Does Being Thin Mean You’re Healthy? Not Necessarily!

About a third of all Americans are
overweight, and another third are obese, according to the Centers for Disease
Control. Being overweight is a major risk factor for diabetes, stroke, high
blood pressure, heart disease, and some cancers. It’s also a factor for sleep
apnea, which occurs when you stop breathing for a period of time during sleep,
leading to troubles with concentration and contributing to heart failure.

But does being thin, by contrast, mean
you’re healthy and at a lower risk of developing certain diseases? Not
necessarily, according to experts.

BMI Indicate Good Health?

Body mass index, or BMI, is used to
calculate the ideal weight for your height. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered
normal weight, while a BMI of 25 to 29.9 indicates overweight. Obesity is
diagnosed when your BMI is 30 or higher. However, many experts say that BMI
isn’t a good indication of hidden fat, which increases the risk of serious
health problems even if you look great in your size 6 skinny jeans.

Fat: Normal-Weight Obesity

The European Heart Journal conducted a
study in 2010 that found that up to 30 million Americans may have normal-weight
obesity, which occurs when those with a low BMI have a buildup of fat around
their organs. If you have normal-weight obesity, you’re at the same high risk
of a variety of health problems as those who are overweight-obese. Obesity is
an indication of too much body fat rather than the result of weighing too much.

Normal-Weight Obesity

While your body mass index is a good
indication of whether your weight is normal for your height, it can’t identify
body fat around your organs. Two reliable methods of measuring body fat
percentage are bioelectric impedance and BOD POD.


uses an electrical current to measure the composition of your body. It’s easy
to measure body fat this way, and it’s widely available at health clinics and
fitness centers.

is a machine that uses
air to displace body volume to determine how much body fat you have. It’s also
widely used in health clinics and fitness centers.

Depending on your fitness level, your body
fat percentage should be in the 14 to 31 percent range if you’re a woman and
the six to 25 percent range if you’re a man. If you are thin but have a high
body fat percentage, your goal will be to change the composition of your body
rather than lose weight.

Body Composition

Changing your body composition means
reducing the amount of fat in your body while increasing lean body mass, which
is largely a matter of building muscle. The more muscle you have, the stronger
you are and the better your immune system works. Increased muscle mass also
burns more fat, leading to healthier organs and a lower risk of developing a
variety of diseases.

Eating a healthy diet that includes lean
proteins, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains and working to build more
muscle mass is the best way for someone with normal-weight obesity to change
their body composition and lose the fat that surrounds the organs.

Your Body Fat Percentage

Next time you’re at the doctor or the gym,
inquire about having your body fat percentage calculated. If you’re in the
danger zone, talk to your doctor or fitness expert about a personalized plan
for changing your body composition for better health and a longer life.