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What To Do If You’re Skinny Fat

By Rachael Attard, Updated Jul 19, 2020
skinny fat transformation photo

Last Updated May 29th, 2020, 2:53 PM

The term ”skinny fat” might sound contradictory – how can someone be skinny and fat at the same time?

Skinny fat people are those that look slim in clothes and maintain a low or moderate BMI (body mass index) but have high levels of body fat and low muscle mass.

So, underneath those clothes – they actually look soft and they don’t have a lot of muscle tone.

A skinny fat workout regime (if any) is mostly cardio and their diet is mostly based on processed food.

So, how to get rid of the skinny fat body? You definitely need to change your diet and workout regime (or adopt a workout one).

Both men and women can have this condition, but I’m just going to focus on skinny fat women in this blog post and what ”skinny fat workouts” they can do to fix this look.


how to know if you're skinny fat

There are some common traits all skinny fat girls seem to have:

  • Skinny fat women tend to carry most of their fat around their midsection (stomach) and hips and thighs 
    (You know, the dreaded “muffin top/love handles” and “saddlebags.”).
  • Skinny fat girls’ diet typically consists of excess carbohydrates, artificial sweeteners, sugar or processed foods. Basically, you’re avoiding vegetables as much as you can and eating crappy food.
  • Skinny fat women usually do not work out at all or do only cardio.
  • They also tend to eat a low protein diet (usually substituted with processed food and sugar).
  • Skinny fat women usually look good in clothes, but very flabby underneath.
  • They also seem to have a constant “sugar crash,” or suffer from ”brain fog.”

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


why am i skinny fat

As mentioned above, one, two – or all of these – usually cause the skinny fat body:

  1. Doing cardio only and avoiding resistance training
  2. Poor diet
  3. Genetics

Skinny fat is a result of losing muscle mass (which lowers your metabolic rate) and adding fat by eating the same calories – usually from unhealthy food sources (with a lower metabolic rate).

You may maintain the same weight, go slightly above, or even lower in weight- but it’s mainly fat, not muscle.


Is your ”getting rid of skinny fat workout regime” just cardio?

I often see this syndrome in women who do lots of cardio and don’t do any resistance training, because they’re afraid it will make them look bulky.

I understand this fear, as I had it myself. If that’s the case, I encourage you to read my blog post on how to do get lean and toned but without getting bulky.

Cardio keeps you slim but doesn’t build enough muscle to keep your body fat level down.

As you get older, your metabolism naturally slows down.

Your skinny fat workout regime must be based around building muscle that helps to keep your metabolism up and your body fat levels down.

Avoiding resistance training can cause a skinny fat look.


If you’re wondering how to get rid of skinny fat look- you MUST start from making better choices of the food you’re eating.

Skinny fat diet is usually high in carbohydrates and refined foods. This will definitely increase your body fat levels and cause you to look skinny fat and store a lot of excess body weight in the mid-region.

The old golden rule still applies – You can not out-train a bad diet!


Being a skinny fat woman can be a genetic trait, so you can thank your parents for that.

BUT, if you genetically have this kind of body fat to muscle ratio, it is not impossible to change.

With the right workout program and a good diet, you can be skinny AND toned!


I should also mention that in some cases, a skinny fat woman struggles because of a range of health conditions, which include hypothyroidism, hormone imbalances, certain medications (such as the contraceptive pill and antibiotics), gut health issues and more.

If this is you, consult your doctor and focus on fixing the cause of your hormonal disbalance.


Lastly, a skinny fat look can happen when a person loses a lot of weight by just dramatically cutting his/her calorie intake, without exercising.

That is why girls who diet a lot usually end up looking skinny fat (flabby).

If you have been exercising consistently (both cardio and resistance training) and eating a good diet, but still can’t seem to lose weight and tone up, then it could be worth seeing a health professional.


is the skinny fat look dangerous

Skinny fat girls are, in most cases, those who do not exercise at all, or do only cardio, but somehow seem to get away with pizza, pasta and tons of bread – every day.

This sounds ideal when you’re younger but it all comes back to haunt you when you’re older and can be destructive for your body.

As much as we are about body positivity and the ”skinny fat” term can use some rebranding – if you’re struggling with the skinny fat body, you must be aware it can come with serious consequences.

Women with an amazing metabolism, and ”skinny genes,” may not look like it, but they can suffer from the same medical conditions as an obese person:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Blood sugar issues
  • Increased cholesterol levels

This is why a healthy BMI or your scale are not the most accurate representation of your health and fitness.

According to Times magazineIf you eat a diet high in sugar and processed food you may suffer from visceral fat that can cause a lot of issues – some being a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimers and stroke (Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet).”

