skinny fat

The term skinny fat can be confusing – how can someone be skinny and fat at the same time? Well skinny fat people are those that look skinny in clothes, but have high body fat and low muscle mass. So underneath those clothes they actually look soft and flabby.

Both men and women can be skinny fat, but I’m just going to focus on skinny fat women in this blog post, and what they need to do to go from skinny fat to fit and toned.


Skinny fat women tend to carry most of the fat around their mid-section, especially hips and thighs. You know, the dreaded “muffin top / love handles” and “saddlebags.”

If you are skinny, but struggle with fat around your hips and thighs that you can’t seem to get rid of, then you might be skinny fat.skinny fat


The skinny fat body is usually caused by one, two or all of these:

  1. Doing cardio only, and avoiding resistance training
  2. Poor diet
  3. Genetic factors

I often see the skinny fat syndrome in women who do lots of cardio and don’t do any resistance training. The cardio keeps them slim but doesn’t build enough muscle to keep their body fat levels down. As you get older, your metabolism naturally slows down. Building muscle helps to keep your metabolism up and your body fat levels down. Avoiding resistance training can cause the skinny fat look.

Eating a poor diet high in carbohydrates and refined foods will also cause you to look skinny fat and store a lot of excess body weight in the mid region.

Also, being skinny fat can be a genetic trait, so you can thank your parents for that! If you genetically have this body type, it is not impossible to change. With the right workout program and a good diet, you can become skinny and toned!

I should also mention that in some cases, being skinny fat can be caused by a range of health conditions including hypothyroidism, hormone imbalances, certain medications (such as the contraceptive pill and antibiotics), gut health issues, and more. If you have been exercising consistently (both cardio and resistance training) and eating a good diet for a long time, but still can’t seem to lose weight and tone up, then it could be worth seeing a health professional.


skinny fat

For skinny fat people who want to tone up and lose a bit of excess body fat, you will need to do a combination of resistance training and cardio.

As I mentioned above, it’s really important that you don’t neglect resistance training. Building muscle will help boost your metabolism and also reduce your body fat levels.

The resistance training should include both a mix of high intensity interval training (HIIT) and circuits using weights or body weight. HIIT is an awesome exercise for skinny fat people because it burns a really high number of calories in a short period of time. But the best part is, after your HIIT workout, you will continue to burn more calories. HIIT is one of the best exercises to get rid of the skinny fat body.skinny fat

However, another really common complaint I hear from women is that they become too muscular when doing HIIT and lifting weights, particularly in their legs. I have written a blog post on how to lift weights without getting bulky, to help with this exact issue. It has some good guidelines and workout ideas that will help you tone up, without getting bigger and too muscular.

If you are already skinny, you don’t necessarily need to do a lot of cardio. But I do recommend it so that you stay slim with all of the HIIT and weight lifting you will be doing. Please have a read of this blog post on cardio and why it’s so important for getting lean legs.

Skinny Fat Recommended Workout Plan

The workout program below is only a framework to guide you. If you really want to get started and get results, it is best to have a proper plan to follow. You will be much more likely to stick to it and be consistent if you are able to follow a guide.

The workout program in my eBook is great for skinny fat women because the workouts will help you tone up and get rid of your skinny fat body, but without becoming bigger. If you are serious about getting results, then it is definitely worth investing time and money into yourself.

My weekly workout recommendation for a skinny fat person would include the following:

1-2 days of full body resistance training

You don’t need to lift heavy weights – you can use body weight only, lighter dumbbells, resistance bands, ankle weights and gliding discs. Just get those muscles working. Aim for a 30 minute resistance training workout.

Also, please have a look at the blog post I mentioned above some guidelines on how to lift weights without getting bulky.

1-2 days of high intensity interval training

As I mentioned, HIIT is amazing for getting rid the skinny fat look, and the workouts don’t need to take long! You can do a great HIIT workout in 20-30 minute.

Just be careful not to overdo it on lower body HIIT exercises such as burpees, jump squats, jump lunges, box jumps, etc as they can make your legs overly muscular. I have posted lots of different HIIT workouts that won’t cause bulk, so have a look at these for some workout ideas.

