Nutrition Weight Management

What Is Skinny Fat – Causes, Facts & Risks In Our Guide 2024

Have you ever heard the term “skinny fat” being used in conversation? What does it mean when someone refers to you as “skinny fat”? It’s a phenomenon that many people go through where your external appearance doesn’t quite align with whats happening in your body.

The common belief is that if you have body fat your BMI (Body Mass Index) will be high suggesting poor health.. Does having a slender and lean physique always indicate good health?

This article delves into the concept of “skinny fat” and its true meaning. It’s important to grasp that having a “skinny fat” body doesn’t necessarily imply poor health. However the encouraging news is that you can take steps to improve your body percentage even if your BMI falls on the lower side.

So What Exactly Is Meant By "Skinny Fat"?

From a BMI standpoint it may appear as though you have a normal weight for your height. People might assume you're reasonably healthy based on your weight and slim appearance. However being "skinny fat" implies having an low amount of muscle mass in your body and an observable proportion of excess body fat despite appearing slim.

At What Point Are You Overweight?

Determining if you fall into the category of being overweight is a bit like unraveling a puzzle and it varies from person to person. It’s not about the numbers on a scale or following a strict BMI chart; it’s about understanding your bodys individual story.

It’s that moment when your jeans fit tighter around your curves when you feel a little less like yourself and when you realize that taking care of yourself should be at the forefront of your routine. It’s when your body softly whispers, “Hey maybe it’s time to choose a path.” Being considered overweight is when you decide to listen to your bodys narrative and embark on a journey, towards self love and overall well being.

Why Is Being Overweight Bad?

Being overweight isn’t necessarily a thing; it’s more about the potential impact it can have on our health. When we carry weight it can put strain on our joints and cause mobility issues. It also raises the risk of conditions like diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

However it’s important to remember that our overall health isn’t solely determined by a number, on the scale. What truly matters is how we feel and function in our bodies. Of solely focusing on the notion that being overweight is inherently bad lets shift our attention to promoting overall well being and making choices that prioritize both our physical and emotional health.

What Is Skinny Fat?

What is skinny fat image

Imagine a situation where someone looks slim and well toned but actually carries a considerable amount of visceral fat in their body. Being skinny fat refers to having low muscle mass density while also carrying body fat despite appearing thin outwardly.

What Does Skinny Fat Look Like?

When examining this condition from a BMI perspective it may seem that your weight is proportionate, to your height giving the impression of normalcy. To an onlooker your average weight and lean physique might suggest health. However beneath the surface there is an amount of body fat that needs attention.

Medically known as MONW (Metabolically Obese Normal Weight) this condition involves accumulation of visceral fat while appearing thin externally. Lets discuss the fat that tends to accumulate around our vital organs. It can cause some concerns, for individuals who appear thin but may actually be storing excess weight in less noticeable areas. It’s important for them to be cautious about health issues.

Now here’s the part about visceral fat. In small quantities it actually plays a positive role. It acts as a shield, for our organs and can even serve as a backup energy source when needed. However problems arise when we start accumulating subcutaneous fat. Just imagine having cushioning around your abdomen particularly in the area surrounding your intestines, gallbladder and pancreas. This is an indication of obesity. Increases the risk of future health complications.

What Causes The Phenomenon Of Being Skinny Fat?

Being labeled as skinny fat is typically a result of having a higher body fat percentage and limited muscle mass. There are factors that can contribute to this condition including:

Accumulation Of Visceral Fat

Having excess fat in the body particularly around important organs can pose health risks. It’s important for individuals with belly fat to prioritize efforts to reduce it. One way to identify fat is by assessing the abdominal area or measuring waist and abdominal dimensions. Another useful measurement is the waist, to hip ratio. Measure your waist and hips then divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement.

This ratio provides insight into how fat’s distributed in your body and overall health. If your score goes beyond 0.85 it means you have levels of body fat. For men who aim to maintain health a score above one indicates a significant amount of body fat. However if you want the precise assessment of visceral fat a CT scan is the way to go. Nonetheless getting a CT scan can be costly and challenging.

But don’t worry many fitness centers offer body composition monitors that come in handy for evaluating body composition. This analysis provides insights, into your body composition and offers accurate measurements of subcutaneous and visceral fat. To calculate fat simply multiply your subcutaneous fat percentage by 10% as roughly 10% of your total body fat constitutes visceral fat.

