add links to my blog, forward it to anyone who it can help! I always credit anyone I use in my blog posts; I believe it is just being polite and appreciative of their work and that is all I ask in return.

You should notice I don’t have any paid advertising or sponsors for my blog. I don’t want anyone to ever think I have been bought off – I may at times appear biased but that is my opinions based on the material in the posts – NEVER BECAUSE I HAVE ACCEPTED MONEY OR AN ADVERTISING FEE! Like I tell my clients, I am on their payroll only, so I never lie and I always try to obtain the best info possible for them for if they don’t get results I am out of a job!

I believe crucial info that people need should be free, so much so that all my workshops & seminars (unless custom designed) are free as are all the magazine & newsletter articles I write.

Here is a link to my FREE article database: http://www.advanced-fitness-concepts.com/a_f_c/articles/

Thanks for taking the time to read & comment on my blog; I hope you can make good use of the info. WATCH FOR NEW POSTS COMING SOON!!!

Have a great day!


8. stress balls for hands - May 15, 2013

Hey there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok. I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to
new updates.

9. david - July 12, 2013

hi there i really dont know what to do and am seeking advice. As the start of this year in february i decided to go about losing weight. it has now been close to 6months and the results are not so great. I started out at 95kg and am now weighing 68kg with still a high bf%. I didnt do weights. all i did was run everyday/skip for 20min which eventually increased to 40min. Now my arms and legs are skinny but i have lots of fat in the belly. waist is about 34/35inches. and i think my body fat percentage is aroun 25%. My diet was also very bad as i was not getting enough protein/calcium and eating more carbs/fats. I have been lifting for about a month and it hasnt been to easy/results have not been that great. I would just like to know should i bulk up at such a high body fat % or should i cut where i do hiit cardio 3 times a week and also lift 3times a week. (i used to run everyday). I have changed my diet now and it is higher in protein and lower in carbs/fats so should i cut or bulk please i really need some advice. Im so sad that my belly fat is not going away, in the low protein diet i never ate junk food just bad carbs i suppose. thanks i hope u respond

fitmontclair - July 15, 2013

Hi David,

I will send you more info ASAP; from quickly reading your email it appears you have identified the problems with your program. HOWEVER, first let me congratulate you on: Choosing to change your life (Many people never get to or past this point!) and that you have lost a significant amount of body fat!!

Do not think about bulking up; think using the term “lean gains” this way you focus on adding lean body mass WITHOUT excess body fat.

I would focus first on the fat loss only because it is VERY hard to add lean muscle on a low calorie diet – “you can’t build something from nothing”. Get your body fat to your goal and then you can add in more resistance training with increased calories to build up the lean muscle WITHOUT fat! Also too much cardio can make it hard to gain lean mass; look at marathoners – almost ALL are Skinny Fat! Train like a sprinter if you want to build a lean, muscular body and the combination of weight training with HIIT for cardio is a GREAT plan!

I will send you some links to books that will have proper nutrition guidelines & weight training programs. You are on the RIGHT path, now we just need to fine tune your program, set measurable goals, and have a plan to follow.

Read the comments from other readers about this post; many have the same questions as you and I have provided answers & links to more info. Also I would read the “Abdominal Myths” series I wrote for my blog; it will answer MANY, MANY of your exercise & nutrition questions


Thanks for reading my blog!


P.S. Feel free to send me any questions you have and I will forward more info ASAP!

10. Leslie - October 28, 2015

I am 5’2″ and am lean and athletic. I have a home scale that measures body fat which is wonderful and extremely accurate. I keep my body fat percentage between 11 and 13 per cent. I focus on calisthenics and resistance training and a moderate amount (1/2 hr to 45 minutes 5x’s a week) of aerobic training.

I was a professional dancer and also have a deep knowledge of muscle training protocols. I am considered ultra lean and in the peak of health. I highly recommend women work hard to attain ultra lean body fat percentages and to build up muscle density evenly over their body.

Your understanding of body fat ratios is not correct. 16% is fine for women, but lower is even better. There are unhealthy downward figures, as the body absolutely requires body fat for essential biochemical processes and to cushion vital organs. For men this downward figure is about 8% and for women it is about 13%. Professional athletes frequently attain body fat ratios far lower, and this is certainly taxing on their systems.

Muscle wasting is indeed tied to high hidden body fat ratios and is to be avoided at all costs. Even without a visible indicator, such as dangling arms or very flabby core, when people appear trim and toned, without muscle tone underlying the skin I have commonly seen body fat ratios of 35% in very thin men with no visible flabbiness! I told these men about how dangerous this was. Until I read your article, I had no idea how right I was!

11. Samantha - April 9, 2016

I am a 30 year old female.
I weigh 126lbs and I am 5 foot 3.
In general I have a slim look. No bulges or extra weight in the mid section hips or thighs however at a fitness class j was told I have 37% body fat.
Extremely obese.

How close to accurate could this actually be?

I will say that a couple years ago during a really depressed phase I stopped eating for the most part and got down to 85lbs. I’m assuming that even with continuous mild exercise and healthy eating my gain back has put my health at risk because it is all fat!! Is this an accurate depiction?

fitmontclair - April 10, 2016

Hi Samantha!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog and comment!

I will do my best to answer your questions please remember I cannot give medical advice (in relation to the depression and weight loss) just some suggestions based on my experience, education, and the published research.

A body composition of 37% body fat is very high, HOWEVER you state that it was done during a fitness class and not as part of a medical exam. After working in the commercial fitness industry for 6 1/2 years as a Fitness Director & Head Trainer I can tell you there are very few accurate methods of measuring body fat in a commercial setting and probably even fewer individuals with the skill to accurately measure body fat!