If you prefer not to do HIIT (especially endomorph women who may get bigger with HIIT), that’s OK. You can still get great results with full body resistance training, and I would aim for 3 sessions per week in total.

1-2 days of high intensity cardio

High intensity cardio can include exercises such as running, swimming, dancing, cycling, etc. Do something that you love so that you will actually stick to it! Keep your high intensity cardio workouts to 20-30 minutes (obviously if it’s a dance class or spin class, you can go longer).

Plus, it’s a great idea to try and fit in as much low intensity cardio as you can!

1-2 days of rest

It’s really important to give your body some time to rest and your muscles to recover. Overtraining can cause you to hold onto excess body fat, so if you feel like your body needs a break, give it one.

Skinny Fat Weekly Workout Schedule

So for example, your weekly workout schedule might look like this:

  • Monday – 30 minute full body resistance training + 30 minute walk
  • Tuesday – 20-30 minute run
  • Wednesday – 20-30 minute HIIT circuit + 30 minute walk
  • Thursday – REST or full body resistance training
  • Friday – 20-30 minute run
  • Saturday – 20-30 minute HIIT circuit + 30 minute walk
  • Sunday – REST


skinny fat

Diet plays a huge part in your body’s ability to lose weight, so you can’t just rely on a good workout program alone. If you don’t eat a good diet, you won’t get rid of the excess body fat.

In general, someone who is skinny fat and looking to lose excess body fat will follow similar guidelines to anyone that is trying to lose body fat.

Cut The Crap

You don’t need to do anything fancy with your nutrition. Just cut out the packaged foods (think anything unnatural that comes in a bottle, packet, tin or box), processed foods, fizzy drinks, sugary foods, deep fried food and anything that is “typical” junk food such as cakes and chocolate. I’m not saying that you can never eat it, just try to limit it to a few times per week and keep portion sizes under control!

Reduce Carbs

It is becoming more and more well-known now that a diet lower in carbohydrates will help you lose weight quicker. Don’t cut out carbs completely though as your body still needs them and that’s where all the fiber is! You just need to be smart about it.

  • Switch any white carbs (i.e. bread, rice) to brown and whole meal varieties;
  • Eat more carbs on your workout days and less carbs on your rest days;
  • Try to eat most of your carbs at breakfast or post workout;
  • Aim to get most of your carbs from fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.

Fruit and Veg

Fruit and starchy vegetables such as potatoes do contain carbohydrates, but they also contain a range of vitamins, minerals and fiber, which your body needs. I know your probably always hear people talking about fiber and how you should try to eat more of it. But it really does play a huge part in keeping you full and regular.

Aim for 2-3 pieces of fruit per day, and at least 5 serves of vegetables. This can be hard to do without consciously thinking about it, so you really need to make the effort.

Try to eat vegetables with every single meal and snack to get those 5 serves in. If you have smoothies for breakfast, add some spinach. If you have an omelette, add spinach and other green vegetables. Some of my favourite healthy snacks are carrot sticks and hummus, egg cups made from eggs and vegetables in muffin tins, and whole pieces of fruit.

Lunch and dinner are a little easier to eat vegetables – pack them in as much as you can! 1 cup of vegetables has very little calories in it compared to any other foods so will keep you full, fill you with nutrients and won’t result in weight gain.


It can also be hard to drink the required 2L of water per day if you’re not consciously thinking about it. Try recording your water intake for a couple of days to see how much you are actually drinking, and aim for 2-3L per day. This will also help with bloating. One of my favourite tips is to carry a water bottle around with you everywhere you go. It will help you drink more water!


To summarize all of the information above:

  • Skinny fat people are those who look skinny in clothes, but underneath the clothes look soft and flabby;
  • The skinny fat body is caused by doing cardio only, eating a poor diet, and genetic factors;
  • The skinny fat workout includes a mix of resistance training (HIIT and lifting weights) plus cardio;
  • The skinny fat diet includes reducing carbs and sugar, and eating more fruit and vegetables; and
  • Drinking lots of water is also very important and will help with bloating.

