Have you ever wondered why people look thin but have medical issues similar to an obese person? This condition is called “skinny fat“, a term used to describe people who look normal but have more fat than muscle mass.
Although being skinny fat is not a serious condition considering a person’s weight and BMI are normal, she/he has more body fat than lean muscle mass. If not corrected, increasing body fat can lead to heart conditions and deteriorating overall health. Let’s discover the different skinny fat reasons and how to overcome these using simple, practical methods.
What is Skinny Fat?
Skinny fat is when a person has low muscle mass but high body fat. You are not overweight if you’re skinny fat as you have the correct weight and BMI. Some people may think that if they have normal weight and BMI for their height, they don’t need to worry about their body fat percentage. This stems from how BMI is used to assess height, weight, and overall health.
For instance, if you have a BMI of 18.5 to 24.99, you are within the normal range, and thus, you are in good health. But despite the World Health Organization setting these numbers, they added a warning. BMI must be used as a “rough guide” as it may not fit similar body fat percentages in different people. With these in mind, you are not considered healthy if you’re skinny fat.
Most people think that as long as they are not overweight, they’re in the safe zone. However, this is not the case. When you already look skinny, you sometimes outweigh the reality of having a fit and healthy body. Fat is stored differently in the body, and if you’re skinny fat, it could be hiding in areas of your body that you can hardly see. This places you at risk for serious medical conditions.
7 Reasons Why You’re Skinny Fat and How to Fix Them
When you’re skinny fat, your visceral or internal fat is greater than your subcutaneous fat or visible fat. Visceral fat is trapped around organs like the liver, intestines, kidneys, and stomach. You need to discover what causes your skinny fat condition and make a serious turn before it’s too late.
1. Over Restricting Your Calories
Some people complain that they try to lose weight by eating less, only to fail their diets in the long run. They eat fewer calories, starve themselves only to find out that they have made their conditions worse. This is because severe calorie restriction is not the key to dieting. Avoiding calories can lead to being skinny fat.
When you eat significantly fewer calories, you are depriving your body of the necessary nutrition to perform its regular functions. There are specific calorie amounts for women and men, depending on their age, daily activities, fitness goals, and medical conditions. If you take in fewer calories than what you need in a day, you’ll end up slowing your metabolism down.
Your body won’t work properly as digestion slows, metabolism slows, and the delivery of nutrients to the different tissues and organs becomes affected. As you continue to deprive your body of much-needed calories, you eventually lose muscle mass, but your visceral fat remains.
Extreme calorie restriction, fad diets, and eating only particular foods to lose weight will never work. You will only end up risking your health to achieve the weight you’re aiming for.
Each person is different when it comes to the number of calories needed in a day. Women need about 2,000 calories in a day, while men need around 2,500 calories. You need to consider these numbers before you start restricting your calorie intake. Your body needs approximately this many calories to work properly (digestion, metabolism, respiration, circulation, etc.).
You can note the number of calories you take into portioning food, but you still need to consider the amount your body needs to function well. And dieting is more than just counting calories; it is burning more calories than you take in.
2. Doing Excessive Amounts of Cardio
Cardio is good. It will make your heart pumping, elevate your heart rate and enhance metabolism. Most weight-loss experts agree that adding cardio to your weight loss regimen will help you successfully achieve your goal.
Cardio can be any activity that you can comfortably do in a day. You can run, jog, ride your bike, or dance. You can swim, hike, or skip rope if you cannot get out of the house. Regular cardio can improve your heart and lungs’ strength and performance, plus it will help you endure strenuous workouts. Cardio can help burn fat and lose weight when done properly.
Cardio will give you great results, visible results that sometimes encourage people to work out more often, leading to aggressive, and excessive amounts of cardio.
