Is your body type skinny fat? Know what it means and how to prevent it

Skinny fat is a condition where you have low muscles and high body fat. This can lead to high blood pressure, cholesterol and other issues.
A woman with beer belly
An indicator of skinny fat is being thin but having a flabby belly. Image courtesy: Freepik
Anjuri Nayar Singh Published: 22 Dec 2023, 01:21 pm IST
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Are you thin, but flabby? Does it make you wonder why you have a soft belly despite being skinny? Well, it may be because you have a skinny fat body type! If you are thinking that just being thin, means that you are healthy, it might be time to rethink. Skinny fat is an unscientific term which is when you have high body fat and low muscle, can be at risk for high cholesterol, blood pressure as well as insulin resistance.

What is skinny fat?

A person is said to be skinny fat when their body weight is normal or less for their height but a disproportionately high body fat percentage (based on ethnicity and gender specific cutoffs). “Body weight for height is called BMI (body mass index) and has traditionally been considered a marker for body fat. But body fat does not equate to body weight. Someone with low BMI could actually be low on muscle mass, and not fat,” says sports physician Dr Tvisha Parikh.

Skinny fat is also known as normal weight obesity, metabolic obesity, metabolically unhealthy non-obese.

Top rubber dumbbell sets
Forming a workout routine can help keep skinny fat at bay. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

How do I know that I have skinny fat?

It is important to be able to understand if you have skinny fat, so that you can look at ways to get rid of it. Here are some of the key factors which will help you diagnose this condition.
1. Low or normal BMI
2. High body fat percentage
3. Low muscle mass

Who is at a greater risk to get skinny fat?

Over years of research, it appears that south Asians (Indians and Chinese) do have tendency to be thin fat or skinny fat hinting to a genetic risk. This paper published in the medical journal Lancet, called the YY Paradox, explains this phenomenon. The pictorial abstract compared the BMI and body composition of a Caucasian and an Indian physician. It showed how despite both having a similar normal BMI (22.3 kg/m2), the body fat content was much higher in the Indian doctor. (21.2% vs 9.1%).

What causes skinny fat?

Here are some common reasons why a person may develop a skinny fat body type, as per Dr Parikh.

1. Increasing obesity
2. Reduced physical activity
3. Poor quality nutrition
4. Increased processed food
5. High fat-high sugar, energy dense meals

Speculations that migration of people from a rural to the urban setting may play a significant role in them developing skinny fat, especially in the Indian setting, adds the expert. In a study by Kinra et al, it was found that body fat percentage increased rapidly in the first decade following migration unlike many other cardiometabolic parameters which changed more gradually.

a balanced meal
Having a balanced meal can help reduce skinny fat. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What is the best diet to avoid skinny fat?

What you eat is how you will look! Dr Parikh gives some basic guidelines to help you keep skinny fat at bay. “Avoid processed food completely and eat whole foods like legumes, pulses, whole grains, fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds,” she says. Besides this, she adds that it is important to use minimum cooking oil and fats, avoid sugar beverages and focus on consuming high protein foods..

What are the top lifestyle tips to avoid skinny fat?

There are some basic lifestyle changes that you can make that will help you prevent skinny fat.

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1. Increased physical activity

You must try to increase the physical activity that you do on a daily basis. This can mean walking to places close by instead of using the car, taking the stairs instead of the lift. All this helps.

2. Reduced sitting time

It is important to note that one should not be sitting in the same position for very long. So, make sure to take periodic work breaks that allow you to walk around, have a sip of water, and then return.

3. Sleep well

Well, sleep sorts out many health issues, including skinny fat. It is essential that you get good six to eight hours of sleep between 10 pm – 7 am. This helps you stay in shape and be healthy as well.

Also Read: 8 drinks to help you sleep faster and better

4. Eat well

As discussed above, eating highly nutritious food, avoiding junk, processed food, sugary drinks go a long way in keeping skinny fat at bay. Try to go for a protein-rich diet as well.

5. Weekly workout

While it important to stay active every day, added a regular weekly exercise routine will go a long way in keeping you healthy and in shape. Regular 30-45 mins exercise 5-6 days per week is great. Exercise could be High intensity short duration or continuous low intensity but burning equal number of calories.

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About the Author

Anjuri Nayar Singh has over 12 years of experience in writing for various topics including lifestyle, films, television and OTT. She also writes on art and culture, education and human interest stories. ...Read More

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