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Skinny Does Not = Fit


Woman 3 ExercisingOne of the advantages of working for a large corporation is the extra perks that come with it. When I worked for HBO Sports a few years ago (a division of the Time Warner media conglomerate), I was able to use the company gym for very small fee. If my memory serves me right, H.R. deducted about $10 a week from my paycheck, and for anyone who has lived in New York City, you know that is a (cha-ching) bargain!

Before obtaining official member status, they had to assess my physical fitness level. It wasn’t a matter of passing or failing (thank goodness!), but they did need to gauge each employee’s capabilities in such categories as cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength and flexibility. After taking my blood pressure and measuring by BMI (a/k/a my muffin top), they put me to work. I was asked (required) to engage in a series of exercises that I haven’t attempted since my days at Fifth Avenue Elementary School. (And yes, that was a very long time ago.) The “test” included such basics as push-ups, sit-ups and leg lifts. I’d love to boast that I knocked out 100 of each in under three minutes, but since I’m a terrible liar (and apparently, a terrible sit-upper, push-upper and leg-lifter), let’s just say that I never hit double digits on any of those moves.

Pathetic, right? Well, if you’re picturing an overweight out-of-breath female lying on the floor, struggling to wiggle herself into a upright position, you’d be only half right. (The out-of-breath wiggly part is where you’d be correct.) But I’m not overweight, and in the spirit of sharing, I’ll tell you that at the time, I was 34 years old. I’ve gone through four birthdays since that (humiliating) incident, but at 5’0”, am the same weight (103 lbs.) and size (O) as I was back then. Here’s my point. Thin does NOT = fit.

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Sure, I could still buy my clothes in the Juniors Department and was usually fairly pleased with the number on the scale, but truth be told, one’s body composition or body fat is a better barometer of risk and healthy lifestyle than body weight. I had spent too many decades basking in the delight of fatty, sugary, salty foods and was completely OUT OF SHAPE. Growing up, I was shy and uncoordinated and could never bring myself to participate in team sports and hadn’t discovered any form of real exercise until my early 30’s when I stumbled upon a love affair with the treadmill. But like most relationships, that too started out a little rocky. I would half walk/half run while holding onto the bar because I had no balance or stamina. In addition, I was my energy level was six feet under and I was always feeling drained and sluggish.

People often assume that a thinner person is automatically healthy (not true!), and I often hear comments such as, “Please – look at you. You don’t have to worry about your weight”. I appreciate the compliment, but am also quick to inform them that I’m no different than anyone else and looks can be deceiving! I’m not one of those “I’m soooo fat” women, but I do have my problem areas (a Buddha belly, upper arm jiggle) to tend to as well.

I know thin(ner) women who smoke 2 packs a day, swig beers like every day is a frat party, and consider walking to their car a ‘workout’. (Do you really think every supermodel strutting the catwalk is truly an example of a healthy being?) On the other hand, I also know people who – although they are a bit heavier who run faster & longer distances than me and regularly participate in marathons and triathlons, further proof that “slim” and “in shape” are not necessarily synonymous. Regardless of what the numbers (on the scale, on your clothes labels) say, it’s important to set goals that will not only make you “look good” but have you “feeling good” and that’s the truth!

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About the Author

Hi there! My name is Susan Gernhart and after spending my entire life in New York, I moved to Tampa, FL in May 2009. Speaking of changes, I fulfilled a lifelong dream by transitioning to a freelance writing career full-time in winter 2010 (having spent most of my career in the sports and entertainment industry) and have been working 7 days a week ever since! I've been published in several different outlets and have met some incredible people/subjects along the way, so I'm not complaining. I'm far from a health & fitness expert, but love writing, running, and snacking (!) and I look forward to contributing, learning and sharing on this site. Check out my work at www.susangernhart.com - thanks!

Community Thoughts (16)

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  1. GaryNo Gravatar says:

    Your article is so true, some people just don’t gain weight. This is often confused with In shape, but the body can not improve without exercise and as we get older we do less. Some type of fitness with resistance is the best, but jogging and fast walking for 20 mins a day can make a bif difference in ones energy/fitness levels.

  2. Mark FreemanNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Susan,

    You are spot on about weigth compared to fitness. Same thing with many other health issues – people think if you cannot see it immedaitly then it must not be a problem like the lungs of a smoker even after he has quit.