Unhealthy Eating Patterns

Have you ever taken a look at the food you usually eat in a day? Examining your food choices can provide some insightful revelations. Poor eating and drinking habits can have an impact on the accumulation of excess body fat which is an important point to consider.

Many people who disregard their diet often fall short on protein intake, which can negatively affect their ability to manage weight. Your body needs a supply of protein to build muscle but its not uncommon for individuals to heavily rely on carbohydrates (carbs) instead. Consuming meals that are high in carbohydrates can result in the storage of excess body fat leading to health complications.

A diet that consists mainly of carbohydrates and is high, in cholesterol promotes the storage of body fat. These food and drink choices typically contain processed sugars and fats well some of which may include harmful trans fats further contributing to health concerns.


As we get older our bodies naturally go through changes that often lead to a decrease in muscle mass. This is a part of the aging process, where we tend to lose skeletal muscle mass gradually while also gaining more body fat. Consequently many people experience weight gain as they age.

With time it’s not unusual to find ourselves transitioning into the skinny fat body type due, to these inherent changes. To address this body type it’s important to adopt personalized strategies that focus on increasing skeletal muscle mass. This approach helps counteract the effects of aging and promotes a physical appearance.


The role of genetics in determining body weight whether someone is thin or fat is significant. Your inherited genetic blueprint plays a part in various aspects of your overall health, including your body type.

Although this genetic predisposition to a body composition is inherent it doesn’t mean it’s unchangeable. Even if you have an inclination towards carrying excess fat it’s possible to transform your body through a balanced program that combines exercise and healthy eating choices focused on weight loss.


Another factor that can contribute to the challenge of maintaining a weight is stress. When faced with stressors people often turn to emotional eating as a way to find comfort and unfortunately this often leads to overindulgence in fast food and sugary drinks.

While these choices may temporarily provide relief they ultimately result in consuming more calories than necessary. Additionally stress commonly brings about sleep deprivation which worsens its effects and can potentially lead to issues, like dry skin.

Addressing the Dilemma of Being Skinny Fat

When it comes to dealing with the skinny fat predicament it’s crucial to take action in order to rebalance your body composition by increasing muscle mass and reducing body fat. Failing to do might potentially lead to the development of heart disease and other health issues.

The good news is that there are ways to decrease body fat regulate blood sugar levels and build muscle. The effective approach involves following a well rounded diet that focuses on consuming sufficient protein and incorporating a healthy weight training program. This not helps achieve a more favorable body composition but also reduces the risk of medical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.

A Healthy Diet

Opting for a diet, in nutritious protein while minimizing carbohydrate intake can aid in shedding excess fat. Furthermore integrating burning foods and beverages into your meals can significantly contribute towards reaching your weight loss objectives. To enhance your weight loss journey consider including the following foods into your diet:

  • Lean beef
  • Salmon
  • Chicken
  • Greek Yoghurt
  • Eggs
  • Broccoli
  • Nuts (Remember, a serving is one ounce, so be mindful of portions)
  • Avocado (Rich in healthy fats and calories, practice portion control)
  • Dark chocolate (Enjoy in moderation)
  • Green Tea

Incorporating the right types of food in proper portions can greatly contribute to weight loss. Equally important is avoiding processed carbs and sugars in your diet. It’s crucial to steer of foods that are high in unhealthy fats, especially trans fats as they provide more calories without many nutritional benefits.

For individuals dealing with excess body fat it’s essential to make lifestyle changes in order to achieve a healthy weight. Evaluating the amount of body fat you have will help you set a clear goal for reducing your body fat percentage and creating an effective diet plan.

Cardio Exercises

Alongside a calorie restricted diet cardiovascular exercises (commonly known as cardio) play a role in combating belly fat. These activities should be complemented by increased strength training, which promotes the development of muscle mass while aiding in loss.

It’s important to focus on workouts and cardio routines that encourage muscle growth. The objective for individuals, with body fat is not solely weight loss; rather it involves redistributing fat and replacing it with muscle.

However it’s crucial to maintain practicality so that you don’t spend hours at the gym without seeing visible results. To make your fitness routine effective it’s important to focus on resistance based exercises like strength training or weightlifting. You can incorporate equipment options such, as free weights (kettlebells and dumbbells) weight machines (stacks and pulleys) or even home gym systems and weight benches.

