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Can a person be thin and fat at the same time?

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

Lisa in Texas asked me whether her macros (the parts of her diet made up of proteins, carbohydrates and fats) were good to lose weight. Although she was slim (49 kg), she had been advised that her body's fat content was high (31%).

Here's my reply:

Firstly, you don’t need to lose weight (assuming you’re a person who is 150 cm or more tall).

However, you would be well-advised to reduce your body fat and increase your lean body mass (muscle). To do this, firstly you need to convince your body that it needs to hold on to muscle and discard fat.

In ancient history, fat was the body’s safety net to provide an energy store in times of famine. In the modern world we don’t need this, but if you don’t convince your body that it needs to hold on to muscle, when you try to lose fat, you’ll actually lose muscle.

In addition to walking, which is excellent exercise, you need to do some resistance exercise that actually works the muscles and will eventually persuade the body that it needs to hold on to muscle instead of fat. If you don’t want to lift weights in the gym, you can do some simple exercises at home that work the muscles, such as push ups, sit ups, crunches, squats, lunges and planks. If you put any of these into your internet browser, you’ll find lots of instructions and videos online to show you how to do these.

For four weeks, maintain your current diet of 1280 calories, with the macros that you’re using now. With this balance, about 47% of your calories are coming from carbohydrates, 25% from protein and 28% from fat.

After four weeks, you should have convinced your body to hold on to muscle, so you can reduce the carbs and increase the protein, so that you can feed the muscles and build more. At that time, you really ought to consider doing some proper resistance training with weights. You should aim to get no more than 40% of your calories from carbs, 30% from fats and 30%+ from proteins.

When I started following this kind of programme in 2017, I was 102 kg and almost a third of my body weight was fat. Now, I’ve dropped to 80 kg with a sustainable food intake and my fat content is only 20%. In that time, I’ve added 6 kg of muscle, so that as well as being lighter, my body is a much better shape (slimmer hips and legs, smaller waist, bigger arms, upper back and chest).

I hope this helps and good luck!

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