We all have that one friend that can eat anything and stay skinny right? You’ve heard this before… “Why do I gain 10 lbs. by just looking at a cupcake and Becky over here can eat whatever the heck she wants and still look like a Victoria Secret model?!” Fast metabolism, right? Genetics, right? She’s lucky, right? Well, maybe according to you, but just because she’s slim and looks healthy on the outside doesn’t mean it’s the same story on the inside. In comes the term “TOFI”.
Have you heard of a TOFI before? It’s recently new to me, but it stands for (T)hin on the (O)utside, (F)at on the (I)nside. People who are coined “skinny fat” can also fit this description. What’s the deal here? We’ve been led to believe that only someone who is fat or overweight on the outside is in danger of having health problems, if they don’t already, and that those who look thin and healthy on the outside have nothing to worry about, even when they snack on junk all day and don’t gain an ounce of fat (well, at least the fat that you can see).
There are two types of fat: subcutaneous and visceral. Subcutaneous fat is the fat that we can see. It’s the layer of fat underneath our skin that we can pinch and tells us the percent body fat we have. But the other fat, visceral, is the kind we can’t see by just looking at someone. It’s the fat that surrounds vital organs, such as the kidneys, pancreas, heart, and liver, while also being stashed away in muscle tissue. Only until you get an MRI or Dexa Scan can you accurately know how much of this fat is built up around your organs, and I’ll tell you, it’s a good idea.
Visceral fat is that harmful fat that can contribute to inflammation, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and high blood pressure. It’s also believed that visceral fat produces more hormones and protein than its subcutaneous counterpart, which could affect insulin levels and trigger the start of type II diabetes. This fat can also lead to cancer and other diseases by producing inflammatory markers that circulate within the bloodstream. Aren’t those diseases the ones killing our population? You bet. This harmful visceral fat is metabolized by the liver, which then converts it into cholesterol. If too much cholesterol is circulating within the blood (especially LDL), it can make it’s home on your arteries and around your heart. It was originally thought that only the overweight and obese needed to worry about visceral fat build up, but skinny people, beware. Just because you’re “lucky”, eat whatever you want, aren’t physically active, and never gain any weight, doesn’t mean the inside of your organs and heart aren’t building up with visceral fat.
Here are some things that will likely increase the amount of visceral fat within your body:
- Poor diet and nutritional practices (Snacking on sugar and processed foods, never eating a hearty nutritious meal, and being nutrient deficient consistently – eating empty calories.)
- Lack of physical activity (Exercise has been shown to decrease visceral fat.)
- Elevated cortisol levels (From being constantly stressed.)
- High alcohol consumption
- Being “apple shaped” (People who retain/gain most of their fat around their abdominal area, while not gaining much weight anywhere else.)
Here are some things you can do to decrease or prevent visceral fat build up:
- Eat a well balanced diet (Complete protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables.)
- Exercise (Studies show that just 30 minutes of aerobic activity three times per week can reduce visceral fat by 25-60 percent.)
- Keep processed foods and empty calories to a minimum
- Keep alcoholic drinks to minimum
- Get enough sleep
- Avoid crash dieting
Train hard and train smart.