When it comes to your health, the mirror and the scale tell only one part of the story. If you are relying on your body weight to ensure you are healthy you are in for a rude shock. While most people who are overweight or obese have excess body fat, there are an alarming number of people who fall within a normal body weight category and yet have unbelievably high levels of body fat - who are also known as ‘Skinny fat’


While the term skinny fat defies logic as how can one be ‘skinny’ and ‘fat’ at the same time??? And yet sadly it is a reality in today’s day and age with quick weight loss fixes and crash diets. 


In this article I will discuss

  1. What is Skinny fat?

  2. How your weight and Body Mass Index could mislead you about your health

  3. Understanding the difference between visceral fat and subcutaneous fat.

  4. How to test for it?

  5. How do people become skinny fat?

  6. What are the signs that you are skinny fat?

  7. How to lose fat without losing excess body weight?


What is Skinny Fat?

“Skinny fat” can be understood as a person who falls within the normal ranges of body weight and yet holds excess body fat in his/ her/ their body. This means that the person is metabolically obese but has a normal body weight.


Being skinny fat can pose greater risk to the person as they have the risks that obesity poses like 

  1. Increased inflammation in the body due to proinflammatory cytokines secreted by body fat

  2. Hormonal imbalance as body fat has the capacity to secrete hormones like estrogen

  3. Increased risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes as well as hypertension due to increased visceral fat

  4. Increased risk of cancers related to excess fat

  5. Poor mood, less energy, more fatigue related to inflammation in the body.


A skinny fat person also has a lowered muscle mass in addition to excess body fat and this is the reason for their ‘normal weight’ on the scale.  This poses them at greater risk to health issues related to lowered muscle mass like

  1. Lowered physical strength, endurance and stamina leading to constant fatigue

  2. Lowered immune function

  3. Decreased metabolism

  4. Greater risk of insulin insensitivity

  5. Poor recovery from illness or surgery

Medically, skinny fat is similar to a medical condition called sarcopenic obesity where people struggle with lowered muscle mass (sarcopenia) in addition to obesity (high body fat).

How Your Body Weight and BMI can be misleading when it comes to your health?

Many people just assume that if their weight and/or BMI is normal, they have nothing to worry about. While height weight charts as well as Body Mass Index can indicate overweight or obesity, these are often misleading when it comes to skinny fat. 


Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women.

BMI Categories according to World Health Organization:

Underweight = <18.5

Normal weight = 18.5–24.9

Overweight = 25–29.9

Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater


BMI can be misleading incases of pregnancy, athletes (due to higher muscle mass, thus a higher weight) as well as in case of skinny fat (lower muscle mass, but higher body fat could be within normal ranges)


Thus looking skinny or within normal BMI doesn’t mean you’re healthy if you are skinny fat.

Understanding the difference between Subcutaneous fat and Visceral fat.

The understanding of subcutaneous fat and visceral fat is crucial to understanding skinny fat.


Subcutaneous fat is the fat stored under your skin, this is the fat you can pinch or grasp with your hands. 


Visceral fat, on the other hand, lies deep within the abdominal cavity, where it pads the spaces and wraps around your abdominal organs like kidneys, intestines, stomach and liver. Visceral fat is extremely sneaky because it isn't easy to see the visceral fat in your midsection nor can it be pinched or grasped with hands.


Fat accumulated in the lower body (the pear shape) is subcutaneous, while fat in the abdominal area (the apple shape) is largely visceral. 


Skinny fat people have more visceral fat in their body, which is hidden or unseen and can pose risks like

  • Insulin resistance leading to type 2 diabetes

  • High cholesterol

  • Increased risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension

  • Increased risk of certain cancers

  • Increased risk of dementia

  • Low bone mineral density


How to test for Skinny Fat?


The mirror as well as the weighing scale are both unsuccessful at understanding skinny fat. The best way to test for Skinny fat is by testing body composition via Bioimpedance analysis (BIA) device.


A BIA machine is a device that uses a small electric current passed through your body to measure body composition. 

In my practice I use Impedimed DF 50 which is a quick and easy device for BIA testing that is non invasive as well as highly effective to monitor your body fat, muscle mass as well as hydration status. 


The Impedimed DF50 I use for measuring body composition in my clinical practice is much more accurate than a weighing scale or a hand held device.


It can read the following parameters 

  • Fat mass

  • Muscle mass

  • Hydration status

  • Basal Metabolic Rate

  • Water retention

  • Phase angle or cellular health index


While optimal fat mass show variable ranges as per age and gender, here are the ranges as per American Council on Exercise

How do people become skinny fat?


There are various ways people can become skinny fat


  1. Heredity - whether your fat is stored in your mid section (visceral) or under your skin (subcutaneous) can be governed by your genetics and heredity. 


  1. Eating junk food - while some are blessed with a higher metabolism, I have often noticed that poor dietary habits- eating too much greasy fast foods, high sugar intake contributes to excess fat build up in the body 


  1. High toxicity - Eating foods full of preservatives, pesticides, dyes and chemical additives as well as environmental pollutants create a toxic situation within the body. Your body fat traps these toxins to ensure your body undergoes minimal harm from them and thus the more toxicity you have in your body, the more body fat your body will hold on too


  1. Severe calorie restriction and crash diets make your body store fat while losing muscle mass


  1. Lack of exercise especially resistance or strength training leads to muscle loss and excess fat gain


  1. Hormonal imbalances related to insulin insensitivity and cortisol imbalance can contribute to skinny fat.

What are the signs that you are skinny fat?


While a body composition test can give you the definitive answer whether you are skinny fat, these are some signs that show you are skinny fat


  1. You have high fat around your waist line - aka muffin top


  1. While you are normal weight on the scale, you dont look toned


  1. You feel weak and lack strength due to lowered muscle mass


  1. You are diagnosed with high cholesterol or high triglycerides


  1. You are borderline diabetic or have a higher HbA1C


How to lose fat without losing excess body weight?


Being skinny fat can be challenging as you want to ensure that you lose excess body fat without losing the muscle mass and your weight. In my clinical practice, I help my clients get rid of skinny fat by developing a nutritional plan that is  based on the principles of Ayurveda, that is custom tailored to ensure you lose body fat, while building muscle mass and maintaining body weight. This also ensures that your body inflammation is lowered and you gain strength and build your overall health. 


Complete Metabolic Reset is my signature program that can help you lose the fat, gain muscle mass as well as tons of energy.


Book your 15 min Free consult to get rid of Skinny Fat with Complete Metabolic Reset by registering below