“Skinny fat” is often used to refer to people who appear slender, but actually hold a lot of fat content on their body. The proper term for it is Metabolically Obese, Normal Weight or MONW.

As the scale isn’t the only indicator of your health, it’s important to consider the wide-lens view and understand if you have any underlying indicators that may cause issues down the road. 

What is it?
MONW is a ranking for individuals who are within the normal range of the Body Mass Index (BMI), but display the negative health symptoms of individuals who struggle with overt obesity.

Now this doesn’t mean that people who are overweight or obese are healthier than people who are at a normal weight. Instead, it suggests that those with MONW have higher amounts of “visceral fat,” which is fat stored in the belly area.

What are the implications?
Visceral fat carries some serious health implications, especially for the heart.

It can coat the body’s organs that can lead to other issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, inflammation and hyperinsulinemia (insulin resistance).

The latter issue is also something to think about because with developing insulin resistance, MONW individuals are at a much higher risk of falling within the “continuum of pre-diabetes to Type 2 diabetes.” 

Cardiovascular disease and diabetes have a strong correlation, not just because of their similar symptoms, but because diabetes is one of the leading causes of heart disease on its own. As diabetes further aggravates high blood pressure, it can lead to circulatory problems where the arteries begin to narrow and the risk of stroke becomes higher.

Should I be worried?
Before reading all these symptoms and overanalyzing your body, it’s important to take note of a few things.

Firstly, the BMI index isn’t perfect. Muscle is has greater density than fat, however the index doesn’t distinguish between fat and muscle. This means that measuring your weight against your height might not be completely accurate depending on your fat to muscle ratios.

Secondly, weight can fluctuate along with bloating. The latter is not the same as visceral fat and may actually point to something different like a food allergy or intolerance.

Lastly, the term skinny fat is a combination of two of the most triggering words out there. For this reason, it’s important to prioritize the science behind it, rather than the societal pressure the word can conjure up. Every person and their respective body has individual needs.  

Start taking action today
Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns. Especially when it comes to any risk for diabetes, taking a look at your diet may be the first course of action. Things such as white flours or protein can be adjusted to better assist you.

While MONW is serious, it isn’t incurable or untreatable. After having a conversation with your doctor, you’ll be able to craft a plan that includes both regular exercise and smart eating to keep you on track.