What is skinny fat (and how to know if you are) What is skinny fat (and how to know if you are)
There’s skinny, there’s fat, and there’s skinny fat. Those who fall into the grey area of skinny fat look “healthy” and skinny, but have hidden high... What is skinny fat (and how to know if you are)

There’s skinny, there’s fat, and there’s skinny fat.

Those who fall into the grey area of skinny fat look “healthy” and skinny, but have hidden high levels of body fat.

There’s nothing wrong with that, right? At least they look good. Not really. Skinny does not equal healthy.

the flash television GIF

You can be skinny, but unhealthy. Being skinny does not cancel out the side effects of inactivity and a poor diet.

In this case, it is one’s body composition that matters.

How to know if you’re skinny fat

There are a few tell-tale signs if you have this body type. Most of the fat will fall into the category of visceral fat. You can’t pinch it on your arms or thighs – visceral fat surrounds your internal organs.

Healthy levels of visceral fat help to protect your organs, but excess amounts then spell trouble for you and your health.

This is the “bad” fat that you don’t want, because it is harder to get rid of and the culprit behind a ton of health ailments.

If this describes you, then you may be at risk of being skinny fat!

  • You look thin even though you don’t exercise, and have unhealthy eating habits.
  • You haven’t lifted weights, or done strength training since forever.
  • You don’t have muscle tone: your arms look the same flexed and at rest.
  • You suffer from the dreaded muffin top.
  • You feel light-headed after mild exercise.

pen writing paper

For more conclusive results, seek out a professional’s opinion. Otherwise, the following tests will help in determining if you’re skinny fat.

1. Skinfold test

As this test is administered with callipers, it’s best to enlist the help of another to make it easier.

Four areas of the body are measured: the biceps, triceps, subscapularis (bottom end of the shoulder blade) and above the hip bone.

Be careful not to grip the muscle when taking these measurements: you only want to measure the fat.

 skinfold test

Image: Weightology

2. Measuring waist circumference

All you need is a measuring tape. Place the tape just above your hip bones. The tape should be snug but not tight. Breathe out and take the measurement.

Doctors suggest that people with BMI scores above 23 and a waistline of more than 40 inches for men, and 35 inches for women – are likely to have higher levels of body fat

person measuring someone waist line

3. Bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA)

Probably the most accurate method, this test uses electrical current to calculate body composition.

Don’t panic just yet – you’ll feel no pain at all!

Just input your gender, height and age and the machine will do the work for you.

However, the limitations of this method are that you’ll need to have specialised equipment to do so.

Image result for bia machine professional

Image: Tanita



Health risks

1. Muscle deterioration

Who doesn’t want to get ripped? But before we even talk about that six-pack, let’s focus on the internal muscles.

Having defined muscles is merely a sign that you’re physically fit. Physical fitness is a vital part of remaining healthy. Our muscles, both internal and external, affect how our body functions.

Even day-to-day activities such as climbing the stairs will soon become difficult as your physical strength fades.

Ensuring that you’re staying fit with regular exercise will help with keeping your internal organs strong.

muscle drawing

2. Metabolically obese

The medical term for being skinny fat is “MONW” –  metabolically obese, normal weight. It refers to those who have a normal weight, yet possess a high percentage of body fat.

In this case, the body mass index (BMI) is unreliable in telling whether you’re skinny fat. BMI only tells you if you’re at a healthy weight for your height, but doesn’t tell you how much body fat you have.

For example, you may have a normal BMI but your body fat percentage is high enough to present health risks

person standing on white digital bathroom scale

3. High risk of cardiovascular diseases

Nearly one in four who are “skinny fat” have pre-diabetes. People often assume that if one is skinny, then you won’t get diabetes because you’re healthy. Wrong!

People who are skinny fat do not experience external physical cues. Hence, it becomes more difficult to get a heads up if there’s anything wrong with their health.

This is disastrous if it is allowed to continue for long.

If you’re not already watching your diet, this puts you at an even higher risk. Along with diabetes, high blood pressure is the diseases that the “skinny fat” are most susceptible to.

Red and Black Stethoscope

The takeaway: Weight is not everything

Make it your goal to be healthy, not skinny. At the end of the day, being healthy is more attractive than being skinny.

Thus, you should exercise and eat healthily not just for appearances, but also for your health.


Yun Xuan

A closet gastrophile, Yun Xuan can be found prowling the streets for good eats. She believes that life should come with a hefty side of fries.

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