“You can never be too rich or too thin”
(Wallis Simpson was the American divorcee for whom King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne to marry in 1936; aren’t I well read?!!)
We all know about the dangers of obesity. Being overweight leads to a plethora of health problems and is the leading cause of preventable death in North America (smoking and high blood pressure are number 1 and number 2, respectively). Ergo, losing weight and reducing body fat is a good thing, right?
For most people, the answer is a resounding YES! Exercising and eating well will eliminate the extra weight (although it won’t be as easy as the previous sentence makes it sound…) and reduce your body fat to a healthy level. For men, the goal is to be somewhere in the 14-24% range and for women, 21-31%.
For many people, however, weight and fat loss is taken to extremes. I see this with increasing frequency at the gym, on the local running trails and in the spinning studio.
Now I’m not talking about anorexic teenagers and young women (that’s another post entirely). More often than not, the super-thin people I’m referring to are women in their 40’s and 50’s. Many of these women have body fat percentages well below the 14-20% we typically see on well-trained, professional athletes.
Given how frequently we see images of gorgeous, thin, young women (on television, at the movies, on magazine covers at the grocery store checkout counter…), it’s not surprising that we, as a society, equate low body fat with beauty and youth.
But can you be too thin? YES!
Low body weight (and body fat) has it’s own health hazards. In women, particularly those pre- and post-menopausal, these include;
- reduced immune function (resulting in more frequent and severe viral infections)
- increased risk of osteoporosis
- anemia (leading to chronic fatigue, difficulty in breathing and elevated heart rate)
- hormonal disruption, including disruption of the sex hormone estrogen
- increased risk of heart attack
- early onset arthritis
- depression and thoughts of suicide
- chronic lung diseases, including asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia
If these health hazards aren’t enough to discourage excessive fat loss, vanity (ironically!) should be.
Women who lose too much body fat often look older, not younger, than their biological age Exactly the opposite effect they’re looking for! This is because fat is what ‘plumps’ up skin that has lost it’s elasticity, in particular, on the face, neck and upper chest.
Do you know what your body fat percentage is?
Are your fat loss goals realistic and healthy?