Here is a rundown of the ways to measure body fat from the most accurate to the least accurate:

DEXA scan – this is done at medical facilities and hospitals to measure your bone density and can also give you body composition results. If your doctor prescribes a bone density scan using DEXA you should definitely ask them for the body composition results as well, for it will be able to tell them lean body mass, total fat mass, bone density and it will give a percentage of total body fat to lean body tissue. The only drawback is it is only done in medical or university settings and there is x-ray exposure like having an x-ray (so you would not want this done very often)

Hydrostatic (underwater) weighing – probably the method most used in published research on body composition, nutrition, and sports performance. Again you need to have access to a university or location that has the proper equipment and a pool, for it requires you to be placed under water and they measure the amount of water displaced by your body and then calculate a total body fat percentage.

Air displacement (Bod Pod) – this is almost as accurate as the first two methods and is done at hospitals, high-end health clubs, Sports facilities, and Spas. The pod measures the amount of air displaced and calculates your body fat percentage without needing x-rays or being dunked underwater.

Skin fold calipers – One of the most common but even in the best settings has an error percentage of 4 to 7%. The accuracy depends on many things: The number of sites measured (The more sites the better the accuracy, for people store body fat in different areas) – minimum number sites should always be 7 anything less is highly inaccurate; The type of caliper is important, good calipers start around $300 and go up to over $1600 for professional medical grade calipers- The cheap plastic ones used in most gyms are HIGHLY inaccurate!; The skill and expertise of the testor is paramount, for if they measure the wrong locations or pinch muscle instead of skin and fat with the calipers it will be an elevated inaccurate reading. Last, The formula they use to determine the body fat percentage from the reading is also important for there are multiple formulas some more complex than others and they should include age and gender into the equation. Also all skin folds should be done a minimum of three times and then an average taken to help reduce the error percentage.

Electronic scales and handheld body fat testers – very inaccurate for they work on bioelectric impedance or basically the hydration level of your body. In that the more dehydrated you are you will get a lower body fat percentage – NOTE dehydration is not good nor is it healthy! There are also many rules to try and standardize these readings which most clubs ignore such as no exercise 12 hours before the test, no drinking fluids with in an hour of the test time etc etc. The scales and devices can give you multiple DIFFERENT body fat percentage readings at all different times of the day based on your fluid levels.

Infrared analysis – The least accurate but one of the most commercially common ways of measuring body fat. Stay away from people using these units! The units are EXTREMELY inaccurate, do not measure enough total body sites, and are not worth your time or money!

There are also new software programs and devices such as Lean Screen and Skulpt – The final verdicts on these are out because they are so new; but they seem to be relatively reliable and cheap enough that they can be done often and possess no risk to you. I use both of them just to get a baseline starting point with clients for even if they were slightly inaccurate it will still show me overtime if the client is losing or gaining in their body fat percentage. They are also not embarrassing / threatening for they can be done fully clothed (in a t-shirt & shorts / yoga pants if needed).

You did not specify who or how the test was done but I can assure you if it was not by a skilled professional and with one of the first three methods it is probably very inaccurate and used as a selling point for their services.

Any fitness professional, supposed nutrition expert, or commercial gym that uses the faulty methods I have listed and promises you a change in body fat percentage on a weekly basis ARE LYING! Total body fat percentage takes time to change and you cannot see weekly changes, especially with the error percentages. (Unless the person is morbidly obese with hundreds of pounds of excess body fat). Body fat percentage should be calculated every 4 to 6 weeks if you are tracking it and if you get to the point of very low body fat (Athletic range) the tests become less accurate and it takes longer periods of time to see a positive change for there is less total body fat for you to lose.

During your depression getting down to 85 pounds at your height is still very unhealthy and you undoubtedly lost a great deal of lean muscle tissue and possibly bone as well. When in a starvation mode like you were, the body uses muscle for energy since it is not being fed and keeps and increases its body fat stores for it is fearing a famine and fat is the last energy source before catabolizing your internal organs for fuel. I would have your doctor order a DEXA scan to check your bone density because of your extremely low bodyweight during the depression and from that you can get the most accurate body composition reading there is.

The good news is with proper resistance training (NOT aerobics or endurance training) you can regain your lean muscle tissue and possibly the bone tissue. It will require a proper resistance training program and nutritional program with adequate protein – for your body cannot form new muscle tissue and bone without complete proteins along with necessary minerals such as magnesium, zinc, phosphorus,, and many others – not just calcium. The only thing is you need to start ASAP, for female peak bone density is formed between ages 18 – approx 28! A good rule of thumb for female protein intake is 0.9 grams / Kg of body weight – 0.9 grams / lb of body weight with eggs and animal proteins – NOT plants being your best sources.

I hope this helped and answered your questions, feel free to ask me any other questions or if you are local to me in NJ contact me for help.

Have a great day!


12. fitmontclair - April 10, 2016

Hi again Samantha!

Here are some links to my other blog posts that have more information on body composition, health, nutrition, and exercise. I have also included links to articles that I wrote for the Town Medical Newsletter on: Training, body composition, and bone density. I hope you find the information helpful.


“thin is in at the cardiac rehab ward – a follow up to the skinny fat syndrome”


“What runners, swimmers, cyclists, and Gwyneth Paltrow have in common…”


“The myth of the fat burning zone”


Why Aerobic does NOT always mean cardiovascular” part 1


Part 2 – “Why we need more sprinting & weight lifting and less jogging


“Increasing bone density” – part 1


Increasing bone density” – part 2


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