Overfat? Do The Lean Muscle Diet

Overfat. It’s a new, simple term, but it suggests a lot. Researchers came up with it. They want to convey that at a certain point body fat becomes a problem, when it can cause metabolic dysfunction, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. So, are you overfat? Find out here.

THERE’S A new term for describing body weight. Chances are that you’re going to want to know about it, what it may mean to you and what you can do.

This new term concisely summarizes the conclusions of a recent study published in the journal Frontiers of Public Health, which examined the body compositions of people in the top 30 developed countries and found:

  • On average, the prevalence of overfat adults and children in developed countries is extremely high, and substantially greater than that of overweight and obese individuals.
  • In the US, New Zealand, Greece, and Iceland, prevalence of the overfat condition is at an alarmingly high rate of over 90% in adult males and up to 50% in children.
  • Despite a leveling off appearance of the overweight and/or obese condition in some developed countries, the overfat pandemic continues to grow.
  • In tandem with an increased average waist circumference, a recent rise in the incidence of abdominal adiposity, the unhealthiest form of excess body fat, has been observed in both adults and children.

Did you catch that new term I mentioned?


In another publication in Frontiers of Public health states that,

For the first time in human history, the number of obese people worldwide now exceeds those who are underweight. However, it is possible that there is an even more serious problem—an overfat pandemic comprised of people who exhibit metabolic health impairments associated with excess fat mass relative to lean body mass.

The difference between the two common terms associated with being portly – overweight and obese – with this new term, “overfat,” is that overfat is used to associate a person’s overweight condition with a number of chronic diseeases.

The odds are that you or someone you care about is overfat, and given that, you’re going to want to know what the risks are, how to measure fat, why we overeat and how to get trim.

In this article, you’ll discover:

  • How to tell if you’re overfat
  • If you are overfat, why should you care
  • How you can blast away the overfat
  • Why food psychology drives you to eat and what to do about it

Let’s dig in…


How To Tell If You’re Overfat

The World Health Organization defines being overweight as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) equal to or greater than 25. But your BMI doesn’t always paint the full picture, since it doesn’t really identify where you’re carrying your weight or the different types of fat.

BMI has become a standard way to measure body composition, but it’s very unreliable if you particularly short, tall or muscled. Take Dwayne Johnson for example, who is both tall and muscled.

Mr. Johnson is the wrestler and actor best known as, “The Rock.” Take a look at the man and tell me if you think he’s overfat:

Dwayne Johnson

A beast, maybe, but not fat, and yet Dwayne Johnson’s BMI is 34.3, which is in the obese range.

Another muscled actor, Vin Diesel, has a BMI of 27.1, making him overweight, according to that measurement.

Vin Diesel

That Johnson and Diesel could be the poster children for the industrialized world’s obesity problem by dint of  their high BMI scores dramatically underscores the problem with using BMI, a simple ratio of weight to height, as a tool to judge an individual’s fitness or health risks.

A 2008 study in the International Journal of Obesity found that BMI underestimates the prevalence of obesity. The World Health Organization defines obesity as a body-fat percentage over 25 in men and 35 in women, whereas fifty percent of the people with a BMI in the normal or overweight ranges are actually obese.

When the study looked specifically at men with a BMI of 25—the cutoff line for being overweight—it found their body-fat percentages ranged from 14 to 35 percent.

That means that some of those men had body-fat percentages well within the lean range (14 – 17%), and thereby were in fine shape, making their 25 BMI score misleading. However, those whose body-fat percentages exceeded 25 percent, but with a BMI of 25 (the cutoff line for overweight), are at risk for a long list of health problems – like heart disease and diabetes – but might not be alerted to such dangers given a BMI score that’s not so bad.

Thus, we can giggle at the idea that rock-solid athletes and actors are classified as obese by their BMI score, but for every person who is misclassified because of muscle mass, many more are given a government-approved, certifiably false assessment of their health status, despite a dangerously high body-fat percentage.

Do you exercise and have some muscle?

If you exercise in any fashion that builds muscle, you can dispense with BMI as a measure of your body composition. Rather than that, read Just “Exactly” How Fat Are You Anyway, and check out…

  • The Tanita BC534 Glass InnerScan Body Composition Monitor; and
  • The military’s body fat formula:
    • Males: % body fat = 86.010 x log10(abdomen – neck) – 70.041 x log10(height) + 36.76
    • Females: % body fat = 163.205 x log10(waist + hip – neck) – 97.684 x log10(height) – 78.387

Either of those body fat-measuring techniques will be more accurate than BMI, as will this next test.

