Health & Beauty

The Fat Within: Understanding Sarcopenic Obesity

Have you heard about sarcopenic obesity aka skinny fat? At the time the photo above taken (around one month ago), I was at the verge of becoming sarcopenic obese. Now I am.

A few days ago, I did a body composition analysis at the gym. The InBody machine will give analysis reports of your muscle-fat, obesity, segmental lean and body water. It also suggests if you need to gain or lose weight, fat and muscle.

My recent analysis states that I’m a sarcopenic obese. I was like, WHAT? HOW COME??

Have you heard about sarcopenic obesity? It’s a condition when you experience both sarcopenia (low muscle mass/strength/physical performance) and obesity (high degree of fat accumulate in the body).

I can’t believe it.

I exercise religiously three times a week – weightlifting, Zumba class and play some machines (treadmill, stepper, etc). I’m a restless person, I love to walk and utilise the standing table in my office.

I control my sugar and carbs intake by consuming little sugary drink and rice. I love vegetables and fruit, I eat them almost every day.

I eat two eggs daily, especially between 4-6pm because the internet says it’s the best time to consume protein as snacks to build muscle.

Slim people could be secretly fat, from within.

I drink chocolate milk regularly, usually after I finished the workout to help build muscle. I drink hot tea without sugar twice a day on the weekday.

skinny fat sarcopenic obesity
Sometimes, I’ll have this for breakfast.
healthy food sarcopenic obesity
My family loves to eat fruit 

My family members and friends say that I lost a lot of weight and ask me to gain a few kgs. My mom asked if I had bulimia because sometimes I’ll go to the toilet after the meal.

My sister even once said I looked like a (sorry) refugee child because I looked so fragile and thin.

The truth is since I started to lift weights and lead a healthy life, my body changed. It toned up. However, I’m not a health freak. I still love my cinema popcorn (once in a blue moon), salted egg fish skin, ice cream and dessert 😊

So, after all the workout and healthy, balanced lifestyle, HOW CAN I BECOME SARCOPENIC OBESE?

The Meaning of Sarcopenic Obesity aka Skinny Fat

According to Science Direct and Wikipedia, the condition happens naturally as the process of ageing and symptom of fast-paced modern living. As you age, your muscle mass will decrease.

Poor dietary choices will lead to visceral fat, and if you happen to be a person who doesn’t exercise regularly, the result is obvious: you’ll gain weight. In addition, your muscle strength will decrease.

body analysis sarcopenic obesity

body analysis skinny fat

Ok, I’m 27 years old and exercise regularly. Furthermore, according to the analysis, it’s better for me to gain 3.5kg if I want to achieve the ideal weight. Everything just doesn’t make sense. I thought about it for a while, then I got the answer.

I’m obese because I often eat at places that don’t use good quality, healthy cooking oil.

Yes, I have a balanced meal daily, but is it healthy? Is the oil they use to fry the ayam penyet (smashed fried chicken) a good quality one or the cheap one that’s been used to fry for many times? Even eating oily vegetable is as bad as eating fried stuff.

If you work in the offices’ area, we may share the joy of eating at an affordable food court with the price range as RM5-10.

When you consume food from the affordable food court and food truck, have you ever thought why the cost of the food can be so cheap? Aside from the low rental pay, another important factor is the cooking oil that they use.

But then, Clara, how do you support your statement?

Actually, I accidentally did an experiment months ago.

My Experiment to Healthier Eating Habit

When I was still working in Mid Valley, I often eat at Makan Place. It’s a super affordable food court at LG, located beside Simple Life. The food court has plenty of kiosks offering Malay/Indonesian, Indian, vegetarian, Western and halal-Chinese food.

You can get chicken/fish, rice and vegetable with RM5-7. As a tempe lover, my tempe-rice-vegetable costs only RM2.50 to RM3.50. Crazy cheap, right? The foods are always fresh and tasty, and their sambal… mmm…

People say, when you hit thirty, everything that you did in younger years will come back to you (in terms of health).

As I do body analysis every month, I get to know all the details. I too, once wondered why I had high body fat. Then, one day the policemen raid the food court and caught the illegal workers.

It turned out, so many of the cooks and workers are working illegally! After the incident, the food court was closed for around one month.

oily food sarcopenic obesity
My fave food, tempe orek. Sources: Resep dan Masakan

I then resorted to another food court, Oasis (now it’s Popcorn), for lunch. The food that I took daily consisted of 1 vegetable, 1 meat/chicken and rice.

It’s the same portion as the one I had from Makan Place (minus sambal), but the food was less oily. I could feel it in your mouth. Plus, the price was actually still reasonable, not much difference.

A month after, I did my body analysis as usual and found that my body fat has decreased.

I was so happy, I went around telling my friends. A few months later, Makan Place re-opened. I missed my sambal, tempe and Indonesian food so

I packed lunch daily (again) from there for a month. At the end of the month, I did another body analysis and found that my body fat has increased.

How to Beat Sarcopenic Obesity

I’m not saying that all kiosks in affordable food court use bad cooking oil, but I think your intuition can tell which ones to avoid.

Maybe it’s also one of the reasons why healthy food delivery charge quite hefty price, around RM15-25 per meal. Aside from offering good quality ingredients, they may use good quality cooking oil as well.

This sarcopenic obesity makes me redo my lunch budget. I decide to increase it for healthier, better quality meals and be more selective in choosing what and where to eat.

I also realise that all this time, I don’t eat enough carbohydrates. My researches show that our bodies use carbs as fuel to assemble protein into new muscle tissues.

If our bodies don’t have enough carbs or if we cut carbs entirely, the protein we consume will be useless. Aside of carbs, we also still need fat to optimise hormone levels to build muscle.

overcome sarcopenic obesity
Source: ePainAssist
food for sarcopenic obesity
Source: Just Fitness Hub

I have only one body, what I put inside will reflect on my health and appearance. If the effect doesn’t happen soon, perhaps three years later, once I hit thirty?

Regarding the sarcopenic, I think it’s because I usually don’t eat dinner and not consuming enough protein. Ok, it’s time to make a change!

People say, when you hit thirty, everything that you did in younger years will come back to you (in terms of health). Better prepared than sorry, say no to sarcopenic obesity!

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