Excessive cardio will overload your system, and instead of burning fat, you will also burn your muscles. Your metabolism becomes heavily impacted, and eventually, you will find it harder to burn fat. Also, too much cardio can trigger more cortisol to be released in your system. This will lead to the breakdown of tissues. Excess cortisol also leads to chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes type 2, and bone loss.
There is the right amount of cardio to achieve fat loss. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the way you engage in cardio for fat loss should depend on your overall state of health. The intensity of your workouts must be around 60% to 85% of your maximum heart rate.
Ideally, your cardio sessions should last around 20 to 60 minutes, 3 to 5 times a week. It’s therefore important to evaluate your body before you start using cardio for fat loss.
Another form of exercise is HIIT or high-intensity interval training. HIIT is best for fat loss as you are not overworking your heart and elevating cortisol levels. HIIT is performing short bursts of intense exercise. For instance, jumping rope for a full minute followed by walking or pacing for two minutes; repeat these for 10 to 15 minutes, and you have a complete HIIT.
3. Doing Little to Zero Resistance Training
Resistance or strength training is done with some form of resistance or counterforce. It challenges the muscles to make them stronger, toner, leaner and firmer. When resistance training is done correctly, you can shed fat and gain more muscle.
Resistance training can be simple activities that will require you to match a counterforce like bodyweight workouts such as pushups, using a resistance band, or using weights. People who engage in resistance training gradually move from lifting smaller, lighter weights to larger and heavier weights. They may use the facilities of a gym or a workout station, or they may have weights at home. Alternatively, you can also use your own bodyweight.
However, incorrect or zero resistance training won’t cut it. You won’t be able to obliterate fat, and thus, you will only adapt to a skinny fat body. You should work against some form of resistance and stick with your routine. Giving up too soon will not make you leaner and shed excess fat.
There is no particular set of strength training for skinny fat people. But if you’re new to working out, you should perform strength training for all muscle groups like the legs, back, glutes, hips, chest, shoulders, arms, and midsection. You should engage in strength-building exercise routines at least two times a week.
An effective resistance training workout should consist of a routine with an average of 8 to 12 repetitions for every session. Challenge your muscles with resistance and slowly increase this as you go along. The right amount of weight depends on the routine you are performing.
You must select a weight that will challenge the target muscle or group of muscles by two repetitions. If you are unable to perform two repetitions, select a lighter weight. If you feel that the weight has become easier to lift, add another set to the routine.
Always stick to the routine and workout all the muscles at least three times a week. Skinny fat people can engage in a full-body workout or break routines into upper and lower body routines in a week.
4. Not Consuming Enough Protein
Protein is an important component of muscles, and eating high-quality protein is crucial to getting lean. With adequate amounts of protein combined with strength training, you will maintain muscle mass and enhance muscle growth.
Besides contributing to muscle growth and strength, protein also helps you achieve proper weight and overall health. Protein can naturally reduce appetite and suppress hunger. It can help you feel full as it reduces hunger hormone levels. Protein helps maintain bone mass, especially in aging adults. Also, protein can help enhance your metabolism and aid in burning more fat.
Over time, if you don’t eat enough protein, you can lose muscle mass, affecting your strength. You will find it hard to maintain balance and will eventually slow down your metabolism. Not consuming enough protein can lead to anemia. This results in cells and tissues not getting enough oxygen and will make you feel weary and tired.
It’s incorrect to assume that cutting down on protein will lead to weight loss. Usually, people who want to lose weight resort to starving on significant nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Doing so is dangerous to health and can even lead to serious medical conditions.
You should never avoid protein if you want to lose body fat. You should eat high-quality protein-rich food like fish, meats, eggs, dairy, and seafood. Another good source is a protein powder which provides high-quality protein but with few calories.
Professional bodybuilders and weight trainers rely on protein powders to form good muscle as they lose weight. Protein powders should be taken after your workout, about 25 to 50 grams daily. But if you already have a high protein intake using quality protein sources, you may not need protein powders.
