How to Tell if You’re Skinny Fat and What You Can Do About It

skinny fat

Have you ever looked in the mirror and noticed that you’re skinny overall, but still seem to have a couple of specific problem areas? Then you hop on the scale and see that your body weight is still within a seemingly healthy range. Odds are that you might be the subject of a lesser known topic of conversation: skinny fat.

If you look good enough to stop traffic in your new outfit, but you dread anyone seeing you in your bikini, then you might be skinny fat. Let’s take a look at what this seemingly impossible phrase actually means.


What Does Skinny Fat Mean?

Skinny fat will typically be different for men and women. The unofficial definition says it is someone with a normal weight and body mass index (BMI) for their height but with a higher amount of fat than is recommended for optimal health.

While men will typically carry this extra weight in their belly and chest, women usually see theirs in the belly, hips, and thighs.

While these people may appear skinny, it doesn’t mean they are healthy. Their deceptive waistline and weight lead them to live a different lifestyle and maintain an unhealthy diet, causing excess body fat.

This higher concentration of fat poses multiple health risks, including insulin resistance (leading to type 2 diabetes), heart disease, and high cholesterol.

Do you think you may fall into this category? While you may not be able to simply look in the mirror and know if you’re skinny fat, there are some fairly easy ways to determine where you land.


How to Tell If You’re Skinny Fat

Your height and weight are not the only factors you can use to decide whether you’re skinny fat or not. Weight alone cannot tell you this because everyone’s body composition is different, even if they are the exact same height.

To determine where your body lands on this spectrum, measure your skeletal muscle mass against your body fat mass. There are a handful of ways to do this.


One of the most simple and common ways to measure this is with calipers. This tool helps determine a person’s estimated visceral fat, which can get stored around internal organs and inside the spaces between your abdominal muscles.

While this is a good route to try, it may not be the most accurate. That’s because fat is measured based on predictions from the external or subcutaneous fat.

Many factors come into play, such as where the calipers are used and how knowledgeable the test administrator is of the process.

BIA Devices

These scales are able to measure your body composition by using small electric currents. They can be an accurate way to test it as long as a proper, full body scale is used. Some of them may only measure a place on either the upper or lower body, and guess what the rest of the body looks like.

For best results, use one that measures the full body, including upper, lower, and your abdominal section. It can provide some accurate insight into whether or not you have a skinny fat body type.

Clinical Tests

While these are likely the most accurate way to test your body’s composition, they may also be the most difficult to access.

These tests use a specific form of weight measurement along with a potentially harmful radiation test called a dual x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). It will require highly sophisticated equipment. Plus, it can be expensive to have this test done without good health insurance.

Regardless of how you decide to go about this, once you have your body fat percentage, you can compare it to where you should be for your gender.

Men are recommended to maintain a body fat percentage between 10 percent and 20 percent. The range for women is between 18 percent and 28 percent.

If your overall weight falls within the recommended range, but your body fat is above it, then you might be skinny fat.


How to Fight against It

Whether you’re already skinny fat or heading in that direction, there are plenty of ways to counteract these effects.

People normally reach this point when they are not maintaining a healthy diet or exercising regularly. This typically includes a high intake of sugar, carbs, and fat.

Carbs provide energy to our bodies. However, if they’re not actively used for exercise or other activities, they can quickly turn into fat. Lack of exercise can also lead to muscle degeneration, lowering your body’s skeletal muscle mass.

Just as a poor diet and no exercise can cause you to be skinny fat. Healthy eating and daily activity will have the reverse effect. There are a handful of workout routines and foods to add to your lifestyle, which can be immensely effective if you have this body type.


Cardio can instantly sound like a bad word to someone who doesn’t enjoy exercising.

Thoughts instantly jump to hours of running on a treadmill or an obscene amount of jumping jacks. While these are good forms of cardio, there are better options available.

Your aerobic workout can include dancing, swimming, or playing a fast-paced sport like basketball. You can also hop on a bike and go for a ride.

Whatever you decide, just get your body moving at least two days per week.

Resistance Training

Adding some resistance to a workout can have a tremendous impact on your ability to both build muscle and burn fat.

If you’re not a fan of lifting weights, then use your body instead. Do a few push-ups, pull-ups, or lunges to strengthen different muscles and improve your body composition.


High intensity interval training may be the best way to help shed your skinny fat look. It is the process of exerting all of your energy and strength into an activity like sprinting, burpees, or jump squats followed by a brief recovery period.

Normally, a 20- or 30-minute routine is plenty to see and feel the effects of this method.


A healthy diet can either be a straightforward routine or the most complicated thing in the world.

Make it the former by simply focusing on cutting out the typical junk food. Avoid anything prepackaged or processed, and maintain smaller portions.

Limiting your carbs to breakfast and increasing your fruit and vegetable intake during the day will also make significant impacts. Be sure to drink lots of water every day as well. Somewhere between two and three liters per day is a good goal to shoot for.


Avoid the Skinny Fat Body Type – Lifestyle Changes

If you want to know more about how you can avoid a high body fat percentage, check out our blog. There you will find diet and nutrition plans, fitness exercises, and health risks associated with being skinny fat.

Remember to stay active and eat a balanced diet. Nutrition and exercise have the biggest impact on your muscle-to-fat ratio. Commit to a healthy lifestyle for life – your future self will thank you.

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