    The most important thing is to know that you are healthy – your body shape will sort itself out :)

  3. DennyNo Gravatar says:

    Great article. I plan on sharing it with many of my clients. Too many people are focused on the scale, the scale, the scale. Some of my fittest clients are a little overweight, and conversely, some of my lightest clients are extremely unhealthy and have dangerously high body fat percentages.
    Fitness and health are about a lot more than just bodyweight!
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. DianaNo Gravatar says:

    Oh so true! People tell me all the time what do you worry about your so skinny but that doesn’t mean i don’t have a belly or a muffin top… I mean one thing is skinny another thing is Lean and fit. I am going to gym and get criticized because the girls don’t see why i am going. Anyways great article thanks for the inspiration!

  5. EllenNo Gravatar says:

    This is so true!! I have many friends who eat a lot but never gain weight. I think they naturally have a very good digestive system or high metabolism. To be frank, I’m quite envious of them but then again, I think it’s important to have a healthy lifestyle of balanced diet and regular exercise.

  6. I totally agree with you. Being skinny does not mean one is fit or healthy. BMI or weight composition is really the truly measure of a person’s true health. I know of skinny people who have had heart attacks.

  7. wymettoNo Gravatar says:

    I can’t imagine living in the big NYC and pay that kind of money – I know a lot of you come down to our beautiful south and buy our big houses – because your gym monthly cost is the same as a weekly cost here? oh man…..keep working out!!

  8. Tiny MusclesNo Gravatar says:

    I agree, people think being skinny means your body is in good shape.. little do they know

  9. Dennis BlairNo Gravatar says:

    There was a study recently that showed “skinny” people who ate like crap had close to the same amount of visceral fat to those who are considered overweight.

  10. This post is right on the money and it leads into issues I have with the body mass index (BMI).

    The BMI (in conjunction with other parameters) is supposed to be an indicator of a persons overall health, yet it considers a 6’5″ 280 lb athletic male, who exercises regular, eats right and has less than 15% bodyfat, as being obese.

  11. My brother in law is what you call an ectomorph (tall and lanky). He eats like a horse and eats whatever he wants without gaining any weight. Well, wouldn’t you know his cholesterol is through the roof? You wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at him.

    On the other hand I had a coach in high school who was a “athlete in younger days, got tubby in older days” but he could make you feel like a fool come fit test day cause he could do more push ups than you and run a mile in around 7 minutes and 15 seconds. Not nearly the best possible time for a mile but to us he was “fit as” for his age and the fact that he defied what a “fit” person should look like.

  12. Doreen ZelmaNo Gravatar says:

    I felt like you were describing me in this article. You body type has little to do with actually being fit. I, like you, developed and early love for running (initially on a treadmill). I also moved from New York, to Austin, Texas, where I can run outside easily all year long.

  13. MiaNo Gravatar says:

    I agree, being skinny doesn’t mean fir or healthy. Don’t be discouraged the first sessions are the hardest, but soon everything will become more simpler and easier. It’s important that you made the decision to go to a gym.

  14. People think because a women wears a size 0 or a guy has a 32 inch waist that they are in shape. I remember in high school my cousin who was about 250+ could run the mile in better time than most of the people at our school. Of course he was overweight but they were in horrible shape.

    Skinny arms and legs doesnt mean you have a flat stomach and dont have a muffin top or potbelly. Some people just dont look like they have gain weight but take them to the beach where it all can hang out and its a different story.

    Great article Susan! How do you like Tampa? I lived there for about 6 years before moving to S. FL. Keep up the nice work.

  15. SimonNo Gravatar says:

    Skinny definitely does not equal fit.

    I know many “skinny fat” women whose muscles are weak and puny and they couldn’t in a million years take the gruelling training schedule that our local women’s rugby team have.

    And some of those rugby ladies ain’t small!

    Loved the “BMI aka Muffin Top” comment too :)

  16. AnisaNo Gravatar says:

    Did you use skinny fast pills , I am not a patient with obesity or the problem of obesity or overweight. But because one of my friends that this weight is the problem, and ask me the tips: how to reduce obesitywithout skinny fast pills, so that Google dug way to lose weight quickly, naturally healthy, great, nice and simple.
    Although for some people, the physical is not everything. But in general, people tend to compete for a slim and trim body. And in fact many people who have problem with obese. People who are more overweight, they feel inferior. That makes people want to be able to reduce their body weight. Who does not feel happy and proud to be a slank and healthy?. Now there so quick way to lose weight without skinny fast pills

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