Stress has so many unwanted effects on the body; one of these is excess weight. When you’re stressed, your body adapts by releasing cortisol, which can increase weight. Cortisol also affects where the body gains weight, like the midsection or abdominal area.
Also, stress triggers excessive eating in some people. A term called “stress eating” is common in people who find comfort in ingesting food. They will eat when they are stressed and prefer to eat high-calorie food like sweets, salty-food, and fatty food.
People respond to stress differently. Some people may resort to stress eating, while others may eat less when stressed. Some suffer from insomnia and sleeplessness when stressed, and poor sleep can also lead to weight gain. Lack of sleep increases the body’s oxidative stress, intolerance to glucose, and insulin resistance, leading to weight gain.
If you don’t know how to manage stress or are frequently subjected to stress, you can develop a skinny fat body. You may think that you look thin and feel thin, but there is hidden midsection fat that’s wrapping your organs. You can avoid developing a skinny fat body by learning how to deal with stress naturally.
It’s important to learn how to cope with stress without resorting to stress eating naturally. You can do activities that can divert your attention from stress, like a hobby or sport. Talk to friends and family and ask for advice.
You can play games, watch movies, engage in yoga, or ride your bike. Don’t overthink your problems. Always focus on the positive side of things, and you’ll soon find it easier to find solutions to your problems. And if you find yourself dealing with stress more often, talk to a professional. Chronic stress can lead to serious problems and should never be overlooked.
6. Not Eating a Nutritious Diet
One of the most important components of weight loss and a healthy body is eating a nutritious diet. Unhealthy eating and poor diets lead to fat storage and hence, a skinny fat appearance. Also, engaging in fad or crash diets can be very dangerous to health. Take a juicing or juice diet that includes fruit and vegetable juices until you achieve your desired weight. This is very dangerous as you are not taking in the necessary nutrients your body needs in a day.
Macronutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, and fats are necessary for proper growth, development, and metabolism. Proteins are needed for muscle and bone growth, while carbs and fats are needed for energy. If you use a diet that prioritizes a nutrient and significantly cuts down on other nutrients, then your body suffers. Your metabolism slows down, and you suffer from nutritional deficiencies.
To avoid a skinny fat body and reduce body fat, you must eat healthier without compromising the three major food groups. Consider your calorie needs in a day and choose healthy food sources and not unhealthy ones.
Also, learn about cheat meals and apply this to your diet. Cheat meals are meals that include foods that are not permitted in your healthy diet. You can include cheat meals or cheat days in a week as a reward for sticking to your diet the rest of the week.
7. Relying Too Much on Your Scale Weight or Your BMI
As we mentioned earlier, relying too much on your scale weight and BMI can mislead you into thinking that you’re fit and healthy. You must not focus on these figures as they don’t measure the hidden fat that skinny fat people have.
Take note that muscle is denser than fat. Body fat takes up more space and can wrap around your vital organs like the heart, kidneys, and liver. Visceral fat is dangerous as it can trigger the release of hormones that are related to inflammation. You can end up with damaged arteries and a malfunctioning liver that won’t break down fats.
The key to weight loss and achieving the right form is to use a tape measure. Here’s what you need to do:
- Measure your body and record your numbers. Compare these with your measurements as you engage in weight loss routines and eat healthier.
- Measure your midsection, upper arms, chest, thighs, legs, and neck.
- Take your weight and take note of this as you gradually form different parts of your body. You will notice that even if you lose inches off your waistline or thighs, your body weight remains or may only slightly reduce.
- Use progress photos as a basis. Take a selfie in front of a mirror and compare your photos weekly. You will surely see a huge improvement in your form and shape despite staying the same weight.
Being skinny-fat should never be overlooked. Take time to assess your body and what type of exercise routine you can use to improve muscle mass and reduce body fat. Consider eating healthy and avoid stress to overcome your condition. Consider these skinny fat reasons and tips, and get closer to a healthier and fitter body.