Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fat on the inside

The most recent news from the diet world was too much for me to handle. Should you therefore be strolling the street and find small pieces of gray matter, be not alarmed for they are merely remnants of my brain, which hath exploded.

After decades of considering my ultimate goal to have the number stated on my driver's license be my honest-to-goodness weight - and actually achieving it - I have recently learned that one's weight is NOT the indicator of whether or not he is overweight. In case you didn't catch that, I shall repeat; not being overweight does not mean you are thin. (In fairness, it is my duty to warn you that this is the part that causes healthy brains to explode; tread warily.)

This revelation is based on a study yanked directly from Superman's Bizarro World. Dr. Jimmy Bell, a professor in London who was lead researcher, sums it up as such, "Being thin doesn't automatically mean you're not fat."

To me, one's weight NOT being an indicator of thinness is illogical; similar to, "having a full head of hair does not mean one is not bald." Or how about, "How much money one possesses has no relationship to one's wealth." Regrettably, in this brave new upside down skinny-is-fat world in which we find ourselves, 'tis true.

After conducting nearly 800 MRI scans to create "fat maps," which show where people store internal fat, Dr. Bell discovered people who maintain their weight through diet rather than exercise are likely to have major deposits of internal fat, even if outwardly slim. "The whole concept of being fat needs to be redefined," said Bell, who found that as many as 45 percent of women with normal BMI scores (a standard measurement of obesity) - and as many as 60 percent of men - had excessive levels of internal fat. The study refers to these individuals as "TOFIs": "thin outside, fat inside."

TOFIs existed even among professional models. Bell commented, "The thinner people are, the bigger the surprise." Yeah, I'd say that falls in the understatement department.

I picture a size zero supermodel strolling down the catwalk weighing a waif-like 79 pounds, able to be blown over by a sneeze. In the back room, Dr. Bell and company are making "fatty fatty two by four" jokes. Can you see how confusing this new reality can be?

If the scale is no longer the determinant of a healthy weight, I envision future health-conscious households having a room loaded with extensive equipment. In addition to a scale and exercise bike, I foresee a food scale, pedometer, stopwatch, BMI chart, body fat percentage calculator, portable MRI machine, hydrostatic weighing tank, DEXA machine (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry), calipers (for those emergency quick pinch tests), and a bioelectrical impedance scale.

Of course, after getting one's life in order to this level of detail, he or she will die of exhaustion. But then again, who knows? Maybe a future study will show that being dead isn't necessarily an indicator of failing health.

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