What Is Skinny Fat?

Have you heard the term “skinny fat” before? Or when someone calls you “thin fat?” It’s not uncommon to find people whose outside appearance or body weight doesn’t correspond to what’s going on inside their bodies.

The term “skinny fat” refers to a condition in which your scale weight indicates that you are lean, or skinny, but your real body fat percentage does not.

In other words, people who look to be of normal weight or slim, but whose body composition has a high body fat percentage and little muscle mass. That means that if they calculated their body mass index (BMI), which is measured only based on height and weight, it would put them in a healthy range, but their body composition has more fat mass than what is considered appropriate for their body weight. When increased body fat correlates to a higher BMI (body mass index), it is widely assumed that one is unhealthy. Is it, however, true that having a slim and fit body means you’re at a healthy weight? 

Body Fat Percentage vs. BMI

Having a “skinny fat” body type doesn’t mean good health. However, even though your BMI is low, you can still improve your body composition. Consider a situation in which a person appears to be in good shape but has a lot of visceral fat on their body. Having a “skinny fat” body type means that, despite being this, you have a low muscle density and a lot of surplus body fat mass. 

When viewed through the lens of BMI, you appear to be of normal weight, as your height correlates to your weight. Because of your normal weight and slim figure, everybody who looks at you will presume you’re in good health. However, even with a “normal weight,” you have a significant body fat percentage that needs to be reduced. 

Medically, it’s known as metabolically obese normal weight. Because body fat and visceral fat aren’t visible, you may appear thin on the exterior. Fat can create health problems since it surrounds the body’s essential organs. Individuals who are “skinny fat” are at a higher risk since their fat mass is hidden in numerous regions that are not visible. 

Body fat and visceral fat are important to body composition at low levels because it protects the organs. This fat may also be burned by the body to generate energy. However, when there is an overabundance of subcutaneous fat in the body the problem arises. Obesity is indicated by belly fat on the abdominal cavity, intestines, gall bladder, and pancreas, for example. As a result of this body composition, you’re at a high risk of developing health problems as time goes on. 

What Factors Contribute to People’s Appearance of Being Skinny Fat?

A person’s appearance as “skinny fat” can be caused by a variety of circumstances. Here at VIDA, our specialists give the most up-to-date knowledge on everything from muscle loss to lifestyle choices. 

There are a variety of factors that can contribute to a “skinny fat” body type, either individually or altogether: 

You Lack Muscle Mass

Simply put, the greater your muscle mass, the lower your body fat percentage will be. Furthermore, even at rest, the more muscle mass you have, the more energy you expend and the more body fat you burn. So, if you want to prevent being “skinny fat,” you should make building muscle mass to improve your body composition a priority. 

You Don’t Perform Enough Strength Training

Related to muscle mass as a function of body composition, those who discover they are “skinny fat” usually have no or very limited history of muscular gain. Resistance exercise or putting stress on your muscles gives your muscles the stimulation they need to grow and improve your muscle mass. 

You Aren’t Getting Enough Protein in Your Diet

To gain muscle relative to body fat and overcome “skinny fat,” you must consume a high-protein diet. This is because protein is the building block of our muscles and is essential to repair and build them after they’ve been stressed by weight training. In addition, getting enough protein in our diet can help us not only gain muscle but also keep the muscle we already have. 

You’ve Been in a Caloric Deficit for Far Too Long

It’s well known that to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. To put it another way, you should be in a caloric deficit. However, if you aren’t properly cutting, you risk using your existing muscle mass as energy to fuel your exercises, increasing your body fat percentage even more. In other words, you don’t want to burn muscle when you’re on a low-calorie diet. This can happen if you’ve been in a caloric deficit for an extended period and your body believes it needs to store any excess energy as excess body fat rather than burning it for energy. 

You’ve Been Under a Lot of Stress

Cortisol, a stress hormone, is higher when we are stressed. When we are stressed for a long time, our bodies develop insulin resistance, which leads to fat growth because our bodies are no longer able to use the energy, we get from carbs in our diet properly. 

What Are the Dangers of Being “Skinny Fat?

Some of the risks associated with being “skinny fat” are:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer and certain types of cancer

Excess visceral fat carries numerous health hazards, these include a higher risk of heart attacks, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, strokes, and some cancers. A study conducted in 2019 found that those individuals with higher visceral fat are 44% more likely to acquire cancer and heart disease. As there is evidence to suggest that excessive amounts of visceral fat are associated with insulin resistance and that visceral fat exerts additional pressure on organs and can cause inflammation in bodily tissues. This, in turn, increases your chances of contracting certain disorders. 

Liposuction Can Work on Fit and Active Patients

Liposuction is highly effective on exceptionally fit and skinny people, which may not be commonly understood. Most people think of liposuction as a technique for removing stubborn fat mass deposits on the body, but experts believe that even fit and trim individuals at a healthy weight can benefit immensely from the body sculpting procedure. Many people have benefited from liposuction to cut down problem regions of persistent fat, even if they have a slim body type. 

There’s no reason to dismiss liposuction as a viable option for active people who are struggling to lose weight through diet and exercise. For example, you could have a skinny female with large love handles, and the fat would localize to the hips no matter how many times she went to spin class or did her weightlifting routine. 

Liposuction is ideal for the on-the-go person who maintains a healthy weight and has good skin to support the surgery. Liposuction can be performed to improve the appearance of several areas of the body, it’s very popular for its adaptability, especially among people who barely tip the scales.

There is a common misconception that thin people aren’t interested in liposuction or aren’t good candidates for it, which isn’t true. Here at VIDA, we consider them as excellent candidates for liposuction and they are people who can achieve good results, because liposuction permanently removes fat cells from the areas, so even if you gain weight they won’t return. Call or chat with us today!

More Info About Bariatric Surgery & Weight Loss


Dr. Gabriela Rodriguez specializes in General and Laparoscopic Bariatric Surgery. She brings to VIDA Wellness and Beauty a wealth of experience in bariatrics. Dr. Rodriguez is a founding associate of the Mexican College of General Surgeons. A world-class bariatric surgeon with double certification in the US and Mexico.