If you stick to a good workout and nutrition plan you will get results. But you need to be consistent and actually put in the work! Eating healthy for a few days and then binging, going out of for lots of meals, drinking alcohol or skipping workouts, will set you back. You need to be consistent!


If you need help with a plan, or you don’t know where to start with resistance training, or you tend to get bulky when you lift weights, then my eBooks are perfect for you!

My eBooks include a full workout and nutrition program which will help you get a lean and toned body, and get rid of your skinny fat body forever.

And because all of us are different, I have created separate eBooks for each of the 3 main body types.

Click here to find out more about my to get skinny legs

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39 comments on “What To Do If You’re Skinny Fat”

  • Faydra says:

    Hi Rachael! I have found you on Instagram then traveled along to your website and I’m looking into skinny fat notes! I just have a question, since I workout in the morning, (the only time I have to squeeze it in before school) from 5:00 to 6:00 and I have no idea what and how much to eat before and after!! Help!

    • Andrew Brown says:

      Hi hun, I have a blog post on what to eat before / after exercise – here’s the link. If you’re doing it straight away in the morning, then you don’t necessarily need to eat something, unless you prefer it. If you need something before exercise, I suggest 1/2 a banana or something small. After workouts you should eat a mixture of carbs and fats so a piece of whole meal toast with avocado and poached eggs or a spinach and bacon omelette would be great! x

  • Shay says:

    Hi Rachael! I came across your blog and I love all of the advice you provide. I was on your instagram page and you had said that you had a blog post for ‘skinny fat’ people. I am one of those people but my only fear with working out is that I DO NOT want to gain any weight because I have health issues that affect me when my body weight is too high. Is it possible to tone up WITHOUT changing your body weight? I actually could do with losing around 2 kgs (lol). I am 5’4 and 52 kgs. It would mean so, so much if you responded back! Again, your blog is the first blog I’ve come across that may be able to help me! 😀

    Thank you!!

    • Andrew Brown says:

      Hi Shay, Rachael here. Yes it is definitely possible to change your body composition without gaining weight. When I did it, I actually lost a little bit of weight 🙂 Just stick to a mix of HIIT, weights and cardio, and make sure you’re eating right and you’ll get the results! x

  • Shay says:

    Hi Rachael! I came across your blog and fell in love with it instantly because I feel like you provide accurate information. I saw on your IG that there was a post for ‘skinny fat’ people like myself. I was thinking go buying your skinny legs guidebooks but I had a question. I am 5’4 and weight 52 kgs and I CANNOT gain any weight due to personal health issues and my question is – can I still lose fat and tone up while keeping my weight the same (50kgs)? I know that I will fluctuate a bit in the beginning but is it possible for a person to become smaller and more toned in appearance whilst weighing the same? I don’t mind losing a few kgs but I cannot gain weight. BTW I am an endomorph (I don’t know if this info will help lol :D).

    Thank you!! and I hope you see my message because I really need help 😀

  • Emily says:

    I notice my body seems skinny fat. I constantly have jiggly thighs, a belly, jiggly arms and it’s not disappearing. I’m also wanting to lose my calf fat. Is there any workouts you can recommend? I’ve tried hit and saw it didn’t help much.

    • Rachael Attard says:

      Hi Emily. If you’ve already done HIIT and it didn’t work, it is probably more to do with your diet so make sure you get that on track as your first priority! For exercise, I would recommend trying a combination of things – weights, cardio, HIIT, classes, etc. Variety is great! 🙂 All the best xx

  • Crystal says:

    How long should the full day body weight training be, like 40 min?

    And, is lifting heavy Dumbbells ok to gain muscle? ( I’m currently doing 5 lbs. should I do 15 pounds or is that too heavy?)

    • Rachael Attard says:

      Hi Crystal. 40 minutes is a good amount of time for a full body weights session. If you’re doing HIIT, it can be 30 minutes. Dumbbells are great! The weight depends on the exercise and your current strength. I wouldn’t jump straight from 5 lbs to 15 lbs. I would increase it more slowly xx

  • Crystal says:

    Hey Rachel,
    What dumbbell exercises do u recommend for arms and thighs?
    Are bicep curls good for toning arms?

