Are You Overfat?

What exactly is “overfat”? Also, could you be thin but overfat?

It’s quite likely that not just overweight folks are overfat. Many normal-weight people are, too. Should we care? Absolutely. Being overfat is linked to major health issues, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Learn what “overfat” is. Find out if you’re overfat, and what to do about it.

Overfat and how it relates to chronic illness

Being overfat leads to big trouble. But it all begins with what we eat, as this triangle from a large new study illustrates. It’s an ugly progression, state the authors. From a poor diet comes “the vicious cycle of overfat, insulin resistance and chronic inflammation at one end, while the presence of chronic conditions resides at the other end.” Credit: Maffetone, Rivera-Dominguez and Laursen.

Are you overfat?

It’s likely.

In a recent study published in Frontiers in Public Health, researchers from New Zealand and the United States determined that up to 90% of men, up to 80% of women, and up to 50% of children in 30 developed countries, including the U.S., were overfat.

These percentages are disturbingly high, higher even than the numbers for people who are overweight or obese.

What is “overfat”?

What does it mean to be overfat, and how does it differ from being overweight or obese? The latter two are simply measures of body weight with no consideration of how much body fat we’re carrying around. Even body mass index (BMI) only considers weight in terms of height.

Overfat is not determined by weight, but by the ratio of our body’s fat mass to muscle mass. The percentage of our body that is made up of fat – and the percentage made up of muscle – is known as our body composition.

Belly fat

You are deemed to be overfat when your percentage of fat to muscle is high enough to risk negative health consequences. The most unhealthy form of body fat is abdominal or belly fat.

The fallout

In a medical news release that accompanied the publication of the study, one of the study’s authors, Dr. Philip Maffetone, asserted: “Excess body fat, especially abdominal fat, is associated with increased risk of chronic diseases, increased morbidity and mortality, and reduced quality of life.”

Overfat & Body Compostion

Two people could be the exact same weight but have very different body compositions. What Is Body Composition?

In the authors’ study, using a triangle graph they created (shown at the beginning of this article), they explained the entire process, beginning with the key cause of excess body fat – a poor diet.

Excess body fat leads to insulin resistance and chronic inflammation, which in turn leads to high triglycerides, high glucose levels, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and belly fat. From there, we sadly progress to diseases and killers like stroke, arthritis, heart disease, polycystic ovaries, pulmonary disease, gout, cancer, type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease, and nonalcoholic fatty liver.

What your bathroom scale doesn’t tell you

Though your bathroom scale may tell you that your weight is normal, if too much of your weight comes from fat and too much of that fat is concentrated in the abdominal area, you may be overfat, and at risk of serious health challenges.

And though the increases in the past three decades in overweight and obesity in developed countries are now leveling off (and that’s certainly good news), the overfat population is continuing to increase, pointed out lead researcher Dr. Paul Laursen of Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand and colleagues.

Summing Up: As a population, we are losing muscle and adding fat, much of it at the waistline.

How to determine if you’re overfat

The authors have a basic recommendation for determining if you’re overfat. First, measure your waistline at the level of your belly button. Then, double that measurement. If the result is greater than your height, you may indeed be overfat.

Bio-Impedance scales

Bio-impedance scales, available online and in many stores nationwide, can also measure total body fat.

DEXA

The gold standard for measuring body fat – and used at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami – is duel energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). It is quick and highly accurate, and X-ray exposure is very low. It provides the most precise determination of both the amount and location of your body’s fat.

Can you decrease body fat?

Absolutely. So, before you allow any bad news about being overfat get you down, know that there’s much we can do. Even though the study’s numbers show that most of us are overfat, this condition is not inevitable or irreversible. We need not be overfat or suffer its consequences.

“Every day at the Pritikin Longevity Center, we see guests making tremendous strides in lowering their percentages of body fat. They see the changes right on their DEXA body comp scans,” says Jamie Costello, MSC, Director of Exercise at Pritikin.

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And they’re seeing changes in the mirror. Their clothes are fitting better. They’re notching their belts tighter. “Most importantly, they’re feeling better,” says Jamie.

“Body fat percentage reduction may be a slower process than gimmicky fad diets, but there are lasting benefits of doing it the right way versus the gimmick diet approach. Multiple studies have shown that people who incorporate proper eating and exercise habits, like the habits we teach at Pritikin, lose fat and keep it off versus people who drop a few pounds quickly from dieting alone.”

Body fat: What’s a good goal?

The following graph divides body fat percentages into various categories. A healthy goal is reaching the “Average” range; even better, the “Fit” or “Athletic” ranges.

Different Levels of Percent Body Fat

Women
Men
Athletes 14 – 20% 6 – 13%
Fitness 21 – 24% 14 – 17%
Average 25 – 32% 18 – 24%
Obese 33% or higher 25% or higher

How to decrease body fat

“At Pritikin,” continues exercise physiologist Jamie Costello, “our guests learn cardiovascular and resistance training programs that build muscle, burn calories, and establish calorie-burning metabolisms. What’s more, they learn to prepare, eat, and enjoy satisfying low-calorie-dense meals that help reduce body fat.

“And it’s not just body fat that decreases. So do many of the problems that excess body fat causes, like high cholesterol levels, high triglycerides, high blood glucose, and high blood pressure.”

Summing Up: Are you overfat?

New research suggests that a great many of us are in fact overfat.

“That’s distressing news, to be sure. But hearteningly, there are steps we can take, like the healthy-lifestyle-change program at the Pritikin Longevity Center, to lose that body fat, and gain a healthier, happier future,” sums up Seth Marquit, MD, Medical Director at Pritikin.

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