The hollow vanity of being skinny fat

And why even seemingly slim people must exercise and watch what they eat and drink

June 18, 2018 12:38 pm | Updated 12:38 pm IST

Slim illusion  Your weighing scale doesn’t have all the answers; (below) A body composition analysis machine

Slim illusion Your weighing scale doesn’t have all the answers; (below) A body composition analysis machine

As someone who is slim(ish), it is terrifying to go for a check-up where they’ll delve deeper than height-weight-BMI-BP. At an executive medical check-up, you will find me sitting, reading a book, in much the same way girls who can wear body-con dresses walk into a party.

The Smart Metabolic Anti-Aging Centre, on the Max Saket premises in Delhi, takes clinical advice a step further. They’ll tell you which way you’re headed, health-wise, so you can right the wrongs (often of youth and all its slothful, OD-ing behaviour) before it all shows up as disease. A series of non-invasive tests that are predictive help them do this. So that slim exterior may really be a cover-up for what’s really going on inside.

First up, the body composition analysis (₹650). You stand on a machine, put your hands on its arms, and you have an almost-instant score. I have an InBody score of 68 on 100. I’m expected to be at 80. (Gulp).

My protein and water are borderline, and my excess energy is stored in fat (21% — the range is 12.7 to 20.4). The good news: If I walk or do yoga for 30 minutes a day, I will lose 129 kcal; for a swim or jog it’s 226, and if I play squash (never happening) it’ll be 324. Those who have different parameters will burn fat at a different rate. But, says Dr Nidhi Gupta, a consultant with the clinic, it’s not about calories in and calories out, because hello, my visceral fat is at nine. That’s the fat you can’t see, but cunningly clings to the outside of organs in the abdomen and appears only to embarrass, in such tests. It should be no higher than five. “Why,” I ask indignantly, as only someone who has not been told off about their weight forever. “Because after 30, there is a slow deterioration,” she says. “Our visceral fat is directly correlated to insulin resistance.”

We go on to ThyroFlex (₹1,900) that looks at thyroid. The assistant puts a sensor on your hand which is hooked up to a computer. She uses a plunger (a hammer-like device) to give you a little knock around the inner part of the elbow joint. “This tests how fast your body correlates to external stimulus,” says Gupta. When the plunger hits, the signal goes to the brain and the brain tells the index finger to go up. It shouldn’t take more than 120 milliseconds — 150 at the most. Mine took 202: sub-clinical hypothyroidism. “No reason to be alarmed,” says Dr Gupta, advising me to eat iodine-rich foods (along with copper, zinc, selenium). The aim of the anti-aging clinic is to look at ageing both inside and out.

Then there’s the OligoScan (₹5,100) that looks at minerals and heavy metals in the body using spectrophotometry. Simply put, it’s like mining, where you send radiation into the ground, to gauge whether there’s iron ore down there. I’m relieved that nothing’s in the red, but aluminium is a little high. I’ve banished foil, but the good doctor says the effects of this are slow. “We are talking cell metabolism; it can take years to show,” she says. Sulphur, phosphorus and magnesium could be better, but no cause for worry.

Then there’s the ABPI (₹1,250), the ankle brachial pressure index that looks at the arterial pressure in both lower and upper limbs. You lie down, a blood-pressure cuff is put on both your ankles, as well as one arm, and the machine does the tightening thing that docs do manually. Thankfully, I was okay on this, but those who smoke, the obese, and those who stand a great deal are at risk for blockages. As for me, I binged on beer and pizza that night. The next day, it was back to yoga and walking — this time, with feeling.

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