What to do if You're Skinny Fat

Skinny and Fat

Skinny Fat, what's that? Can someone actually be both skinny and fat at the same time? The answer is yes. It can happen if you're small but have a high body fat percentage. In fact, the Mayo clinic released a study last year stating that obesity can occur in people of normal weight. If that person has a body mass index (BMI) in the normal range but has a high body fat percentage, they are considered normal weight obese or skinny fat. There are serious health implications to any form of obesity, including diabetes and heart disease. Not only that, but you just won't look good. Your stomach may be saggy and flabby and your chest could look caved in. Who wants that? So what can be done about it if you're skinny fat?

Weight Training for the Skinny Fat

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CC BY: Via Flickr | Source

Weight Training for the Skinny Fat

A skinny fat person lacks lean muscle mass, which is one reason they have a high body fat percentage. If you've been dieting and doing cardio for years, you could be skinny fat. Lack of proper nutrition and too much cardio can break down your muscles, resulting in that soft, skinny fat appearance. Resistance training and proper nutrition, on the other hand, help to build and maintain muscle mass. Muscle helps the body burn fat because it requires more energy, even at rest. So the more muscle you have, the less fat.

Building muscle requires a resistance training program. If you're a woman, you may be worried that this program will make you bulk up like a man. That's simply not possible since women lack the hormones necessary to get really large muscles. When the typical woman lifts weights, she'll get smaller and more compact because muscle is smaller in volume than fat.

If you're just starting out with weight training, do some reading on the popular body building sites like Bodybuilding.com or Oxygen.com to find a program that works for you. Or you could hire a personal trainer to get started. Either way, it's imperative to include resistance training and cut back on your cardio workouts to build muscle and lose that skinny-fat appearance.

When you start your weight training program, it's very important to lift heavy weights. Many women have a tendency to lift light, three to five pounds weights doing a large number of repetitions. Avoid this mistake. Instead, lift a weight heavy enough that you can only do 8-10 repetitions with good form. Rest for 30-45 seconds and then complete 1-2 more sets. Gradually increase your weight over time as you develop strength. Be sure to allow two days between training each body part so if you train your legs on Monday, don't do it again until at least Thursday.

Again, if you're a woman, don't be concerned about getting bulky. Lifting heavy weights will fire up your metabolism to help you burn fat and get rid of that skinny fat appearance.

Nutrition for the Skinny Fat

Nutrition is another key factor in overcoming skinny fat syndrome. In conjunction with resistance training, you need to eat enough calories to build muscle. Did you know that in order to get stronger you need a surplus of about 200-300 calories per day? It's very difficult to get stronger when you're skinny fat and in a calorie deficit. So go ahead and eat, just make sure you're eating good, whole foods. Each meal should include lean protein, some healthy fat, and complex carbohydrates. An example of a muscle building meal would be chicken breast, a half a sweet potato, and steamed vegetables. The Eat Clean Diet books by Tosca Reno are excellent resources for proper nutrition. Give them a try.

And speaking of proper nutrition, it's very important to avoid alcohol if you want to decrease your body fat percentage. One drink every so often is okay, just don't make it a habit. Alcohol is pretty much pure sugar and drinking it will make it very difficult to decrease your body fat.

Stop Being Skinny Fat

If you're skinny-fat, you need a plan. By combining resistance training with proper nutrition, you can become fit and healthy. It may take some time to turn around years of bad habits but keep at it and you will see and feel the results!

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Comments 32 comments

bubba 5 years ago

Im very tiny and underweight but basically all I am is bone and fat :S I didn't know it was actually unhealthy, but I've been strength training for a few months and I've noticed an improvement. Thanks for the article !


SD Dickens profile image

SD Dickens 5 years ago Author

Hi Bubba - Good luck with your strength training and thank you for the comment!


Laura Schneider profile image

Laura Schneider 4 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

This describes me perfectly, and why eating less isn't working to get rid of my little tummy roll even though I'm a small/skinny-looking person. I'll get to the resistance training ASAP and hopefully be in shape (on the inside!) by summertime. Thanks much for the detailed and well-researched information!


SD Dickens profile image

SD Dickens 4 years ago Author

Thanks for reading Laura and good luck with your resistance training program!


BarryCross profile image

BarryCross 4 years ago from York, UK

Great article! Very informative and 100% true.


cloverleaffarm profile image

cloverleaffarm 4 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

Interesting. I have never heard of such a thing. Have to go find out more. Thanks for sharing.


Caitlin Pyle profile image

Caitlin Pyle 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

This is a great hub! I'm glad more and more people are realizing it. True health is not about the number you weigh, it's about what you can do with your body :)


SD Dickens profile image

SD Dickens 4 years ago Author

Hi Caitlin - Thanks for reading and for the positive comments!


dcristo profile image

dcristo 4 years ago

Great hubpage. I just wanted to point out that you can also be skinny fat and underweight, funnily enough. Some people have a predisposition to gain weight in the belly area, but their skinny everywhere else. However, like you've correctly mentioned in the article, through proper nutrition and weight training, it will allow the individual to gain lean muscle mass and lose the belly fat, helping the person to develop a much more symmetrical and attractive physique.


Nicole S profile image

Nicole S 4 years ago from Minnesota

Excellent article! You have some awesome points, and it's very well said! Great job.


