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Overweight vs overfat

Published:Tuesday | April 3, 2012 | 12:00 AM

ACCORDING TO the World Health Organisation, for the first time in the history of mankind, there are more overweight than underweight people on the planet.

Most of us by now are well aware that there are many health problems associated with excess body fat. Health-care providers everywhere are encouraging people to try to get to their ideal body weight. But as the obesity epidemic escalates, it has become clear that your body shape and body composition are actually more important than your body weight.

Body shape

As individuals, we all have our own unique shapes and we should recognise and appreciate that. But there is one part of the body where the accumulation of excess fat is a medical disaster. Fat around the waist and upper body is called truncal obesity and the more truncal fat you carry the greater your risk of a long list of disorders: type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, circulatory disorders, stroke, elevated cholesterol and tryglycerides, fatty liver disease, gall bladder disorders and even some cancers.

Your scales can be misleading. Even the much touted measure of obesity the Body Mass Index (BMI) is unreliable. A recent study revealed that over 60 per cent of men with a normal BMI had truncal obesity when their bodies were scanned using MRI technology. This is typical of the seemingly thin male (or female) with the big belly.

Men with a waist measurement greater than 39 inches, and women whose waistlines are more than 34 inches, have a more than 500 per cent increase in the risk of many of these problems. Our ladies (and men) will be relieved to know that fat on the hips and buttocks is not considered medically harmful. As my Ounce of Prevention song declares, "the fat around your waist will shorten your life in a haste".

Body composition

In addition, your body composition is also of more importance than your body weight. In other words, the ratio of fatty tissue to lean mass (muscles, organs and bones) is critical. The key measurements when evaluating your body composition are your percentage body fat and your lean body mass. Some people may be even underweight but overfat.

Simple devices are available to do these measurements. They use a process called bio-impedance by which a tiny electrical signal is passed through the body to analyse its composition. A computer readout of your body-fat percentage, truncal fat, lean body mass and even an estimate of your biological age is provided. The test is safe, easy, inexpensive and readily available from many wellness practitioners and coaches.

Here are some simple guidelines on how you can change not just your weight, but, more important, your body shape and composition:

Personalise your programme

In correcting obesity, one size does not fit all. Because each body is unique with regard to lean body mass, body fat percentage and metabolism, you can optimise your weight-loss programme by having these measurements done.

A trained weight-loss coach can with these measurements calculate the details of your ideal fat-loss programme for you.

Power up with protein

Your lean body mass (your non-fat weight) will tell you exactly the amount of protein you will need to eat each day in order to change your shape and weight while feeling great and satisfied. Healthy, convenient and economical protein foods are used to help you achieve your goal.

Protein meal replacement shakes are useful to make it easy for you to personalise your protein intake. To date more than 40 different published medical investigations have demonstrate that good meal replacement shakes are extremely safe and effective for weight and fat loss. The shake is an important part of the extremely successful cellular nutrition programme I use for fat loss and weight management. Fish, lean organic poultry, beans, seeds and nuts are other useful protein choices.

Prioritise fruit and vegetables

Health authorities worldwide are now recommending that we consume more fruit and vegetables than ever before. For optimal health, men should eat nine or more and women more than seven servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Medical research continues to demonstrate that plants, especially fruit and vegetables, contain a large number of powerful health-enhancing substances. Indeed, fruit and vegetables, along with adequate healthy protein, are key to healthy fat loss.

Promote a healthy lifestyle

Do not focus on a quick-fix scheme as it is also essential to incorporate healthy-lifestyle practices into the programme. Particular attention should be paid to exercise and stress management as these will greatly facilitate weight control while enhancing overall health and well-being.

Exercise stimulates your metabolism to increase the burning up of stored fat. It also provides so many other physical and mental benefits. Start slowly with your exercise plan, aiming to get up to 30 to 60 minutes, four or more times per week.

Remember that stress is not the things and circumstances around you. Those are called stressors. Stress is what is happening inside you. It is your inner response, your reaction to those external stressors. Many self-help stress-management tools are readily available. I particularly recommend yoga as it wonderfully combines exercise as well as stress relief.

A great support system is available to provide all the necessary information, motivation and follow-up you need to lose that excess fat. Weight-loss coaches are available all over the island and the world.

You may email Dr Tony Vendryes at or listen to 'An Ounce of Prevention' on POWER 106FM on Fridays at 8 p.m. His new book 'An Ounce of Prevention, Especially for Women' is available locally and on the Internet.