Metabolic obesity – the unseen problem

With over two-thirds of UK adults classified as overweight or obese, it is no surprise that a substantial proportion of clients that come for personal training fit into this category. Initially, they’ll want to lose weight and improve their fitness; two easily achievable goals if they stick to a healthy diet and exercise plan.

While fitness professionals will invest most of their time working with these clients, they should actively keep an eye out for a group of individuals who are often overlooked by health and fitness professionals. These are the “skinny fats”; men and women who look fit and healthy on the outside, but who may have serious health problems brewing from within.

Weighing in

Typically, skinny fats – medically known as metabolically obese normal weight (MONW) individuals – partake in little or no exercise, eat a diet high in sugary, processed foods and have very little muscle definition. But because they aren’t classified as overweight, no-one questions their health and many people envy their fast metabolisms and tiny frames.

In the UK, overweight and obesity is a major public concern – it is thought that by 2025, 47% or males and 36% of females will be obese. People who fall into this category are more likely to develop health problems later in life, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers. To be classified as overweight or obese, you need to have a body mass index (BMI) of over 25 or 30, respectively. This is calculated using a person’s weight and height and is commonly used in the medical profession for assessing current and future health risk.

Anyone with a BMI of 18.5 to 25 is considered healthy by many medical professionals. Their risk for developing metabolic diseases is also thought to be lower. While there are many individuals who fall into this category that are healthy, research suggests that solely using BMI as an indicator of health could be misleading.

How much fat?

One useful measure of body composition is a person’s body fat percentage. Quite simply, this is the percentage of the body made up of fat. Athletes or individuals who have a lot of muscle mass will often have a falsely high BMI, but a low body fat percentage. This is because BMI doesn’t account for their increased weight due to the composition of their muscles.

By contrast, individuals with a normal BMI may be found to have an unusually high body fat percentage. These are the MONW individuals, and this is a straightforward way to scientifically detect them. They have little of what we consider to be good for you (muscle mass and bone density) and lots of what we consider to be bad (visceral fat).

Is “skinny fat” really that bad?

Despite looking slim and healthy, MONW individuals are often deficient in certain vitamins due to a poor diet, which can cause fatigue and low concentration levels. They also show traits typically seen in diabetics, such as high blood sugar levels, low cholesterol, inflammation, and high blood pressure. Worryingly, researchers have found that people who develop diabetes who are MONW have a higher mortality rate than obese diabetics. However, because these individuals are thin, their symptoms often go undetected until it is too late.

How to spot a metabolically obese normal weight individual

For fitness professionals, MONW individuals are often hard to spot. This is because, typically, they avoid the gym or any kind of physical activity. While this is an obvious problem for us, it is still important to know the trademarks of a MONW person.

Easily identifiable signs include:

  • An aversion for any kind of physical exercise
  • A diet high in sugary or processed foods
  • Constant sugar highs and lows
  • Bouts of fatigue, low energy, and difficulty concentrating or focusing for extended periods of time
  • Avoiding food high in protein (not necessarily on purpose)
  • A belly that is slightly bigger and out of proportion with the rest of the body

Prescribing a cure

Thankfully, being metabolically obese but normal weight isn’t a disease and isn’t a permanent state. It can easily be altered with a few simple lifestyle changes, and this is where we as fitness professionals come in. Unlike many clients, MONW individuals don’t need to lose weight. Their goal is to change their body composition through safe, effective exercise and alterations in their current diet. This can be achieved through a mix of aerobic and resistance training.

For some, starting out in a gym can be daunting and they will likely make a beeline for the cardio equipment, avoiding the weights section altogether. While aerobic activity should play a small part in their training programme, encouraging the use of resistance machines and weights is essential for building muscle mass. The first few sessions will be the most important. They will need reassurance, guidance and ultimately your knowledge and support. Make sure they understand the importance of supporting an active lifestyle with a balanced diet and the effects that highly processed foods can have on their body.

As fitness professionals, we play a key role in helping fight obesity in this country. Although it has taken a while for the dangers associated with being metabolically obese but normal weight to be recognized, the phenomenon is gaining more attention and the dangers of metabolic obesity are becoming apparent. Hopefully, we’ll see more work being done to promote health from the inside out in the future.

About the author

Josh Douglas-Walton is a health and fitness writer for HFE, a leading provider of personal training courses and fitness qualifications.

Custom Orthotics For Plantar Fasciitis Treatment: What Are The Increasing Risk Causes Of Plantar Fasciitis To Human?

Plantar Fasciitis is the known cause of heel pain. This is a disorder that results in pain in the heel, and at the bottom of the foot. The pain is severe with the first steps of the day. According to, the pain is frequently brought about by bending the foot and toes up towards the shin, and may be worsened by a tight Achilles tendon. Plantar Fasciitis causes stabbing pain with your first step in the morning. The pain will decrease depending on how frequently you move about. The pain may be experienced when you undertake an activity that involves standing for long hours. It’s usual with athletes(runners). Obesity will put you at risk of getting Plantar Fasciitis. The main symptom is a pain at the bottom of your foot. In many cases, the cause is never clear.

  • Age

The truth is; as you get old, your body mechanisms adapt to being slow. They no longer function the same way they did when you were young. That’s why some injuries can get medical attention and heal, yet others take forever to heal, or even never heal. You are most likely to get Plantar Fasciitis between the ages of 40 and 60. Your legs at 50 may not function like they did when you were 30. You need to exert less pressure on them. This will guide you to waking up without pain under your feet.

  • Food mechanics

You may have a unique and different walking pattern from the rest of us. It’s proven that having an abnormal walking pattern can put you at risk of getting Plantar Fasciitis. This is because of the different ways it can affect the way weight is distributed when standing, and put added stress on the plantar fascia. Being a flat-footed person, or having a high arch on your feet contributes to it.

  • Occupation

We all have different occupations that help us make ends meet. Some of these occupations may bring you Plantar Fasciitis as they involve long standing hours. Factory workers and teachers amongst others are at a high risk of experiencing heel pain. Standing on hard surfaces can also damage your plantar fascia.

  • Weight

The planta fascia is sensitive to the pressure you exert on it. Don’t give it more pressure than it can take. Your body mass index should always be stable and match your height. If they don’t meet the required standard, then you’re clearly obese. This will stress your backbone, and eventually bring you Plantar Fasciitis. You can imagine; you’re old, you work in a factory, and at the same time you’re obese! Picture the heel pain you will endure every morning you wake up.

  • Exercises

This disorder is common in runners. Long distance running can contribute to an earlier onset of Plantar Fasciitis. The truth is,  to some, long distance running is their talent and occupation.  Ballistic jumping activities, ballet dancing, and aerobic dance can put you at risk of getting heel pain. Do not overdo these athletic exercises, though they are important to the body. The best plantar fasciitis orthotic insoles are available for your shoes. This is a solution for your athletic shoes.