  • Crystal says:

    Oh, and one more thing;).

    Can u give me an example of a hiit circuit workout?
    Like how long and what kind of exercises?

    • Rachael Attard says:

      Have a look at these workouts here, here and here for some HIIT exercises. Oh and also bicep curls are OK, but there are body exercises that will tone up your arms and work your entire body too (such as boxing, push ups, etc) xx

  • Eunice says:

    Hi maam rachel im 17 year old girl and i think im skinny fat since my collar bones is quite noticeable but i have a love handles , bra bulges , back fat and stomach fat i was hoping could you tell me what workouts i could do please

    • Rachael Attard says:

      Hi lovely, I think some resistance training would be great to help you tone up! Because you are only 17, I would suggest doing mostly body weight exercises, 3 times per week. And don’t forget that diet is the most important thing to help you get a flat stomach and lean down all over so make sure you try to follow the nutrition advice in this blog post xx

  • Charlie says:

    Hi, Rachael.

    Is there any way to substitute weight training to gain the same results? Due to personal reasons, I don’t like weights.

    Thanks xx

    • Rachael Attard says:

      Hi Charlie, I completely understand! I am the same as you and now try to avoid heavy weights as I don’t like the look it gives me. You can definitely still achieve results without lifting weights. I would still do the HIIT if you can (but just do body weight exercises) and then some other style of lighter resistance training – have a read of this blog series for the type of exercises I recommend. Good luck! xx

      • Charlie says:

        Thank you xx

  • Shareen says:

    Hi Rachael,

    I hope you are doing well.

    I came across your website by looking for exercises to get skinny legs without them becoming bulky.

    I am 24 years old and throughout my entire life I had a great body and was always very skinny naturally. I guess I never put any thought into it and took my body for granted, because 2 years ago I started noticing major changes around my thighs and upper legs. I have a office job where I require a lot of sitting, my diet hasn´t been great and I just noticed how my body transformed from being naturally thin to skinny fat. I however never had gained so much fat as to where I became a size more, for this I am super grateful but it is time to get back to the old me :). The way I have been feeling throughout the last two years have been insecure and with lower self esteem. I really want to do my best to get that stubborn fat of my thighs and upper legs, but I am scared by doing exercise I will only make them bigger. I do play tennis and tend to go for runs quite often, but somehow the fat hasn´t disappeared. I am interested in purchasing your e-book – but first could you please, based on my story tell me which category I fit in to make sure I will start doing the adequate exercises and follow the right nutrition plan. My best guess is that I am Ectomorph and that I need to stick to this program.

    Would love to hear back from you regarding this!

    Thanks so much for having this website. It has already been a great discovery for me :).

    Kind regards,

    • Rachael Attard says:

      Hi Shareen, thanks for your comment! From what you have described, I think you also sound like the ectomorph body type. You’ll get results with any program but I think the ectomorph would suit you best! xx

  • Monica says:

    Hi Rachel , I’m Monica I’m 5’4 ,I weigh 145 and im 16 im turning 17 this year in april, Im a skinny girl but my stomach has the most belly fat I really wanted to get a flat stomach and a bigger butt can you give me some advice ?

    • Rachael Attard says:

      Hi Monica, if your stomach is the issue then I would definitely make sure you’re eating a healthy diet. I have a few blog posts on how to eat healthy (here and here) and what I eat in a week (here and here) so have a look at these blog posts. And then I would make sure you’re doing some type of resistance training. As you’re still young, I would focus on body weight exercises (check out some exercises here and here). Good luck! xx

  • sheima says:

    Hi Rachel!
    I’m sheima, I’m 16 and suffer from the skinny fat syndrome, sadly.
    I used to always go to the gym when i was overweight but now i realize, it’s not all about cardio in my case.
    I wonder which dumbbells weight a beginner should start with? and for how long should i stick with it till i aim for higher weights?
    I’ve never really done any weight , hiit workouts before since i thought mainly cardio could help me achieve a toned body.
    I have flabby arms, quite big belly and thights.. which makes me really depressed, and i really don’t know where to start..

