As the New Year begins, many of us will resolve to change some of our not-so-good habits. One of the most popular resolutions is to lose weight and get in shape. We believe that if only we were a few pounds lighter then we would look and feel a lot better.
But hey, maybe you are one of the lucky ones…you do not need to lose weight because your doctor said your weight is within the normal range. You can eat the standard American diet and watch your calories so you don’t even have to exercise to stay thin. You do not have anything to worry about, right?
WRONG! There is an insidious and growing problem that is called TOFI, which means thin on the outside but fat on the inside. You are at high risk if you live and eat like the noticeably overweight people in your family. You are TOFI when your weight is normal but your body mass index shows a high ratio of fat to muscle. The fat may not show on the outside but it is there. It is the worst kind of fat too because it is deep on the inside. It surrounds and thrives in your heart, muscle, liver and all your internal organs. The fat interferes with bodily functions and causes disease. TOFI means you are at increased risk for diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver and other complications just like any obese person—only you do not realize it unless you understand TOFI.
This high ratio of fat to muscle is called “overfat”. According to the scientific journal Frontiers in Public Health-90% of men, 80% of women and up to 50% of children in 30 developed countries are overfat. It is caused by our lifestyle choices. We sit too much engaged in some form of sedentary activity—television, computer screens/ games and cell phones. Our bodies were not meant to sit. We were designed for movement and motion. This lack of muscle use combined with a highly processed and fast food diet is the recipe for disaster in an individual’s life.
Many parents send their children to Camp Jump Start because they want to “fix” their overweight child but they do not realize that their thin child is just as at risk. Michala came to camp to lose 20 pounds. Her parents also sent her sister, Kaci, to camp because Michala was afraid to come alone. They did not realize that Kaci was at risk, too. Upon arriving at camp and during the health assessment by a nurse, Kaci’s mom was horrified when the nurse looked at the back of Kaci’s neck. She was embarrassed because she thought Kaci had neglected to wash well. This dark patch under Kaci’s long hair was not dirt. The nurse noted that Kaci had acanthosis nigricans. This is a dark pigment that appears leathery or velvety located usually on the neck, under the arms, in the groin area or over a joint. It cannot be scrubbed off. This was a warning sign that Kaci was heading towards Type 2 Diabetes. She was insulin resistant and her body was not using her blood sugar and insulin normally.
In 4 weeks this dark ring disappeared. Kaci’s insulin resistance had reversed with her new lifestyle. She was eating real food and sleeping well. She was active 60 minutes each day and used her own body weight for a strength training program three times per week. She had more energy and seemed more engaged in life.
Extra fat whether you can see it or not is dangerous. If you now realize that you may be at risk for being TOFI because of your lifestyle choices then we encourage you to do just like Kaci:
- Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
- Participate in a strength training routine at least three times per week.
- Aim for 60 minutes of activity EVERY day that requires you to breathe hard and sweat.
- Food choices are most important in preventing and reversing disease.
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains.
- Eat less animal products including dairy, processed and refined foods.
No matter your size, you and everyone around you will benefit greatly from making healthier habits this New Year. Frankly, your life depends on it!