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What is “Skinny Fat” and How Do I Avoid It?

March 21, 2019

What is Skinny Fat?

The term “skinny fat” doesn’t really make sense.It sounds like a pseudoscience term someone made up to body shame even people in pretty good shape.There is, however, a scientifically valid definition for “skinny fat” that goes something like this:Being skinny fat refers to being metabolically obese while having a normal weight, meaning you have too little muscle and too much fat. Basically, it’s an imbalance between the amount of muscle and fat you have that can make you appear fat even at your ideal weight.A skinny fat or metabolically obese normal weight (MONW) individual can have the same BMI as someone who looks ripped. Yet, the skinny fat person will still have excess fat.Skinny fat syndrome can even cause a person with the same body fat percentage as someone ripped to still somehow look fat.This is because being skinny fat is about body composition, not weight.

Why Are Some People Skinny Fat?

The type of workouts you focus on is the primary cause of how you become and stay skinny fat. The “skinny fat look” appears when a person loses weight rapidly, usually by severe calorie restriction and heavy amounts of cardio.While that recipe can be a great way to lose fat quickly, it’s not completely healthy and the weight lost rarely stays off. It’s also a great way to get skinny fat. Here’s why extreme calorie restriction and/or cardio are bad:

Why Extreme Calorie Restriction is Bad

Healthy diets should never require calorie restriction of over 25 percent. For one, anything more than that is going to get rid of both your fat and your muscle. That's a great way to ruin your fat-to-muscle ratio and become skinny fat.Second, restricting your calories by 30 or even 40 percent is harmful in that it destroys your metabolic rate. Eating significantly fewer calories than you burn will slow down your metabolism, causing you to burn fewer and fewer calories naturally.Sustaining your muscle mass and metabolism are key to maintaining any weight loss program. Failing to do so leads to being skinny fat.

Why Large Amounts of Cardio is Bad

Cardio can be great for you in smaller amounts when combined with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and weight lifting. However, endurance training has been shown to interfere with muscle growth. These results get worse the more cardio you do.Resistance training, on the other hand, promotes fat loss while preserving muscle mass and metabolic rate. In other words, cardio will help you lose weight, but resistance training will help you lose fat. The difference between the two can sometimes seem trivial until it’s too late. Skinny fat is all that's left.

How to Get Rid of Skinny Fat

Now for the most important part: how do you lose skinny fat?The most important step for reaching your body recomposition goal is always getting your nutrition in check. We can help with that.Once your diet is in check, there are two goals you should have. To reverse the effects that made you skinny fat, you need to both lose fat and gain muscle. It may come as a surprise, but gaining muscle is more important out of the two.Without muscle, your body is never going to look the way you want it to, no matter how much fat you lose. The less muscle you have, the lower your body fat percentage has to be for your muscles to become noticeable. Getting rid of skinny fat is essentially synonymous with making your muscles more visible.That’s why gaining muscle should be your priority.The best way to gain muscle is to focus on resistance training with compound movements. Think of classic lifts like squats, chest press, and deadlift. Meanwhile, cut back on cardio. As aforementioned, it’s detrimental to muscle growth.With a healthy diet and regular resistance training, fat loss will follow.


The less muscle you have, the more likely you will appear “skinny fat”. The best way to gain muscle is to focus on strength training with classic, compound lifts and cut back on cardio. With a healthy diet, continuous strength training will eventually lead to fat loss and body recomposition. Say goodbye to your skinny fat.Need some help getting to your ideal body fat percentage? Contact the experts at Blue Tree Health today!

Begin Your Weight Loss Journey!

If you’re ready to feel like yourself again, Blue Tree Health can help! We offer comprehensive weight loss programs that are custom-made for you and your goals. On top of that, we also offer body contouring treatments, vitamin shots, and food sensitivity tests. So whether it’s 10 pounds or up to 100 pounds, Blue Tree Health is here to help you lose the weight!