I’m at normal BMI but still fat. What are the Reasons?

The journey to getting your perfect body is sometimes intimidating. Too many diets and too many experts are out there. Some tell you to focus on BMI. Again, some tell you to focus on how you look in the mirror!

To fit in the healthy weight level of the BMI chart, one needs to follow a healthy lifestyle intertwined with exercise. But, what if there lies stubborn fat even when your BMI says that you are of healthy weight?

“I’m at normal BMI but still fat!” – this statement itself is a horror for people trying to fit in. This is rather confusing to most. However, it has multiple reasons for being this way. Let us dissect if BMI is the standard measurement of weight determination!

What is BMI?

BMI or Body Mass Index is a widely used measurement unit regarding health. One can determine if they are underweight, overweight, obese, or normal basing on BMI. In short, BMI helps to understand if someone is of proper weight following their height.

To determine BMI, one needs to divide their weight in kilograms by their height in square meters. It is an inexpensive and easy method to understand one’s health.

i'm at normal bmi but still fat

But, BMI cannot directly identify the fat proportions of the body. It states the results based on a generalized way. However, BMI might at times fail to satisfy your doubts which include – “I’m at normal BMI but still fat”!

Adult BMI Range

BMI takes an overall look at the weight compared to one’s height. Though the majority follow this range, health professionals look into more factors. According to the BMI –

  • below 18.5 –  underweight range
  • between 18.5 and 24.9 –  healthy weight range
  • between 25 and 29.9 – overweight range
  • between 30 and 39.9 –  obese range

BMI Calculator

Body mass index or BMI is a simple calculation process that one can determine through weight and height. It is an easy process as you can find a lot of automated calculators for calculating BMI.

Calculate Your Body Mass Index

Different applications and software are also there. You are just one click away from knowing your BMI. Also, many websites provide direct links to a healthier lifestyle. One can achieve a better position on the BMI scale by following that.

Other than websites, applications, and software, you can always manually calculate your BMI. BMI calculation has a definite formula. One needs to divide their weight in kg by their height in meters squared.

Skinny yet Fat – Skinny Fat!

We often hear people say – “I’m at normal BMI but still fat”! What does this mean? Well, mostly this statement refers to the state of being skinny fat! People often say I used to be skinny now I’m fat.

Most people do not realize that they fall in the category of skinny fat. It means that the person has a normal BMI and weight but they have more body fat. It is because the ratio of the muscle mass is less compared to their body fat.

BMI cannot be the sole way to determine a person’s health. A lot of us do not worry when we find out that our BMI is normal. We tend to overlook the jiggly fat in our bodies. But, this only creates a fake body image in our minds.

Skinny fat often remains unclear to many as they do not thoroughly go through this concept. The worst thing about skinny fat is the underlying health issues. Researchers noticed that a skinny fat person might have the same health issues as an obese person.

Subcutaneous Fat & Visceral Fat

Appearance is not all that matters! Our body is capable of storing body fat that ordinary people can not have any idea about. The human body normally stores fat in two criteria. One is called subcutaneous fat and the other is visceral fat. These are the layers that make you feel my BMI is normal but I have belly fat.

Subcutaneous fat refers to the visible jiggly fat under the skin. Our subcutaneous fat percentage depends on our genetics and lifestyle. On the other hand, visceral fat cannot be seen or felt. It wraps around the abdominal organs inside the body. Visceral fat can cause chronic diseases.

i'm at normal bmi but still fat

“I’m at normal BMI but still fat” – A statement that speaks volumes! This fat does not always refer to the visible fat in our bodies. It also says about the fat that lies deep inside and causes more harm than we can realize. 

To have a better idea about skinny fat, it is important to know about subcutaneous and visceral fat before you start worrying about ‘why am I normal weight but look fat’.

