People tend to assume that being thin is healthy, in all actuality this isn’t always the case. In fact, sometimes being extremely thin and lacking any muscle can be just as unhealthy as a severely obese person. If you lack muscle mass on your body you have a greater likelihood of having a higher body fat percentage, which is very unhealthy. I have had many clients reach out to me after going in for a normal check up and finding out they have high blood pressure or are pre-diabetic even though they are not overweight. These people are considered “skinny fat.”
Have you heard this term being thrown around a lot? My guess is you have. What does skinny fat actually mean though? I will do my best to not only explain what skinny fat is and who is more likely to be categorized as being skinny fat, but also how you can best combat being skinny fat and start living a healthier, happier life.
First off, what does skinny fat actually mean? Skinny fat refers to individuals who are low muscle, weak, and have high body fat . When your body weight is low but you don’t have much muscle on your body, you have a high body fat percentage, in other words the amount of body fat you carry is a high percentage of your body weight. You are starting to see skinny fat talked about a lot more often in the medical community. They are actually finding that people who have low body weight but high percentages of body fat too have some of the worst health of all.
I know this can be hard to comprehend. How is that possible? How can someone be skinny yet have a lot of body fat. When it comes to body fat it’s not necessarily the amount of body fat on your body, it’s whether or not it makes up a large percentage of your overall body weight.
Here’s why being skinny fat is often times worse than just being overweight . . .
Someone who is just overweight may have enough muscle to offset some of the negatives of the high amount of body fat. Somebody who is skinny fat has the dual problem of higher body fat percentage and lack of muscle. So they can’t make up for the metabolic effects of high body fat with some muscle.
Low muscle & high body fat = Serious problems
Without taking a body fat test how would you know if this you??
Are you weak? Are you at a low body weight? Can’t perform a single push up? Do you struggle lifting grocery bags? Do you store body fat in abnormal amounts around your midsection or belly? Often times you will find people in the skinny fat category with skinny arms and skinny legs but they will store more fat around the belly area. This usually means they will store more visceral body fat which is the fat stored around the organs. This fat is far more inflammatory and can cause more problems than subcutaneous body fat or the fat stored just below the skin.
From a health perspective, someone who is skinny fat often times will display poor health markers just like someone who is overweight. Often times they will have high blood sugar or blood sugar issues. People who are skinny fat are surprised by this. They go to the doctor and are usually about 35 to 40 years old with a body weight and BMI in normal ranges; they get tested and the doctor informs them they are borderline hypertensive (high blood pressure.)
What most don’t understand is that muscle has many protective benefits for our bodies, especially as we age. If you’re a 30 to 40 year old person, underweight, don’t have a lot of muscle, you’re going to be frail, weak, and sick when you get to an advanced age.
In my experience training clients, I have come to notice that there are two types of skinny fat individuals. One would be the low energy skinny fat person. This person would have low energy, be a bit listless during our training sessions and they would fatigue immediately. The other skinny fat person I have worked with is the wired individual. They are very overstressed, tired & wired skinny fat client. This is a person who is high strung, eyes usually big (from being over caffeinated), with unhealthy hair and skin . . . think of that “go, go, go” type of person. I see this a lot in moms especially when all they care about is their kids. They usually under eat, don’t want to be overweight, and constantly check the scale. Those are usually the two types of skinny fat people I come across in my training.
Is any of this sounding familiar?? Now let’s discuss some of the best ways to overcome being skinny fat:
- The first thing you must do is get rid of the scale. Yes, you read that correctly. Get rid of it. Give it away, throw it away, hide it in the closet. Do whatever you need to do so you stop constantly weighing yourself. I want you to put your focus into something completely different. I want you to focus on building strength. Sooo, instead of doing hours of cardio, which is the exercise of choice for most skinny fat people, I want you to lift weights just 2 days a week. That’s it. No more cardio and just focus on lifting twice a week. Train your full body twice a week with at least 1 or 2 days of rest in between lifting days. Focus on the main compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press, and rows. These will give you the best bang for your buck. I would recommend staying in the 3-12 rep range and really focus on pushing heavy weight with good form, of course. By doing this, you will send the signal to your body to build lean muscle, which is exactly what you want to lower your current body fat percentage.
- Next, you must consume enough energy (food) for your body to want to build muscle. Because if you continue to under eat and start lifting weights your body won’t have the energy it needs to repair and adapt from the training. Muscle is a very expensive tissue, unlike body fat, and unless it has the calories it needs to spare for muscle growth your body will not prioritize it. When it comes to increasing calories, the most important macro to focus on is protein. Protein is the main driver when it comes to muscle growth, it is also the hardest macro to convert and store as body fat. So by increasing protein, it is very unlikely that it will be stored as fat.
- Last, I have my clients focus on reducing stress. If your body is constantly in a state of stress it will not want to prioritize fat loss or muscle growth. A body under tons of stress is actually much more likely to want to store body fat. So, in order to reduce stress I suggest having a bedtime routine. One of the main causes of stress is little or poor quality sleep, so making sure you have a good bedtime routine that prepares your body for a good night’s rest is key. Ways to do this are turning off or dimming all sources of artificial light 1-2 hours before bed, limit screen use whether that’s phone or tv time, and invest in a pair of high quality blue light blocker glasses to wear if you do watch tv, use your computer and/or phone right before bed. The blue light created by the artificial light reduces our natural production of melatonin which is very helpful in getting quality sleep. Lots of exercise is a stress on our bodies as well, so if you are doing tons of cardio daily and also training to lift weights that can be too much for your already stressed out body. In order to start seeing better results, you must reduce or eliminate all cardio for the time being until you become healthier. Focus solely on full body resistance training 2-3 times a week.
I truly hope that you can take what you’ve learned here and implement it in your own life to become a healthier version of yourself. As always, I recommend hiring a coach or personal trainer to help you along the way. Having someone to hold you accountable and educate you can truly be a game changer in your journey to achieving sustainable results. For tons of free content, check out Kayli Montoya Fitness on Facebook or IG. You can also apply for a FREE, no obligation coaching call at my website http://www.kaylimontoyafitness.weebly.com.