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THE “SKINNY” ON BEING STRONG: EMBRACING MUSCLE AND HEALTH FOR LONG TERM GAINS

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The idolization of a skinny physique for women, often influenced by Western beauty standards, has promoted a society that values short-term weight loss and slimness over strength and overall health. To achieve this, many people put their long-term health at risk for short-term gains, unknowingly and ironically, making it harder to sustain a lean physique long term. 

In this article, we will explore why the emphasis should be shifted from skinny to healthy to achieve long-term success, the significance of gaining lean muscle to increase basal metabolic rate, and why diet foods are not helpful with long-term maintenance.

Strong vs. Skinny: Shifting Perspectives
Prioritizing strong physiques, rather than ultra-lean physiques, encourages a focus on building a healthy and functional body, with the bonus of increasing muscle mass and decreasing body fat.

By increasing our muscle mass, we directly increase our basal metabolic rate. Our bodies require more calories to sustain the new muscle mass on our frame, which allows us to diet with more ease, or increase our caloric intake while in maintenance. 

Simply put, we can adapt our metabolism to a higher caloric intake over time, which is directly inverse to the effect of short-term weight loss achieved via highly restrictive diets or “quick fixes,” resulting in negative metabolic adaptations.

The Importance of Gaining Lean Muscle: Boosting Metabolism and Health
Muscle tissue is metabolically active, meaning that the more muscle mass one has, the more calories their body burns at rest (also referred to as their basal metabolic rate). This is particularly beneficial for individuals looking to manage their weight and improve their body composition, or fat to lean muscle ratio.

Maintaining a moderate or high caloric intake during maintenance periods is ideal for overall health and vitality, but it also allows for the flexibility/option to pursue fat loss through cutting (a fixed period of dieting) without dropping calories extremely low and/or pushing cardio to extreme measures in the pursuit of a caloric deficit. 

By increasing muscle mass, individuals can achieve a “toned,” physique which is often the goal of diet and exercise. 

In addition to boosting metabolism, gaining lean muscle also contributes to improved strength, endurance, and overall physical performance. It can enhance functional abilities, reduce the risk of injury, and promote healthy aging and vitality. 

By increasing muscle mass, individuals can achieve a “toned,” physique which is often the goal of diet and exercise. 

The Pitfalls of Diet Foods: Long-Term Ineffectiveness
In the pursuit of fat loss, many individuals turn to diet foods that are often marketed as low-calorie or low-fat alternatives. While these products may initially contribute to weight loss (not specifically fat loss), they often also lead to unsustainable eating habits and can result in binge eating and an unhealthy relationship with food. 

Relying on low-calorie alternatives and decreasing caloric intake via extreme measures will result in a slowing (adapted) metabolism. Instead of focusing on increasing muscle mass to increase basal metabolic rate (through strength training and eating to fuel the body), individuals will be unable to recover properly from exercise, let alone sustain more muscle mass on their frame. 

Once an individual has adapted to an extremely low caloric intake, and the body cannot sustain muscle mass (and in some cases, has required the breakdown of muscle to sustain bodily functions), it will be extremely hard for the individual to decrease their body fat percentage and/or increase muscle mass, which was likely the goal of the extreme diet in the first place. Compounding these issues, the individual will be more susceptible to gaining fat in this state, as their metabolism has adapted to a very low caloric intake and any increase in calories or decrease in exercise will very likely cause an increase in fat mass. Many people refer to the effects of this as the “skinny-fat” look.

At this point, these individuals require a slow and methodical reverse diet to adapt their metabolism to a higher caloric intake over time and establish the ability in the future to increase muscle mass and/or reduce body fat. They will require a well-rounded and nourishing diet that includes a variety of whole foods such as lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, a far leap from low-calorie diet foods. 

In Conclusion: Strong > Skinny
Although quick weight loss success can be enticing, long-term “gains” through the promotion of strength training and eating to properly fuel the body should be the priority for individuals who wish to achieve a strong, “toned” physique that can be maintained with ease.

Choosing quick fixes to be skinny will incur a hefty price to pay while being strong will always stand the test of time.

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Vic Toffan is the CEO of an innovative Dental Supply and Technology Company, a Primary Care Paramedic in Southwestern Ontario and founded two of her own Fitness Companies, FitwithVic (@victoriaafitnesss), and Girl Power (@girlpowerfit). Vic works with women, through FitwithVic, to build their dream pysqiues while improving their overall health and wellness. She recently founded her second company, Girl Power, a virtual Program for pre-teens and teens that inspires girls to feel beautiful and confident in their own skin, while teaching them the fundamentals of fitness. The program is comprised of virtual self-development lessons, live fitness classes and wellness discussions.

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