Small crowd. Open Secret. Pretty ugly. These are all examples of an oxymoron: a figure of speech in which contradictory terms appear together. Did you know the word “oxymoron” is, itself, an oxymoron? It’s a combination of the two Greek words for sharp and dull!
One oxymoron that’s gained a lot of traction these days is “skinny fat.” It describes a body that is not overweight by any standard. A skinny fat person’s BMI probably falls within the normal range of 18.5 to 24.9. A skinny fat body appears average (one might even say skinny) while wearing regular clothing – but soft and flabby unclothed.
In essence, skinny fat refers to an apparently normal and healthy physique, but which in reality has too little muscle and too much fat.
What Causes Skinny Fat?
Skinny fat people often avoid eating in excess, which resultantly supplies them with inadequate calories to build muscle mass. But they may also avoid eating enough healthful foods. They commonly skip fruit and vegetables, form too large a part of their diet out of carbs, and eat processed foods instead of whole, natural ones.
Vegans and vegetarians in particular risk becoming skinny fat if they don’t get enough protein from their diets, but even ardent carnivores may adhere to diets that deprive their bodies of the essential nutrients they need to cultivate muscle.
If a skinny fat person exercises, they likely overemphasize the importance of burning fat and neglect building muscle. Too much focus on cardio and too little on weight training may be considered the “skinny fat training regimen.”
Women are especially at risk of becoming skinny fat, as they often believe weightlifting will give them bulky, undesirable physiques. To be sure, the winner of the 2021 Ms. Olympia competition, who has biceps that most men would kill for, didn’t get that way by avoiding barbells. But any reasonable amount of weight training will give most women stronger bones, more energy, and leaner physiques.
To summarize, the four primary reasons for becoming skinny fat are:
- Eating too few calories
- Eating too little protein
- Excessive cardio
- Inadequate weight training
What Are the Dangers of Skinny Fat?
Aesthetics aside, there are several disadvantages to having a skinny fat body. Failure to eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise may put you at a higher risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, as well as suffering a stroke.
A skinny fat body may also indicate that you are at risk of developing high blood pressure, blood sugar or triglyceride levels, as well as low levels of good cholesterol. While you may understandably associate these conditions with visible obesity, it is key to appreciate that having a disproportionate percentage of body fat carries all of these risks whether someone appears obese or otherwise!
How Do You Prevent Skinny Fat?
To recap, the skinny fat body type has too much fat and too little muscle. Complications arising from age and hormonal imbalances notwithstanding, the solutions for these problems boil down to two categories: diet and exercise.
There are several tips to follow if you want to tackle skinny fat from a dietary angle:
- Avoid eating simple carbohydrates, and instead get your necessary carbs from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Avoid sugary foods, as well as beverages like soda and alcohol
- Stay away from processed foods (if it has a cartoon mascot on its box, it’s not good for you)
- Increase your protein intake, especially following rigorous physical activity
You may also engage in certain types of exercise if you would like to avoid becoming or remaining skinny fat. Heavy compound weightlifting, which targets multiple muscle groups simultaneously, is tremendously effective at developing muscles. These are traditional exercises like squat pressing and kettlebell swinging – not ones that emphasize repetition or achieving a “pump.”
Like any other type of exercise, cardio is beneficial in moderation. Excessive cardio effectively burns away muscle, however, which undoes any good you may have done for yourself with free weights. But if you spend about half as much time on cardio as you do on weightlifting, and engage in the two different types of exercise on alternating days, you’re likely to enjoy the greatest possible benefit.
Starting any new diet and fitness regimen can be daunting, but with the right help, anyone can achieve a healthy body. If you are ready to transform your body from skinny fat to lean and fit, then the nutrition and fitness experts at Calhoun Spine & Wellness Center are standing by to get you there.