    And.. since i have a terribly social anixety when it comes to the gym.. do you think i could workout at home and get the same results?
    I need suggestions, advice, everything since i’m lost!
    Please help!

    • Rachael Attard says:

      Hi hun, you can definitely get results without going to the gym! I would start with body weight circuits and body weight hIIT sessions for now – you don’t have to lift weight. Have a look at the workouts that I linked to – it will give you a good idea on some workouts you can do at home to get results 🙂 Also remember that diet is the most important thing when you are trying to lose weight, so make sure you’re eating healthy too 🙂 xx

  • Raeesa says:

    Hi Rachel, I recently started working out but realised I concentrated on too much cardio and have developed the skinny fat syndrome sadly. I’m so glad I came across your article, thank you so much. I really want to get rid of the fat quickly as I’m getting married in a few months, could you please advise me on a good hiit workout and eating plan to lose skinny fat in 2 months? The fat is concentrated on my back (lower back, bra bulge) & stomach & my thighs. What would be the correct dumbbell weight to use and can I workout at home instead of the gym? Thanks again xxx

    • Rachael Attard says:

      Hi lovely, congratulations! You can just do body weight HIIT exercises so you don’t need a gym membership. Have a look at some of my HIIT workouts on my blog here and here for some ideas (I also have more, if you look at the related posts section at the bottom of each blog post, or type in HIIT into my blog search bar). Also just remember that diet is the most important thing when it comes to losing weight. Good luck! I’m sure you will look amazing for your big day xxx

  • ana says:

    Very confused. I thought you couldn’t loose fat and build muscle at the same time?

    build muscle= surplus of food and little cardio


    • Rachael Attard says:

      Hi lovely, you can definitely still lose fat and build muscle at the same time. You can still build muscle eating at a calorie deficit (it just might take a bit longer compared to if you were eating at a surplus) xx

  • Sarah says:

    First off, I loved reading this. I’m a 29 yr old mom of 5 and I work full time teaching high school. My youngest are twins that just turned 1. I am skinny fat and it sucks. I was a collegiate athlete at one time and working out and eating right was my life. I may never lose all of the belly. Twins arent as kind as singletons in that department, but I would appreciate any tips you’d have on workouts I could do at home. Getting to a gym regularly seems like a fairy tale.

  • Hajra says:

    Hi, I am 30 yrs old with 5′ and 42kgs i think i am skinny fat because though my waist is 24.5 but i feel my lower is fat and my arms are little jugly with i have not fat thighs but i also don’t have thigh gap too. The main problem is that i don’t do exercise but i walk every day for an hour but i always feel tired. I do eat less because i don’t feel very hungry. I don’t want to loose weight but i want good body.

    • Rachael Attard says:

      Hi lovely, that’s great that you do lots of walking! That will help you slim down your legs. But you definitely need to add in some type of resistance training to help you tone up. If you’re really tired all the time and not hungry, there could be some other health issues that you need to get checked for. I would definitely recommend seeing a doctor and / or naturopath to get checked out. Good luck! xx

  • Barbara says:

    Hi Rachael. I read your article on Skinny Fat women with great interest. I am a 41 year old woman of Mediterranean descent, and have only just realised that I probably fall into this category. I feel like I do eat healthily 80% of the time, and practice yoga 4 times a week. I’ve recently joined a gym for women, which has a circuit approach to weight-training mixed with the odd body-weight exercise, and I will usually go 3 times a week. I have also just started to run (slowly!) and will try to go 2/3 times a week. Am I on the right track, or should I join a proper gym where I can use the weights without restriction and try some HIIT classes/DVDs at home? I feel like I never make any progress with my body fat despite my efforts. Any specific advice would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks, Barbara

    • Rachael Attard says:

      Hi Barbara, I think what you’re doing sounds great! I would perhaps try to add in 1-2 more higher intensity workouts such as this or this per week to really get results quickly. But the cardio that you’re doing and circuit training is great, and will help you tone up and get rid of the skinny fat look. Good luck! xx

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