The fastest way to know your body fat percentage requires a self-perception that’s not delusional. To ensure accuracy, grab a friend, go to a big mirror, strip down to your shorts and compare yourself to these pictures:

Which one best compares to your body?

If you’re unsure, or you and your friend can’t agree, go get fat percentage measuring scale, like the Tanita and/or sharpen a pencil and use that military body fat formula.


You’re Overfat – So What!?

Let’s say that you no longer need to showcase your body. You’ve got your mate all tied up (metaphorically speaking) so there’s no need to attract one. All the shops carry size XL, so you’ve got that covered. Your car does your walking for you.  An elevator handles the stairs. And you’re simply comfortable in your skin, overlarge as it may be.

OK, then, perhaps you’re overfat – so what!?

Well, I would argue that it’s no longer about looks, if it ever was, but about health. High levels of body fat are associated with low-grade chronic inflammation (1). In turn, such inflammation is associated with various downstream diseases, including type 2 diabetes (2, 3), heart disease (4), cancer (5), stroke (6), Alzheimer’s (7), and others (8, 9). These health epidemics are currently having devastating effects not only the world economy, but also on families and the individuals that comprise them.

One particular place you don’t want fat is on your belly. Belly fat not only disrupts your endocrine system (hormones), but can ignite cancer as well.

In Will Your Belly Fat Cause Cancer, I wrote that belly fat is called the “omentum”, which is:

“… a large fatty structure which essentially hangs off the middle of your colon and drapes over the intestines inside the abdomen to be It is a hormone producer that disrupts normative chemicals in your body. These hormonal chemicals can feed cancer cells and resist the immune system’s response to them.”  (10)

The four types of cancer that fat can cause is that they are all in organs located in proximity to the belly fat; namely:

  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Endometrial (uterine) cancer

If you’ve been sporting a protuberant tummy for a few years, I heartily advice you to go read my article on the subject, where you can learn how to mitigate your risks of getting any of the aforementioned fat belly promoting cancers.

The bottom line is that the problem with being overfat has little to do with aesthetics and everything to do with health and vitality.

Do you want to spend the second half of your life chronically ill?

Read on if your answer is “hell no!”


Blast The Overfat With The Lean Muscle Diet

You can’t cruise the Interwebs for more than five minutes before getting tackled by some new, amazing way to lose weight. Perhaps you’ve run into some of my very own missives on the subjects of diet and exercise.

Though I may be partial to my own work on this matter, here I’m going to defer to a quick-to-digest program to lose body fat called The Lean Muscle Diet (the book) as described by Men’s Health.

Alan Aragon, M. S., is the Men’s Health Weight-Loss Coach and the coauthor of The Lean Muscle Diet. His focus is on showing off muscle by whittling away the fat that covers it, and he advises that we do that by carefully measuring and monitoring what we eat.

Aragon’s nutrition and training methods have shaped the bodies of NBA athletes, Olympians, and competitive bodybuilders. I’m thinking, if his advice is good enough for people who make their livings based on their physical prowess, it’s good enough for me, a fella who simply wouldn’t mind exposing the muscle that must be hiding somewhere under that (thick) skin.

Aragon distills his lean muscle diet method into five steps.

#1 Calculate your calories based on your target weight

The first thing you need to do is to eat for your target body weight.

Before I read about Aragon’s method, I’d tell you to go to this nifty calorie calculator and plug in some basic information about yourself and it will tell you your daily calorie consumption goal.

Say you’re a six-foot, 45-year old male who’s “lightly active” (exercises 1-3 times per week), weighs 220 pounds right now, but your goal is 180. According to the calorie calculator (metric units too), your daily calories consumption objective is:

  • 1,892 calories per day to lose 1 lb per week
  • 1,392 calories per day to lose 2 lbs per week

That’s simple enough, but with Aragon’s method, no calculator is needed.

In his example, like mine, you weigh 220 pounds, but would like to tip the scales at 180. Aragon’s formula is simply this:

  • Exercise 1 hour or less per week, multiply 180 by 10 (1,800) = daily calories
  • Exercise 2 hours per week, multiply 180 by 11 (1,980) = daily calories
  • Exercise 3 hours per week, multiply 180 by 12 (2,160) = daily calories

So, you’re adding “1” to the multiplier for every additional hour you exercise.

You can divide those calories into however many meals you want—three, four, five, or six—as long as you don’t eat beyond your daily limit, he says.

Which calorie counting method should you use?

