Everyone has that one friend — the one who eats to their heart's content but never gains an ounce. Meanwhile, you feel like you gain five pounds just stealing a glance at a hamburger! My childhood best friend was like that, much to my chagrin. Anyone who hadn't witnessed her eat might be tempted to say that she was thin because of her diet, but she would sometimes eat a bag of Sour Patch Kids as a "meal." One time, I watched in awe as she chowed down on a "salad" made up of one part romaine lettuce, two parts shredded cheddar cheese, and two parts French dressing — it was nothing more than a red lake of dressing with bits of green and orange debris floating in it. Clearly our definitions of "salad" were quite different, as were our perceptions of a balanced meal.
I wondered for years how she could eat so poorly and yet never gain weight like I did. In addition to her innutritious diet, she was very sedentary, with no regular exercise routine, so I finally concluded that she could only attribute maintaining her body-type to one thing: luck. My friend had won the genetic lottery. She was blessed with an extremely fast metabolism that I couldn't match, even with diet and exercise.
However, burning through calories more quickly than your average Joe doesn't equate to health.
More information is coming out about how thin people can actually have more fat stored in the body than they imagined. It seems contradictory but looks can be deceiving! The "skinny fat" phenomenon is apparently quite common. A 2008 study found that one-fourth of adults in the United States with normal weights still had some marker of an unhealthy heart such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. In addition to this, visceral fat found around major organs, rather than subcutaneous fat, which is just below the surface of the skin, is linked with increased risk of heart disease and cancer. The visceral fat goes undetected in people with normal BMI and weight, making it a silent killer.
When examining thinness with actual health in mind, it can sometimes be more of a curse than a blessing, especially if maintaining a good diet and exercise isn't part of your regimen. Looking fit can feel great if that's your goal but simply looking the part doesn't indicate a health-conscious person. We become healthier through making better choices, not our appearance, so the next time you find yourself wishing you could eat whatever you want and fit into size 00 pants, remember that size and weight don't define our health. Our actions do.