So, how to get rid of skinny fat look?

Luckily, you can fix this by doing the right exercise regime and eating a healthy diet.


skinny fat transformation photos

I’ve received a lot of questions from girls asking me, ”Can I really go from skinny fat to fit?”

The answer is: ”Absolutely!” Just check out the skinny fat transformations of my girls:

Below, I’ve covered the best skinny fat workout examples and diet programs that will help you gain some lean muscle, lower your body fat and make you healthier overall.

But, before we cover the details, I want to share some transformation photos of the Lean Legs Girls that struggled with getting rid of the skinny fat look.


For skinny fat girls 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 bodyweight.

HIIT is an awesome skinny fat exercise 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 exercise regimens to get rid of the skinny fat body.

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 to mix it up with your resistance training workouts 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 woman workout plan

The skinny fat 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 plan in my program 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.

The link to my program is below.

If you are serious about getting results, then it is definitely worth investing time and money into yourself.

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


You don’t need to lift heavy weights – you can use bodyweight 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.

Here is the example of full-body resistance training.

This is the type of a skinny fat workout you can do at home anytime.


As I mentioned, HIIT is amazing for getting rid of 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 a total of 3 sessions per week.


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!


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 diet

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 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.

If you’re curious about my diet, you may read about it in detail here.


Skinny fat diet recommendation starts with getting rid of the processed food.

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 these, just try to limit them to a few times per week and keep portion sizes under control.


It is becoming more and more well-known that a diet lower in carbohydrates will help you lose weight quicker.

A skinny fat diet regime should be focused on protein (which will help you build muscle) and healthy fats. But, don’t cut out carbs completely, 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 fewer 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


Skinny fat diet recommendation is to focus on fruit and vegetables- they contain a range of vitamins, minerals and fiber, which your body needs.

I know you 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 servings of vegetables.

This can be hard to do without consciously thinking about it, so you really need to make the effort.

For getting rid of the skinny fat look I’d recommend you to try to eat vegetables with every single meal and snack to get those 5 servings 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!

One cup of vegetables has very little calories compared to any other foods, so it 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 with you everywhere you go. It will help you drink more water!

I should also mention my FREE 7 Day Meal Plan that is gluten, dairy and refined sugar–free. So, if you’re not sure where to start, this meal plan would be a great starting point. And it’s completely free! :)


I would also recommend that you to learn your body type. You see, there are three different body types and they all gain muscle and lose weight differently.

I have a skinny fat workout plan recommendation, but I assure you that you’ll get the best results after you learn which body type you are!:)

I have created a special Body Type Quiz that will help you learn your body type in just 2 minutes, and it is completely free.

After you take it, you will also get tips on how to eat and train specifically for your body type.


To summarise all of the information above:

  • Skinny fat women 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
  • Skinny fat workout should include 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
  • Drinking lots of water is very important and will help with bloating.
  • Learn your body type to get the best possible results

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 for lots of meals, drinking alcohol or skipping workouts will set you back.

You need to be consistent!


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

My program includes 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 programs for each of the 3 main body types.

This way, you can be sure you are going to get the best possible results!

And from now on, the resistance training part of my program will also have FULL-LENGTH VIDEOS you can follow from warm-up to cool down.

To find out more about my 3 Steps to Lean Legs Program click the link below.


Rachael xx

Picture of Rachael

Rachael is an Australian born certified personal trainer and nutritionist who holds a Bachelor degree in Science.

After struggling for years to find an exercise and diet program that is tailored to women striving for lean and toned body with no bulk she designed her Lean Legs Program. This program is tailored to each body type and focused on helping women get toned but feminine bodies, without getting bulky.

Her mission is to empower women and help them stay in shape in a healthy and balanced way.

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

    TK says:

    Hello, I’m a 30yo woman 44kg and 157cm. I exercise 3x a week for no less than 45min doing mostly body weight training with one day of weight training mixed in. I have quite a few health conditions and chronic pain which keep me from being able to lift too much weight or too often. I also suffer from PCOS and IBS. I track my protein every day to try to keep it above 70g(ideally more) and have mostly home-cooked meals every day. Despite my low weight and constant exercise I was never able to fully tone my tummy. After only two weeks of not being able to workout because of surgery, I lost a bit of weight but look fatter and flabbier. This has been extremely discouraging for me. I obviously don’t want to be so underweight and I try hard but it seems like I’m losing all the progress I had even made. Do you have any tips for me?

      Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,

      Sometimes weight loss isn’t just about calories in and calories out. Your body is a lot more complicated. Any issues with gut health, hormones, thyroid, cortisol or nutrient deficiencies can actually make a HUGE difference to your weight. Please have a read of this blog post as it explains these situations in more detail and you’ll be able to see if any of these sound like you.

      f your goal is to slim down your legs, there are 3 steps you should follow – do the right type of cardio, do bodyweight resistance training, and adjust your diet for weight loss.
      I have another href=”https://www.rachaelattard.com/how-to-get-skinny-legs-cardio-for-lean-legs/” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>detailed blog post that will help you learn how to slim down your legs so please go give it a read.

      It will definitely help! :)

    jo says:

    im a 14 years female with around 50 kg and 163 cm. i think im a skinny fat cause when i use clothes i looks skinny but my belly and thighs are so big. my lower belly (right under my belly button) is around 73 cm in the morning. i’ve been working out following some fitness youtubers program since last year. back then before the quarantine start, im a active basketball player. my body is toned but the belly fat is still the same (but well i guess it’s better than last year). since two months ago i started to do some resistance training not only cardio and hiit. so could you tell me what should i do? and yeah i only workout at home, i don’t have any weights (but for alternatives i use water bottles) and if i have time i’ll go outside for a run.

    im sorry for bad english

      Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,

      ​Since you are 14 years old, your body is still going through a lot of transformations so ​if you want to lose weight, it’s best you talk to your parents so they can get you an appointment with a specialist. A nutritionist can advise you on your nutrition and workouts so that you can achieve the results you wish in a healthy way that suits your age.
      Wishing you all the best! xx

    M M says:

    Hey I am 18 years old and my weight is 46 kg and my height is 152 cm. I think I am skinny fat. I have started working out since a year mostly cardio at that time ( I follow some fitness youtubers fitness schedules) and my body has become toned but the fat near my midsection is the same and it isn’t reducing but now I have started lifting weights like 3 kg and 5 kg , could you tell me what my diet should be and how can I gain abs and muscles and how can I reduce the fat ?

      Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,

      Getting rid of belly fat is almost 100% related to your diet. The only way to get rid of this fat is to lose overall body fat which is done through consuming less calories than your body uses (eating at a calorie deficit).

      As for the workouts, any type of resistance training helps, but generally, HIIT gets the quickest results. High-intensity cardio such as running also helps a lot.

      For more helpful tips please have a read of these blog posts:

      The truth about how to lose belly fat
      How to lose lower belly fat
      Favorite ab workout

      Wishing you all the best! xx

    yo says:

    im a 13 old female, and im skinny fat by genetic. i have fat inner thighs (they dont look fat, but there is some fat if i grope it) and small (not flat) belly, but i am 160 cm and 46 kg. will resistance training help me if i dont lift weights?

    im sorry for bad english its not my native language

      Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,

      Since you are 13 years old, your body is still going through a lot of transformations so ​if you want to lose weight, it’s best you talk to your parents so they can get you an appointment with a specialist. A nutritionist can advise you on your nutrition and workouts so that you can achieve the results you wish in a healthy way that suits your age.
      Wishing you all the best! xx

    JD says:

    Im 15, female
    And struggling with skinny fat and my tummy is big and my arms and legs are thin, my body is practically unbalanced, and I can’t wear bikinis or croptops because of my belly fat. I’m slim, but my belly fat is very noticable and i hate it. I tried doing cardio everyday before, but I start to notice that nothing’s changing. That’s where i started researching about my body type, and how i can be fit. I came to the conclusion that I am skinny fat, and I have to do resistance training and eat alot of protein and cut off junk foods. And i did that ofc, but i still eat alot and I can’t control it, that’s why, im researching about teenagers like me who have the same body type, because all i see in the internet are adults, and i kinda feel like I’m the only teenager that have this body, and im so insecure because my friends have nice bodies and they can wear what they want. I just want to enjoy youth, so I’ll try my best, to achieve my goal and be confident about my body.

      Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,

      Thank you for reaching out! :)

      ​Since you are 15 years old, your body is still going through a lot of transformations so ​if you want to lose weight, it’s best you talk to your parents so they can get you an appointment with a specialist. A nutritionist can advise you on your nutrition and workouts so that you can achieve the results you wish in a healthy way that suits your age.
      Wishing you all the best! xx

    Madison says:

    How do I maintain my goal of weight once I get to it?

      Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,

      Once you’ve reached your goal weight, you don’t have to apply a calorie deficit anymore. :) If you want, you can calculate again your ideal daily calorie intake and macros through this link if you’re currently following Rachael’s program. Instead of losing weight, please choose ‘maintaining weight’ as your goal.


    Anna says:

    so, should i be eating at a deficit, maintenance or surplus for this to work?

      Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,

      It depends. If you already reached your goal weight then you can eat for maintenance. If you want to lose more, feel free to apply a slight calorie deficit to your ideal daily calorie intake. :)

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