Skinny Fat

What is Skinny fat? How would a person avoid being skinny fat?

Skinny fat is a term I hear more and more.  People who are doing “hard” workouts, crushing the metabolic conditioning but are not doing strength work. These people are training 4-6x a week but aren’t seeing the results that they thought they would. When they look into the mirror they aren’t happy.  

Toned and firm

The term relates to being at maybe a person’s ideal body weight but not being “firm” or “toned” or “strong” or having “abs”.  All types of fitness magazine words that focus on selling people a magazine but not a solution.  

I received an email not long ago. The email described this situation and the person emailing said hey “I am skinny fat”, and I need to figure out the changes necessary to look better and be strong and healthy.  

Skinny fat the Symptoms

The symptoms are the same with everyone that has this problem. Measuring their workout by the amount of sweat or their weight before and after a workout. They are constantly doing conditioning(think hours at a time or at least an hour at a time) and they aren’t doing any strength work. They often don’t eat enough to fuel those works, and they constantly compare themselves to others. All of these are less than ideal and are broken down below. 


Let’s start with measuring your workout by the sweat.  Any high school wrestler can tell you, that sweating out 5-10 pounds in a hard workout while wearing sweats or plastic bags is possible.  But that is all water and is a temporary change.  Don’t measure your workout by sweat.  It doesn’t mean much of anything.  Some people sweat more than others, not a tool to measure your workout, or ongoing progress.   

Coupled with “sweating” a lot, is conditioning.  Doing metabolic conditioning repeatedly, not varying intensity levels, only worrying about maxing your heart rate every session is a way to limit your results greatly. It is also a way to be tired and increase your body’s stress.  Read about stress.


Every day your body is having to move weight, your own bodyweight!  The stronger it is in relative terms to your own bodyweight the easier it is to move yourself through space.  People throughout history have been training with weights as a way to improve fitness. There are accounts in Ancient Greece of wrestlers using rocks to “strength train” or Scottish Highlanders lifting rocks or throwing logs; strength training isn’t new and to say the least and you need to be doing it.  

Metabolic Conditioning

Let’s say (for the sake of arguments) you enjoy the metabolic conditioning aspect of training. That’s great, but it doesn’t mean you should skip weight training.  If you neglect that aspect of your training you are more likely to get injured look at the injury rates for yoga and running.  Everyone needs to weight train 3-4x a week at a minimum.  

Eat Less

Eating less food, depending on the type of food, can be helpful but for those who are at their ideal body weight.  Those not at their ideal body composition tend to have a higher body fat % than those who eat more and more frequently, but weigh the same.

  Why is this?  By eating at a caloric deficit (taking in less calories than you are burning)  and doing so for weeks at a time your body begins to think something is wrong; thinking food is scarce, it starts storing fat.  This fat accumulates in all of the places you don’t want it to; stomach, backs of arms, around the neck, amongst other places.  Figuring out your nutrition is key, even if you are at your ideal body weight but not happy with your body fat percentage (want to “lean up” or “tone” – both terms I would like to avoid generally as they don’t really have a beneficial meaning but that is a topic for another day).  


Finally, the comparison game. While it doesn’t necessarily lead you to be “skinny fat” it sure doesn’t help your stress level.  We wrote about comparing yourself to others. Comparison is a dead end street. Doing the workouts that your favorite celebrity does or your neighbor does or your friend does, isn’t going to get you the results you want. Especially if you keep jumping around from “fad” to “fad”.  

The best way

The best way to get out of the cycle of constantly overtraining, under-eating, being stressed, not knowing how to do strength training, is finding a fitness professional that can help you reach your goals. A professional that meets with you quarterly. Makes a plan for you and then helps you execute upon that plan. Set attainable goals, measuring progress, and keeping you on track.   

If you are stuck or feel stuck, not getting results let us know.  We would love to help.  Book a Free Consult today and start the process of reaching your goals!

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