7 Myths about Body Fat
1. If you stop exercising, your muscle turns into fat.
People who lifted weights in their 20s and 30s often worry that their hard-earned muscle will turn to flab as they age, but that’s simply not physiologically possible. “There is no scientific process in our body that turns muscle into fat,” says Dr. J. Shah, a bariatric physician and medical director of Amari Medical in Scarsdale, N.Y.
2. You can target where you want to lose fat.
Blasting fat from a specific area of the body — such as doing crunches to flatten your abs — isn’t a realistic way to trim down. The only way to reduce body fat in any part of the body is reduce it everywhere by losing weight and improving your overall fitness through changes in diet and an exercise regimen that includes regular cardiovascular workouts.
3. The lower your percentage of body fat, the better.
The “ideal” body fat percentage for any adult varies depending on factors like age, gender, exercise level, genetics and bone structure. In general, for adults over 50, a target healthy range of body fat is 20 to 25 percent for women and 10 to 15 percent for men. Generally, women with more than 32 percent body fat and males with more than 25 percent are considered to be at higher risk for heart disease and other conditions.
4. Middle-age spread is inevitable.
It is only inevitable if you don’t make changes to keep up with your changing metabolism. As we age, our metabolism slows — about 5 to 10 percent per decade — due to hormonal changes and the fact that our decreasing muscle mass reduces our caloric needs. If you eat like you did in your 30s but do not at least maintain the same level of physical activity, you will gain weight, says Jennifer Sacheck, Ph.D., associate professor of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and coauthor of Thinner This Year.
5. Cellulite is not “regular” fat; it’s worse.
Cellulite, the dimply skin often found around the thighs and buttocks that looks somewhat like orange peel, may appear different than fat on the rest of your body, but it’s one and the same. “Cellulite is ‘regular fat’ except for its appearance,” Sacheck says,
“which manifests itself mainly in the abdominal and pelvic regions, including the rear, with fibrous connections just below the skin’s surface, which gives it a dimpling appearance.”
6. Skinny people don’t get diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes can affect anyone, regardless of weight. (In fact, a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that people with normal weight who are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes face a mortality risk twice as high as overweight people with diabetes.)
7. Weight is the most important risk factor for health.
Smoking, heredity, a sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure and other issues also increase our risk of early mortality and heart disease. As much as having a normal weight with those risk factors is potentially dangerous, carrying extra pounds with an otherwise healthy lifestyle may not be as bad as it seems. “Just as people can be ‘skinny fat,’ some individuals can be ‘fit and fat,’” Sacheck says.
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