The calculator does use more parameters (age, height and gender) and therefore might be more accurate. That said, both methods has our 220-pounder consuming a caloric count that should have him losing at least one pound a week, a very sustainable rate of fat loss.

#2 Eat by the (macronutrient) numbers

The beauty of ensuring that you’re macronutrients are balanced is that you can avoid the pangs of feeling like you’re on a diet.

Macronutients are protein, fat and carbs. How you combine them, in terms of grams per macronutrient, is highly variable depending on what kind of diet you follow.

Diets recommended by people like Dr. Dean Ornish advise that dietary fat consumption be minimized, protein moderate and healthy carbs plentiful. In contrast, the Paleo Diet bumps up fat and protein and minimizes carbs.


It’s the raw material that builds your muscle, but protein also helps satiate your appetite and aids in fat loss.

The Aragon protein formula:

Eat 1 gram for every pound of your target body weight.

If you want to weigh 180 pounds, you’ll eat 180 grams of protein. One gram of protein is about 4 calories. So to calculate the calories you’ll be eating from protein, multiply the number of grams by 4. In this case, that’s 720 calories, or 40% of your daily total.

Note: Every “expert” has a different formula for how much protein is needed for whatever you’re trying to achieve. A one-to-one (protein grams = body weight pounds) is excessive for all but bodybuilders. From everything I’ve read, there’s an inverse between lifespan and protein consumption above some basic number (which is debatable, but far lower than one-to-one). My suggestion is not to sustain long term an amount of protein in grams equivalent to your body weight in pounds.


Once a dietary outcast, recent studies show that it’s not fat that inflates your girth, but too many calories, period. Don’t be shy about eating fat, just focus on getting a lot of it from omega-3 sources, like chia seeds, flax seeds, salmon, mackerel and fish oil, as well as from monounsaturated fat sources such as avocados and nuts. These are healthy fats and also provide the added benefit of helping to make you feel full.

The Aragon fat formula:

Eat half a gram of fat for every pound of your target body weight.

A 180-pound goal puts the dietary fat number at 90 grams. Given that 1 gram of fat has about 9 calories, 90 grams is 810 calories from fat. This will be about 45% of your total calories.


Carbs have a bad reputation these days, and they should, given their over representation in the SAD (Standard American Diet). As with other industrialized nations, Americans get too many of their calories from fast food and processed foods packed in bags, boxes and cans. The one common denominator among all such foods is that they’re rich in blood sugar-boosting carbs.

Stick to the right amount of healthy carbs and you’ll be fine. Focus on vegetables, some starches like sweet potatoes, lentils, beans and whole grains (in limited amounts).

The Aragon formula:

Add your calories from protein and fat, and subtract that total from your allotted daily calories.

Using the 180-pound example, that leaves you with 270 calories: 1,800 total calories – 1,530 (720 protein + 810 fat) = 270. This is the amount of calories you can eat from carbs.

Like protein, carbs provides 4 calories per gram. Divide your carb calories by four to determine how many grams of carbs you can eat. In this case, it’s about 68 grams.

#3 Let nature create your menu

Eat the foods you’d find on a farm or in nature, not from a container. Choose high quality, no antibiotic-shot, hormone-injected meats, fish, eggs, veggies, fruits (no fruit juice), nuts, legumes (beans and lentils) and a bit of diary, eggs and whole grains.

Typical junk foods like candy, baked goods, and sugary drink don’t make the list.

#4 Pay attention to pre and post exercise feedings

Follow these rules to make your eating plan even more effective:

  1. Consume at least two servings of vegetables a day. Vegetables are low in calories, high in nutrition and high in belly filling, gut microbe-loving fiber.
  2. Eat at least two servings of fruit a day, preferably berries and apples. Fruit provides your muscles with plenty of carbs for energy, but has less impact on your blood sugar than grains and other high-starch foods do, such as potatoes and pasta.
  3. On work out days eat one hour before exercise and again within one hour after your last rep. For each meal aim for a quarter gram per pound of your target body weight in protein and carbs, which means with an 180 pound goal, you’d consume 45 grams of each nutrient.

Now, the mathematically inclined among you might notice that eating 45 grams at both the one-hour prior and one-hour post exercise meals means that you’d be exceeding the daily allotted 68 grams of carbs in our example. This isn’t explained in the Men’s Health article from which Alan Aragon’s diet information was extracted. My suggestion is that you allow yourself to over-eat carbs a bit on workout days, but stay tight to the macronutrient ratios on non-exercise days. Or you can buy Aragon’s book, which goes deep into the details.

