When was the last time you’ve had a lipid panel done? A lipid panel is a blood test that measures your cholesterol (HDL-good, LDL-bad) and triglycerides. I had a test a few weeks ago but the last one I did was 4 years back in 2011. According to numerous health websites (WebMD, AHA, Mayo Clinic) a lipid panel should be done every 5 years for someone who is 20 years or older and anyone over 40 should have their levels check every year. My primary care physician has an online site to access results and I had the ‘displeasure’ of viewing mine last Wednesday. I will provide more details about my results but it was a wake-up call to immediately change my dietary habits or else I would increase my risk to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Back to my first question, am I skinny fat? I read an article online by Dr. Mark Hyman posted on Huff Post Healthy Living describing the type of people which falls into the “Skinny Fat” category – Thin on the Outside, Fat on the Inside as scientists have called it using the acronym TOFI. Let me spell out the description to see if it screams ME! And as a side note, my current weight is 106 lbs, height 61 inches.
- A few extra pounds of belly weight – YES, not proud of my belly fat but I figured it was the consequence of having children.
- Underlean (not enough muscle) – NO, I have muscle mass however mostly concentrated in my legs from running.
- High triglycerides – sadly 103 pts higher than 4 years ago at 167 mg/dL. This is considered borderline high. High is over 200 according to WebMD, Mayo Clinic, and my physician. However, after some research into other fitness and health websites, anything over than 150 mg/dL is considered HIGH.
- Low HDL (good) cholesterol – mine is 58 which is lower than the level it should to be considered high (However, less than 40 is the low marker).
- High blood sugar – NO. I had gestational diabetes during both pregnancies that I controlled through diet so I’m wary of where my health would be heading if my triglycerides continue to go up.
- High blood pressure – NO.
CONCLUSION: By definition, I am not “skinny-fat” or TOFI but more than likely I will become one if I don’t change my eating habits.
What I find most troublesome is the dramatic increase in my triglyceride levels. Basically, triglycerides translates to the fat in our body. It’s one of our energy sources as its components can be converted to glucose when needed. Therefore, when we don’t expend energy in the form of exercise, the fat remains in our body and of course accumulates when we continue to take in excess calories. Hence, in my case the extra flab around my waist.
My concern however goes deeper than my belly fat. High triglycerides can possibly be caused by insulin resistance, a condition that can lead to pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Insulin, the hormone produced by the pancreas moves substances such as glucose and triglycerides from the bloodstream into the cells for energy use. With insulin resistance, the muscle, liver and cells do not respond to the insulin, therefore the glucose and triglycerides are not absorbed from the bloodstream resulting in high levels. Another part of the blood test taken for my annual check-up was Hemoglobin A1C test, this is the average blood level for the past two to three months. A measurement of 5.7% or greater is pre-diabetes and anything over 6.5% is diabetes. Mine was 5.6% – yikes I’m on the borderline. With having a history of gestational diabetes, this is another measurement that I want to decrease.
What happened in the last 4 years? I posted these pictures of my body transformation from January 2010, 7 weeks pregnant with my first, February 2013, 8 weeks pregnant with my second, and current year 2 kids later. Obviously, even though my weight didn’t change much, the amount of fat versus muscle certainly did.
The biggest difference since 2011 is my dietary habits. With kids, my sweet tooth got even sweeter – how much icecream, cakes, cupcakes, etc have I consumed? And it’s not just the kid’s birthdays, it’s all the other birthday parties we’ve attended. I don’t think I consumed as much sugar as I have done these past few years. I never really even thought of it as affecting me since my weight never went up. Another awful habit I had was nighttime snacking. According to an article I just read in IDEA Food and Nutrition magazine, ‘evening and late night snacks reflect a desire for reward and indulgence’. It’s true, I’ve indulged in red wine and dark chocolate. It’s how I unwind at the end of the day. However, I did not stop at the dark chocolate. Somehow, I was not satiated and found other snacks to eat. Well, it’s been a week since I stopped snacking and don’t miss it at all.
Moving forward. Fortunately, my levels are not extreme and I still have the opportunity to lower my risk. With sugar being the major culprit, I plan to avoid sugary/starchy foods and add more vegetables, nuts, seeds and beans to my diet as well as lower the amount of carbohydrates coming from bread, pasta, and white rice. As far as exercise, in addition to cycling (due to my break from running), I’ve added rowing and strength training. And when I start running again, I need to stick to a plan that will incorporate strength training to my schedule.
I had a checkup with my physician on Thursday. I brought up my concerns regarding my triglyceride levels and since it wasn’t at the high level of 200 mg/dL, he thought my levels looked good. I beg to differ. Even though he was the least bit concerned, I want to be proactive with my health and take early action to lower my risks to diseases.