What is Normal Weight Obesity?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 June 2020
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Normal weight obesity refers to a condition where a person’s weight and body mass index (BMI) are considered within a healthy range, but body fat is still high in comparison with lean muscle. This means that even those who are considered thin can have too much fat on their bodies. Much like being overweight or obese, these individuals may be at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

There are special tests available to alert individuals to whether or not they have normal weight obesity. Special scales can be purchased online or at some pharmacies and health centers. These devices send an electrical current through the body to take a measurement of body fat. Other methods, like the pinch test, may be available at certain health clubs. Although helpful at determining those with body fat well above the healthy limit, they may not always be accurate.

While research does suggest the existence of normal weight obesity, more studies are needed to determine the guidelines for being classified in this category as well as to determine the actual long-term health effects. At the moment, BMI is the most accurate way to determine a person’s overall health, although it may not be entirely accurate in those with large amounts of muscle mass. The reason for inconsistencies is because muscle weighs more than fat, so someone can weigh more while still being considered fit or athletic.

The distribution of fat is also important in determining health risks for those with normal weight obesity. Fat deposits on the stomach and middle are more dangerous than those deposited near the hips and thighs. This is thought to be because the middle of the body is where most major organs are found.

Determining the healthiest fat ratio for men and women is also cause for debate. Normally a body fat ratio of 25% to 31% for women and 18% to 26% for men is considered healthy. While these numbers are a good starting place, exact measurements for body fat and health measurements have not been established.

Reducing overall body fat and increasing lean muscle is the best way to avoid normal weight obesity and becoming overweight. This can be done by adding strength training exercises to one’s workout routine. Strength training consists of using free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, and things like sit-ups and pull-ups. As lean muscle increases the overall fat ratio decreases. Additionally, lean muscle burns more calories than fat, so those who are overweight can lose pounds faster by engaging in strength training activities.


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