Options to pre and post workout meals are:

  • A preformulated shake that has the stated mix of protein and carbs. Add fruit if it requires more carbs.
  • A shake that’s almost entirely protein—such as Optimum Nutrition Whey—along with 1/2 cup of oatmeal and a piece of fruit.
  • A tuna-salad or turkey sandwich.
#5 Allow a splurge meal

One meal a week, go ahead and splurge.

There are two benefits of allowing a splurge:

  • You disturb your body’s natural attempt to maintain homeostatsis. The best example I know to get this is body temperature. No matter how cold it is outside, our bodies attempt to keep the internal temperature at 98.6 degrees. Similarly, our bodies will attempt to maintain body fat as it adjusts to the caloric deficits of dieting. Splurging from time to time with a spike of calories may keep this homeostasis-balancing act off balance and thereby allow for continued weight loss.
  • You feel less deprived. Deprivation is a state we seek to avoid, so letting loose a bit is like taking the cap off a pressure cooker.

I encourage you to click over to Amazon.com and then click on the image I copied below in order to examine the contents of Aragon’s Lean Muscle Diet book.

My impression is that it goes much deeper and will be more useful than what I’ve shared here.


Know Your Food Consuming Psychology

So far you’ve read about how to tell if you’re overfat, why it’s dangerous to your health and what you can do about it.

This last bit will provide an insight or two about the psychology behind eating. The idea is to get forearmed by being forewarned.

Why is it that even when we have the best of intentions, dieting is so difficult? Why can’t we control those cravings?  The answers come from an article entitled, To lose weight, you need to understand the psychology of why you crave the wrong things.

I’ll summarize the article.

Ignore food cues

It’s possible to train yourself to ignore tempting cues, such as savory smells or seductive food commercials.

One study has shown that participants who were taught to ignore high calorie food cues on a computer-based task consumed less snack foods than those who allowed themselves to be mesmerized.

When we’re hungry, the hormone gherlin stimulates the brain, which means that we notice food cues more. Researchers have also found that our brains pay more attention to cues for unhealthy foods—those high in sugar and fat—than healthy foods, when we’re hungry.

In studies where pictures of high-calorie foods were shown to participants, it was found that the cues elicited anticipatory appetite responses, such as salivation, cravings and a reported desire to eat.

What you want to do is:

  • Not let yourself get so hungry that you become powerless to suggestion; and
  • Ignore the suggestions, whether they emanate from yourself or advertisers.
Remember, you can splurge (but not often)

Researchers have proven what we already know from ample experience – we crave what’s forbidden. Actually, we may even have a greater desire to consume the forbidden item than we would if not deprived.

In addition, when asked to taste a forbidden food, it has been found that research participants who have already been deprived of it will typically consume more calories.

All of this means that even when dieters attempt to avoid foods that are pleasurable, the behavioral and cognitive response to deprivation may inadvertently be creating more temptation.

So, be smart about this and plan to splurge, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can do this often and still be on target to meet your goal.

Forgive yourself (but not often)

Rigid dieting rules can be problematic if they’re perceived to be too draconian.

You need to be aware of the psychology of eating, or whatever. For some of us, a small violation—a sneaky slice of cake, for example—is enough to derail the whole diet because of our reaction to it.

Researchers call this the “what-the-hell effect”—and it has been demonstrated in a number of laboratory experiments. Studies consistently show that dieters who believe they have consumed a high-calorie snack — and so have broken the rules of their diet — will consume more calories during a later meal than those who do not think they have violated the rules.

Although in real terms eating a few extra calories is unlikely to have a major impact on a diet, such lapses can have a bigger psychological impact. Dieting “failure” is likely to trigger negative emotions such as guilt or stress, both of which are known to cause overeating.


Your Takeaway

Remember these three points:

  1. Being concerned if you, a family member or friend is overfat is not vanity thing; rather, it’s a health thing. Metabolic dysfunction, diabetes, heart disease and various cancers are all potential outcomes to those who are overfat.
  2. You can quickly assess your percent body fat by looking in the mirror with an honest eye and compare what you see with the pictures above. Or get a scale designed to calculate the number.  Or do the math per the equation above presented.
  3. Getting leaner is about understanding what triggers your overeating and then avoiding such triggers; minimizing processed carbs in favor of healthy proteins and fats; and targeting your daily caloric intake to the amount of your targeted weight.

Now, go get healthier by getting leaner!

Last Updated on July 7, 2023 by Joe Garma

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Joe Garma

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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