Importance of Subcutaneous Fat

The top of the first layer of our skin is the dermis. After the dermis comes the epidermis. And, finally, the deepest layer is the subcutaneous fat. This fat mainly has 5 functions to play. They are –

  • Our body stores energy in the form of subcutaneous fat
  • Works as protective padding for internal muscles and bones 
  • Injuries can not impact massively due to the presence of subcutaneous fat
  • Functions as a body temperature regulator
  • It has special connecting tissue that attaches the muscles with the dermis
  • Nerves and blood vessels use the subcutaneous fat as a passageway

What Can Cause Subcutaneous fat?

A wide range of things can cause the formation of subcutaneous fat. A handful of them are-

  • Eating more calories than the number of calories that one is burning
  • An inactive lifestyle that includes desk jobs
  • Having lesser muscle mass
  • Doing little to no aerobic activities
  • Being insulin resistant
  • Having diabetes

Negative Impacts of Subcutaneous Fat

Subcutaneous fat can be troublesome for the body in case the body stores more than necessary. Higher risks of health disorders persist due to this. Some of them are-

  • Heart disease
  • Strokes
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Sleep apnea
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Kidney disease

Importance of Having Visceral Fat

Visceral fat is present in our body because it has a definite significant role. Excessive visceral fat is bad but we need an amount of visceral fat for the normal functioning of our biological processes. Some of them are –

  • Secretes important hormones and chemicals. One such chemical is cytokines.
  • Protects the internal organs in the abdominal cavity.

What can Cause Visceral Fat?

According to professionals, visceral fat is far worse than subcutaneous fat. The formation of visceral fat depends on quite a few things. They are –

  • Visceral fat mainly forms due to the imbalance in the calorie intake and the calorie burnt.
  • In women, menopause can be a reason for forming visceral fat. During this time the muscle mass reduces and fat increases. Many women tend to gain fat in the belly section even if their overall weight does not change.
  • Men might have higher risks of having excessive visceral fat due to their genetics.
  • Consuming alcohol is one of the reasons behind forming excessive visceral fat.

Negative Impacts of Visceral Fat

Visceral fat is the unseen fat that lies deep inside the abdominal cavity. Though it cannot be seen, the health disorders that come along with it are dangerous.

It severely impacts the overall health if not taken care of. Having excessive visceral fat can result in a bunch of issues. A few of them are –

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Dementia
  • Cancer
  • Asthma
  • Liver disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Gallbladder disease 
  • Gout
  • Fertility problems
  • Lower back pain
  • Osteoarthritis

FAQs

How to calculate BMI?

BMI calculation has a definite formula. One needs to divide their weight in kg by their height in meters squared.

Is there any difference in BMI for gender?

There is no different BMI formula for males and females. It is usual for both genders. But, the numbers will not decode the same meaning. The same BMI number in women might refer to more fat presence than men.

Can you be fat with a normal BMI?

Yes, you can be fat even if your BMI range says you are not! BMI does not consider the fat distribution of the body. It focuses on the overall generalized concept of body image.

But, there is also a difference between being obese and chubby. Do not start any hardcore diet for the latter one.

Does BMI give the most accurate results?

Though BMI is a widely accepted form of weight calculation, it does not give the most accurate results. It does not take into account a few major factors.

Muscle mass, the density of the bones, and overall body composition are important in this regard. Also, racial differences can give different results. So, BMI fails to give the most accurate results.

Why do I weigh a lot but still look skinny?

Dense muscle tissue and bone weight can make you weigh more. People with more bone density generally weigh more than others. So, you can look skinny but still weigh more in the weighing machine.

i'm at normal bmi but still fat

Conclusion

Everyone around the world depends more or less on BMI to determine the state of their health. But, it does not always perfectly determine if someone is lean, overweight, or normal! “I’m at normal BMI but still fat” – is a statement that is enough to prove it.

It is important to know about the visceral fat and subcutaneous fat percentage in your body. Next time remind yourself to go through body composition testing to get more appropriate results!

Rubab Sikandar

I am Rubab Sikandar, and I have done MPhil in food and nutrition. I am a professional dietician and content writer. I always try to deliver the best content to the readers. It's my passion to write on medical, health and fitness. Sharing is caring so; I always share what I learned in my academic career.

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