Weight Training

The importance of strength training for achieving weight loss cannot be overstated. By creating a workout plan or following specific weight training routines you can utilize the resistance offered by different types of exercise equipment.

To get the results its recommended to either design your own program or seek guidance from a knowledgeable trainer who can assist you in using the equipment properly and determining the appropriate number of repetitions and sets that will aid in muscle development.

Strength training plays a role in preventing the accumulation of fat mass while preserving valuable muscle mass. This transformation helps you move away from being “skinny fat” and brings you closer to your desired body weight. Additionally strength training offers other benefits such as improved metabolism, increased bone density and decreased body fat percentage. It is an approach towards achieving your fitness goals, with multiple facets.

To Sum It Up

If you’re tired of feeling out of shape and want to improve your health there are two areas to focus on; your diet and exercise routine. Weightlifting can be your weapon, in this journey. It helps you shed stubborn fat and build strong muscles, which boosts both your physical appearance and overall well being. Some people may consider incorporating burning supplements for an extra boost but its important to approach them with caution.

However here’s the important rule; Your diet should be your ally. Eating unhealthy foods can hinder progress so aim for balance. Don’t overlook the impact of your lifestyle. Cutting back on alcohol is a choice, too. Research suggests that excessive drinking can contribute to fat accumulation, particularly the kind that hides just beneath the surface of the skin. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider those drinks and strive for a healthier version of yourself!

What Are The Risks Of Having Skinny Fat?

Dealing with the “skinny fat” label presents its own unique challenges highlighting the importance of staying aware of the presence of visceral fat in your body composition. Having amounts of visceral fat or overall body fat can lead to various health risks.

Specifically visceral fat tends to build up around our organs within the abdominal cavity. It’s not uncommon for individuals who appear thin but have levels of body fat to face health issues like heart disease, diabetes and increased insulin resistance.

Moreover this condition can raise the likelihood of developing Alzheimers disease, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome and certain types of cancer. These health risks primarily stem from the accumulation of fat and elevated blood sugar levels in the body, which includes conditions, like diabetes and heart disease.

Are There Any Supplements That Can Specifically Help With Skinny Fat?

Addressing the challenge of “thin fat” requires a multi dimensional approach that goes beyond relying solely on supplements. It involves adopting a rounded lifestyle that includes regular exercise, particularly strength training, as well as maintaining a nutritious diet abundant in lean protein, fruits and vegetables.

While certain supplements, like protein powders or branched chain amino acids can assist in promoting muscle growth and fat loss to some extent they should not be considered as solutions. The key lies in maintaining consistency and having patience while prioritizing the development of muscle to replace fat.

It’s important to remember that our bodies are ever evolving systems so nurturing them with sustainable habits will yield more favorable outcomes compared to solely relying on supplements.

What Are The Side Effects Of Weight Loss?

Embarking on a journey to lose weight can have both positive and negative effects and unexpected outcomes. While losing weight can boost your confidence and energy levels it’s important to be aware of challenges that may arise. These challenges can include issues like skin, hair loss or changes in mood.

Additionally quick weight loss may increase the risk of gallstones and restrictive diets could interfere with absorption. It’s essential to take an approach to weight loss by focusing on gradual and sustainable changes. Seeking support, from healthcare professionals or joining support groups can help manage any side effects that may arise during the process and ensure your overall well being is maintained.


The bottom line is this: being called “skinny fat” means that you have too much body fat, especially the harmful visceral fat while having low muscle mass. Although you might look healthy on the outside there’s actually an unhealthy amount of body fat beneath the surface. This excess fat puts you at risk for diseases that could potentially lead to early death.

To protect yourself from these risks it’s crucial to identify whats causing your weight gain and make lifestyle changes. Develop a rounded plan that focuses on improving your eating habits incorporating exercise routines (including cardio) and prioritizing the growth of lean muscle mass. The ultimate aim is to decrease excess body fat while simultaneously building muscle mass, which will pave the way, for optimal health and a longer life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the exact definition of skinny fat and how can I determine if I fall into this category?

Skinny fat refers to a situation where a person may appear thin externally but has a percentage of body fat, particularly visceral fat and low muscle mass. To ascertain whether you fit into the fat category you can measure your body fat percentage and waist to hip ratio or consult with a healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation.

What are the potential health risks associated with being skinny fat?

Being skinny fat poses health risks, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome and certain types of cancers. Visceral fat and low muscle mass contribute to these risks.