Ramona Frincu 4 years ago

that's right


Milly 4 years ago

I am actually quite skinny and considered underweight, I do eat but all the wrong stuff I eat quite a lot of junk, I'm good with exercise and exercise at least 5 times a week. I was wondering if you could provide me with a diet plan to tone/lower body fat percentage and which exercise would be best for me to perform whilst training to attain this?


SD Dickens profile image

SD Dickens 3 years ago Author

Hi Milly - I can't really provide a specific plan but I can give you some resources. I would check out Oxygen Magazine for women and Tosca Reno's Eat Clean Diet series. Follow the advice they give which is basically to lift weights and eat good, wholesome foods, with a lot of lean protein. To gain muscle, you need to eat slightly more calories each day than you would to maintain or lose weight so make sure you're eating enough!


Laura Schneider profile image

Laura Schneider 3 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

Update: I've been getting a LITTLE more exercise, both cardio and strength. I have a bathroom scale that measures body fat % as well as weight, though I take the body fat % as a relative number indicating progress (hopefully!) not a scientific fact. I recommend them to anyone who's skinny fat--otherwise, how will you know if you're reducing body fat?

In any case, my body fat % went down about 3-4% and my weight went down 5 pounds. Sounds like a LOT more strength training and eating more healthy proteins are needed, if I understand you correctly. Yes/no?

Does anyone else have an update on their status, good or bad?

Again, great article, SD Dickens! Thank you--you're changing my life for the better, even if I'm not quite on the right train yet!


SD Dickens profile image

SD Dickens 3 years ago Author

Thanks for the update Laura...great progress!


raincitygirl profile image

raincitygirl 3 years ago from Vancouver

Amazing article - I've been interested in beginning a weight training program for some time and this was really helpful!


Fitnessover35 profile image

Fitnessover35 3 years ago from Vermont, USA

Really great Hub. Lots of my young female patients fall into this group.


Skaufman profile image

Skaufman 3 years ago

Thanks for the great article. Good nutrition can make a huge difference in how you feel.


Adam 3 years ago

Great Article!

What would your advice be for a person with a bmi of 22 and a body fat % of 25? Resistance training?

And does the said person still have to go in a calorie deficit, if possible?


Laura Schneider profile image

Laura Schneider 3 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

Strength training is more fun than I thought it would be! I may not be doing things the conventional way, but hey: it's working slowly! I always re-read this article when I need inspiration/motivation to continue. Thanks again!


SD Dickens profile image

SD Dickens 3 years ago Author

I think it would depend on your goals. If you want to build muscle, lifting weights and eating more will help.


titi6601 profile image

titi6601 3 years ago

Thanks for the great tips.


rumanasaiyed profile image

rumanasaiyed 3 years ago from Sharjah, UAE

"Skinny Fat" is truly a new word for me. But the definition you gave is absolutely correct. I have seen many "skinny fat" people.

And you have mentioned great tips for such people.

Voted up Interesting and Shared!!


Maggie Bennett profile image

Maggie Bennett 3 years ago from New York

Very good article. I learned a few things!


newusedcarssacram profile image

newusedcarssacram 3 years ago from Sacramento, CA, U.S.A

This is completely new concept for me, I’ve never heard of it before. Thanks a lot for sharing such detailed information, much appreciated.


laszlojaeger profile image

laszlojaeger 3 years ago from Budapest

Skinny fat means that you lack muscle mass but still store fat under your skin. This is caused by bad or nonexistent diet. You should always check your macros which means you need to keep account of how many grams of carbohydrates, protein and fat you eat.

Your requirements are depending on your weight, height, gender and sport activities. Someone who squats with 500lbs probably requires more than someone sitting in front of the TV all day long. I can highly recommend searching on sites about bodybuilding because they have the best diet plans for building muscle and losing fat. I am talking about natural bodybuilding. By the way the diet of steroid using bodybuilders is not really different except that their protein intake is almost twice as much as natural bodybuilders'.


Kristen Walsh profile image

Kristen Walsh 3 years ago from US

Strength training in women is key. Most women place too much emphasis on cardio workouts, but keeping your muscles strong is so important...for many different reasons.


laszlojaeger profile image

laszlojaeger 3 years ago from Budapest

If you want "good round shapes" you have to do strength training. Your muscles define your looks/shape not your bones :))


Jenn-Anne profile image

Jenn-Anne 3 years ago

Interesting. I have never heard of this phenomenon before but it makes sense. I have been working strength training back into my routine, but I definitely need to ramp it up a bit. Voted up!


Hezekiah profile image

Hezekiah 3 years ago from Japan

I think skinny fat can look worse than muscly fat, since the skin is often loose and weak looking, especially with women wearing a short skirt. Muscle building is definitely needed.


Holly 3 years ago

Hi, I recently did the p90x programme and have finished but still have the lower belly pouch. I've lost weight everywhere else, even places i didn't want to. I weight 107 pounds.My bmi is 17.5, it should be 18.5 for my age and height (I'm 23 and 5 foot 5in). I know i need to do more weights and moderate cardio, but i'm confused about how many calories i should be eating. Should i be eating more or should i be in calorie deficit? Should i lower carbs to just two meals a day? Any help would be really appreciated!


SD Dickens profile image

SD Dickens 3 years ago Author

Hi Holly - You don't say how much you're eating but in order to gain muscle you generally need to eat more - I've heard 100-200 calories above your maintenance level. In addition, you will want to make sure you eat enough protein.

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