Everyone wants to look better naked, right? It might not be at the top of your personal priorities, but I’m sure that you want it. You might care more about personal performance, or being healthier in general, but in reality, we all have aesthetic goals. Personally, I think that they’re a little over rated, and that our cultural obsession with various physical ‘ideals’ has left us with a self-conscious population who seem to be magnetized to the mirror, exercising ineffectively with minimal results, and growing lazier with the development of each new gizmo and gadget released on TV.
Okay, maybe that’s cynical; am I really calling people who care about their health and appearance lazy?
See, I’m all for proper nutrition and exercise; eating to support your body, and busting ass in some workouts while allowing for recovery and regeneration when necessary. As it turns out, I feel that most people who could be classified as ‘skinny fat’ don’t follow these rules, and jump through hoops to focus on their own singular goal, neglecting their long term health in the process. Trying to make a quick difference without making the necessary changes to sustain a long, healthy life? You’re just being lazy.
When it comes to not being skinny fat, most everyone is going to agree that you’re going to need to pick up some heavy stuff to maintain/gain some muscle on your frame. See, with all the fun you have in your Zumba classes, and despite all of the aerobic benefits of your daily 9 mile runs, that’s going to do very little for giving your body any appreciable level of muscle mass. You’ll lose some weight with your exercise, and may be smaller, but you’re not going to be much leaner. That weight loss will include muscle mass with the fat that you lose, so while you may fit into smaller clothes, and weight less on the scale, measures of body fat will leave you with startlingly high numbers.
If you want to ‘see’ skinny fat, open any of your favorite fashion magazine or check out the ‘cardio’ session of your local gym. The people that are thin, but still soft looking? That’s the skinny fat population. As it turns out, they have a pretty good recipe for attaining this look.
Let me tell you a story about a guy. I see him on a fairly regular basis when I’m at Adelphi; it seems that he’s always in the gym, any time I fill up my water bottle, chat with friends, or actually workout. It also seems that in the past year that I’ve been there, his body hasn’t changed a single bit. After watching his lack-of-progress through the fall, I finally asked him one day over the winter what he was training for. You already know the answer: He wanted to put on some muscle mass, and lose body fat. Say it ain’t so!
His training efforts involved a purely upper body split, that looked something like shoulders, chest/tri’s, back/bi’s, and abs. He also ran 2 miles a day on the treadmill, and did some sort of crunch exercise every single day. Talk about ineffective! What’s worse, is that he thought this type of exercise would help him get passed his poor diet. In his words, “It’s so hard to eat healthy…that’s boring!” Yea, okay.
I decided it would be a good idea to share with him some enlighted resources, to break his addiction to Muscle & Fiction, and BodyBuilding.com. My recommendations included the articles on T-Nation, EliteFTS, and I specifically told him to check out products from Mike Boyle and Eric Cressey.
Why not recommend the best, right?
A few weeks later, I was packing up my gym bag to head outside to run sprints. While I did this, I asked him what he thought of the information he read. “I didn’t really think about working out that way, ya know?” Uh, yea, that’s why I told you to read those websites. “I guess those guys are really good, like, they have a big following.” Yes, because they’re the best at what they do. “It’s just hard for me to change what I’m already doing, ya know?” Um, yes, that’s called being stupid.
Do you remember first learning short division in elementary school? I remember thinking it was the most awesome thing ever. You mean we don’t need to do it one number at a time? Long division worked, but it was inefficient, time consuming, and boring as could be. Now, imagine if you found out about short division, or even using a calculator, but you still insisted that long division was for you. You spent all of your time and energy getting very little work done, while your peers and classmates achieved a lot more with a lot less time investment. Wouldn’t you see a problem there?
Currently, I haven’t seen our nameless friend make any changes in how he’s exercising, and his physique hasn’t changed either. He’s the prototypical skinny-fat male. Being skinny-fat doesn’t discriminate though, it’s easily attainable for both men and women. Since you’ve heard a gym story from school, I’ll now share a story about a female who’s attempting to achieve the same awkward physique. (Please note sarcasm.)
A few days ago, I recieved the following text form one of my friends: “How health is eating nothing but veggie burgers and microwave vegetables every meal? And only drinking water. And not taking dietary supplements. And not exercising. Also no fruit, and no grains at all.” As you could bet, I was ready to jump through the phone and shake my friend. After explanation, he told me that this was his (female) room mates ‘weight loss plan. It sounds healthy right?
Eat more vegetables. Drink more water. Awesome, that sounds good. No dietary supplements? I’m not sure; most marketed supplements are crap, but health supplements like vitamins and fish oil are going to be great for you. Veggie burgers aren’t going to be as healthy as real meat, but that could be a personal preference thing. The worst part, clearly, is no exercise. WHAT?!
The caloric deficit created by the vegetables and patties is going to create weight loss; yes. But without exercise, that weight loss will include substantial amounts of muscle, leaving his well-intended room mate to have a low BMI and high body fat percentage; classic skinny-fat.
If you WANT that soft and lumpy look, then by all means, avoid lifting appreciable weight and scrap solid nutrition practices. You’ll lose weight if you’re in a caloric deficit, and you may meet your weight loss goals. Your physique won’t show off your hard work, and you won’t increase your health while you’re making these changes. To me, diet without dedicated exercise is a cop out; your body is meant to sweat and work hard, and eat a variety of plant and animal products. When you do those, you’re bound to look better naked.