Can I transform my physique from being skinny fat through diet and exercise alone?

Certainly! You can make changes to your skinny fat physique by adopting a combination of nutrition and well structured exercise routines. This typically involves resistance training (weightlifting) to build muscle while reducing body fat along with exercises (cardio) to enhance overall fitness levels.

What are helpful dietary suggestions for those who are skinny fat?

Maintaining a nutritious diet is essential in combating the effects of being skinny fat. It’s advisable to focus on consuming amounts of protein, healthy fats, as well, as complex carbohydrates.

Do I need to consult a health professional or fitness trainer for help with my skinny fat issues?

Although it is not obligatory seeking guidance, from a healthcare fitness coach can prove extremely advantageous. They can offer recommendations evaluate your current state of health and assist you in devising a personalized strategy to effectively and safely address your body composition concerns.


  1. Yang, X., Sui, W., Zhang, M., Dong, M., Lim, S., Seki, T., … Samani, N.J. (2017). Switching harmful visceral fat to beneficial energy combustion improves metabolic dysfunctions. JCI Insight, 2(4). Link
  2. (2014). The Belly Fat Study: Nutritional Intervention to Improve Metabolic Health in Subjects With Increased Abdominal Adiposity – Full Text View – Link
  3. Mizia, S., Felińczak, A., Włodarek, D., & Syrkiewicz-Świtała, M. (2021). Evaluation of Eating Habits and Their Impact on Health among Adolescents and Young Adults: A Cross-Sectional Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(8), 3996. Link
  4. Jung, C.-H., & Choi, K.M. (2017). Impact of High-Carbohydrate Diet on Metabolic Parameters in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes. Nutrients, 9(4), 322. Link
  5. Dhaka, V., Gulia, N., Ahlawat, K.S., & Khatkar, B.S. (2011). Trans fats—sources, health risks and alternative approach – A review. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 48(5), 534–541. Link
  6. Kalyani, R.R., Corriere, M., & Ferrucci, L. (2014). Age-related and disease-related muscle loss: the effect of diabetes, obesity, and other diseases. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, 2(10), 819–829. Link
  7. Choquet, H., & Meyre, D. (2011). Genetics of Obesity: What have we Learned? Current Genomics, 12(3), 169–179. Link
  8. Block, J.P., He, Y., Zaslavsky, A.M., Ding, L., & Ayanian, J.Z. (2009). Psychosocial Stress and Change in Weight Among US Adults. American Journal of Epidemiology, 170(2), 181–192. Link
  9. Saif, G.A.B., Alotaibi, H.M., Alzolibani, A.A., Almodihesh, N.A., Albraidi, H.F., Alotaibi, N.M., & Yosipovitch, G. (2018). Association of psychological stress with skin symptoms among medical students. Saudi Medical Journal, 39(1), 59–66. Link
  10. Aparecida Silveira, E., Vaseghi, G., de Carvalho Santos, A.S., Kliemann, N., Masoudkabir, F., Noll, M., … de Oliveira, C. (2020). Visceral Obesity and Its Shared Role in Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease: A Scoping Review of the Pathophysiology and Pharmacological Treatments. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 21(23), 9042. Link
  11. (2022). Weight-Loss and Maintenance Strategies. Link
  12. Champagne, C.M., Broyles, S.T., Moran, L.D., Cash, K.C., Levy, E.J., Lin, P.-H., … Myers, V.H. (2011). Dietary Intakes Associated with Successful Weight Loss and Maintenance during the Weight Loss Maintenance Trial. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111(12), 1826–1835. Link
  13. Thomas, M.H., & Burns, S.P. (2016). Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A Comparison of High Frequency Strength Training to Lower Frequency Strength Training. International journal of exercise science, 9(2), 159–167. Link
  14. Westcott, W.L. (2012). Resistance Training is Medicine. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 11(4), 209–216. Link
  15. Andreis, G. (2020). Moderate alcohol consumption and its relation to visceral fat and plasma androgens in healthy women. International journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders : journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 20(3). Link

By Jayson Peterson

Jayson Peterson is an experienced pharmacist, naturopathic physician, medical examiner, and minister. After earning his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the Medical University of South Carolina, Jayson Peterson completed clinical rotations at several prestigious healthcare institutions and has been affiliated with several pharmacy chains throughout his career. His main passion and zeal is focused on providing world-class patient care by giving precise details and thorough instructions to those who need it most.