“I Feel (Skinny) Fat.”

Don’t you hate hearing someone say, “I feel fat,” only to look up and see that it’s a person who looks really skinny? Before you roll your eyes in disgust or make a snarky comment the next time this happens, let me give you something to think about.

Over the past few months, I have struggled to keep weight on (yes, I said “on”). I’ve chalked it up to unprecedented stress, constant travel, and a number of other factors, all of which have contributed to me dropping about 10 pounds. I actually had to punch an extra hole in my belt so my pants don’t fall off (true story!). For many people, this would be seen as a victory. But, for me, I have to work really hard to keep my weight up at a healthy level (it’s important that I look “fit,” since I run a fitness company!).

Because I did not want to burn any more calories than I was already losing, I even slowed down my workout regimen to a minimal level. I did not want to lose another pound and, as a result, I started to feel the effects of dropping my normal exercise routine—not sleeping as well, feeling the effects of the stress more, being stiffer, losing flexibility, not focusing as well, etc. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I did continue with physical activity, but eliminated a lot of the high-intensity workouts I had been doing).

“Skinny fat” is a real term and is defined as someone “who is under lean but over fat,” but here’s how I look at it. Imagine you have a beautiful car…its exterior is washed and polished every day, the leather seats are conditioned, not a ding or dent to be seen. It looks amazing from the outside. Now, imagine you turn the ignition to turn it on, and it whirs and whirs and whirs, finally turning over. When you open the hood of the car, it’s dirty, with fluids leaking and grease everywhere. It’s never been taken for a tune-up—let alone an oil change—given new brake pads, or had the system flushed out. It’s only a matter of time before something major breaks and the car just poops out. But, you’d never know it from looking at the exterior of the car.

This same deceiving thing can happen with our bodies. Appearing skinny does not mean that someone is “healthy.”

This is what I was trying to express when I said “I feel fat.” I did not mean “I feel overweight” or “I feel obese,” but rather expressed the sentiment that I think many people feel when they fall out of a fitness routine and stop eating the healthiest foods. I felt unhealthy, sluggish, and not my usual self.

So whether you are the weight you want to be, or if you are higher or lower than you want, the important measure is this: how healthy are you? Are you eating right? Are you getting the exercise that your body needs at the intensity that makes you feel better?

And the next time a “skinny” person says “I feel fat,” maybe he or she does and needs some help and support.