I recently attended the International Sport Exercise & Nutrition Conference (ISENC) in Newcastle, where stalwarts of the industry (sports dieticians/ exercise physiologist/ trainers/ sports medics/ cardiologists) meet and share their learning with the rest of the world.
The focus this year at the conference was on the phenomenon of the medical and the weight-loss world reducing human beings to a number on the scale (body weight) and behaving as if there is no other physiological parameter that matters. This has not just been a major disservice to public health but also left many who have taken serious efforts to improve their health disappointed.
And the consensus is that focus on weight loss (or the lack of it) masks many, if not all, of the physiological (not to mention psychological) benefits that exercise and eating right bestows. The improved insulin sensitivity, endurance, strength, stamina, hunger cues, satiety signals, VO2 max, breathing rate, resting heart rate, better kidney and liver functioning to just name a few.
The term for people who don’t lose weight on scale but are otherwise leading a healthy, disciplined life is ‘metabolically fit’. Their lifestyle ensures that they are not at a risk of cardiac or any lifestyle related disease.
One funky term for the metabolically fit are (I love this one) FOTI: Fat Outside, Thin Inside. And the term I love even more is TOFI: Thin Outside, Fat Inside, which acknowledges the fact that losing weight on the scale doesn’t automatically reduce risk of heart diseases, obesity, diabetes etc, it can put you at a higher risk if the methods that led to the reduction were fundamentally incorrect—like starvation, over-exercise, surgeries or pills.