Home HealthTopics Health Centers Reference Library Research
Join us on Facebook Join us on Facebook Share on Facebook

Obesity and Weight Management

Fat but skinny

03/21/2007

Question:

I am a 47 year old small-med boned 5`8" female who is apple shaped. I, of course carry my weight around my mid section. I do understand that proper diet and cariovascular exercise is the only thing that will help to lose that belly fat. This is my situation. I quit smoking 3 months ago (Yahoo...way to go Ellen) so I put some weight on. I tell everyone at work that Ive gained 10 lbs because my pants are so tight that I can hardly breath in them. You can see Ive gained in the mid section, but no where else (of course.) However the scale says Ive only went from 148 to 151. (I have shrunk one inch since I was younger...dont know if you need to know that or not.) I dont understand why the scale doesnt go up much when I know Ive put weight on. Do you have any solutions to this dilema of mine? Thank you for reading this.

Answer:

Congratulations on quitting smoking as you are on your way to better health. However, many people find that they gain weight (5-10 lb during the first year) after quitting smoking. Studies have shown that there are several reasons for gaining weight: #1 is because reaching for food replaces the urge for reaching for a cigarette and #2 is because smoking tends to increase metabolism such that quitting makes metabolism return to the slower rate of metabolism prior to starting smoking. Therefore, weight gain is highly likely with quitting smoking.

In your case, weight gain in your waist is most likely due to your body-type's propensity to distribute excess weight in the waist. However, given your age and the fact that you are likely either beginning or in menopause, your decreasing estrogen levels make excess weight more likely to distribute in the abdomen rather than the hips or thighs.

I feel that the scale has only increased slightly because fat weighs less than muscle, so changes in fat will show up less on the scale and more in your clothes. The best solution is to increase your muscle mass with regular exercise. Exercise (both moderate cardiovascular exercise and weight lifting) will both reduce fat and increase muscle mass so that your clothes will fit better. Exercise will also strengthen your bones which is important as you enter menopause.

Hope this helps.

For more information:

Go to the Obesity and Weight Management health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Jennifer Shine Dyer, MD, MPH Jennifer Shine Dyer, MD, MPH
Former Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University