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Last Updated December 11, 2019, 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 skinny 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 flabby.

Both men and women can be skinny fat, but I’m just going to focus on women in this blog post and what they need to do to fix the skinny fat look.

AM I SKINNY FAT?

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 skinny, 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?

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.

1. YOU’RE DOING ONLY CARDIO WORKOUTS

I often see the skinny fat 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.

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 aturally slows down. Building muscle helps to keep your metabolism up and your body fat levels down.

Avoiding resistance training can cause a skinny fat look.

2. YOU’RE EATING A POOR DIET 

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.

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

3. YOU HAVE A GENETIC PREDISPOSITION 

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

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 become skinny and toned!

4. YOU HAVE HORMONAL ISSUES 

I should also mention that in some cases, skinny fat women struggle 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.

5. YOU’VE DONE SOME EXTREME DIETING BEFORE 

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.

DANGERS OF THE SKINNY FAT LOOK 

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 can be destructive.

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 look, 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).”

Luckily, you can fix your skinny fat look by doing the right exercise regime and eating a healthy diet.

SKINNY FAT TRANSFORMATIONS 

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!”

Below, I’ve covered the best skinny fat exercise and diet programs that will help you gain some lean muscle, decrease 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.

SKINNY FAT WORKOUT PLAN

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.

1. FOCUS ON RESISTANCE TRAINING

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 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 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.

2. DO SOME CARDIO WORKOUTS (BUT DON’T OVERDO IT)

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.

FULL WORKOUT PLAN FOR A SKINNY FAT WOMAN

skinny fat woman 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 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 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 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.

1-2 DAYS OF HIIT: HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING

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.

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.

THE BEST DIET FOR FIXING A SKINNY FAT LOOK

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.

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

2. REDUCE CARB INTAKE

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

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

3. EAT MORE VEGGIES

Fruit and starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, contain carbohydrates, but they also 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.

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.

4. DRINK MORE WATER 

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 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! :)

LEARN YOUR BODY TYPE

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 recommended workout plan, 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.

SUMMARY

To summarise 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
  • Workout for skinny fat body types 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!

START MY LEAN LEGS PROGRAM FOR GETTING RID OF SKINNY FAT LOOK

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.

Love,

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.

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

    Jea says:

    Hi. Is the skinny fat workout the same as the lean legs program workout? I am very high-paced/energetic, I’m all for “go hard or go home” so I love HIIT and am really bored with low intensity exercises. I’d love to get lean legs but the skinny fat workout seems too slow, short and relaxed for me. Also, I can’t do fasted cardio because of my daily schedule which consists of extremely hectic, early mornings – will this impede my results? Is there a way to also amend the lean legs diet to further reduce the amount of cooking (I really hate cooking)? Thank you.

      Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,
      This workout plan is similar to the one in the Lean Legs Program. Low intensity workouts are really great for burning fat. You can find out more about it in this blog post.
      You don’t have to do cardio fasted, you will still get results if you’re consistent with the workouts and eating healthy. :)
      The healthier you eat the better your results will be, but of course you can modify the meal plan to suit you. You can either have someone help you out with cooking or have food delivered from a restaurant. For more helpful tips please have a read of this blog post:

      https://www.rachaelattard.com/restaurant-tips-on-how-to-stay-on-a-diet-and-eat-healthy/

      I hope that helps! xx

      Love,
      Diana

    Taylor says:

    Hi I’m 19 5”6 125 lbs and pretty happy with my weight but really want to lose the extra belly/visceral fat that is above and below my belly button as well as my love handle sides. I also notice a significant variation between my thigh sizes and feel like my calves are too muscular. What tips do you have that I could tighten up my tummy and inner thighs? As well as making my calves look skinnier?

      Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,
      We would love to help you as much as we can :) So that’s why we have created the Lean Legs Program!

      Our Program is an 8 week workout and nutrition plan designed to help you get lean and toned without bulking.
      It will help you slim down your entire legs, but will also help you slim and tone your upper body and core too (the workouts are full body).
      It also includes a full meal plan, a separate recipe eBook and demonstration videos.

      You can find out more about the ​Lean Legs Program here.

      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).

      We always recommend sticking to a balanced whole food diet rich in protein, complex carbs and healthy fats and avoiding processed and sugary food (white pastry, cookies, soda, deep fried food, etc.)
      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:

      https://www.rachaelattard.com/226-the-truth-about-how-to-lose-belly-fat/

      https://www.rachaelattard.com/how-to-lose-lower-belly-fat/​

      https://www.rachaelattard.com/core-workout-for-women/​

      https://www.rachaelattard.com/how-to-slim-calves-skinny-legs/

      Love,
      Diana
      xx

    Elisabeth says:

    My BMI is average for someone of my age, gender and height. My arms are small in size, my legs probably small or average. I’m not like most other girls/women. I’m under 21 and am considered skinny fat and my bit of extra body fat is in the stomach/belly- it sticks out as a result.

    I tend to eat a hefty ton of brown rice pasta, dates, dried figs, and 100% fruit juices (no other added ingredient other than the fruit or fruits listed) on a daily basis.

    Just wondering with a belly that sticks out, even when considered small and have a normal BMI isn’t that the type of fat called visceral fat? I’ve heard it’s because of visceral fat is the reason a belly would stick out (no matter your weight). Just wondering if that is true.

    Phyllis says:

    I am a 63 year old woman, 5’4″ and I think now less than 115 pounds. I’ve yo-yo’d with my weight all my life, but this is the thinnest I’ve ever been going on several months now. But I am still flabby with crinkly, saggy skin on the usual areas. I workout 5 days a week, alternating workouts every other day, and then every month I change it up, too, though it’s always body weight and light weight exercises at home. I also go for a walk after (20-30min), I can’t run anymore, and every other day I do walking lunges, 4 sets of 20, and 2 sets of 10 (warm up and cool down), and 4 sets of toe raises after the lunges. I’m delighted with my progress and look fantastic in clothes, but not so much without. I can’t seem to get rid of the flab no matter what I do. I also eat pretty well, too, though I do have a little sugar (chocolate) in the evenings. I’ve cut a lot of foods out of my diet due to IBS and other digestive issues, and intermittent fasting (15-16hrs) every evening-morning. I eat breakfast (avacado, egg, fruit, rice cakes, herbal tea) after my workouts and one other meal in the late afternoon/early evening, lowish carbs with meat and veg, and drink water, though maybe not as much as I used to and should, though I try to. I take the weekends off from exercise now. There are some things I can’t do for exercise, I think HIIT is one, running is another, situps and crunches are out, too, because of my back. I need low-impact cardio, and good resistance training, but I have limited equipment and can’t afford any more. So what do I do to get rid of the flab? Cutting out any more in my diet will leave me with next to nothing to eat. I also have Hashimoto’s.

      Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,
      Resistance workouts are the best for toning up. You can find a lot of them on our blog or YouTube channel.
      I would recommend lifting some light weights and slowly increasing the weight over time (you can also use resistance bands). Your diet seems good so I wouldn’t suggest eating less (1200 calories per day is a minimum to stay healthy).

      There are also some aesthetic procedures that may help tighten your skin and improve collagen, but I haven’t tried them personally.
      For more helpful tips please have a read of this blog post. :)

      Love,
      Diana
      xx

      Amber says:

      Phyllis –
      I am 40 years old, I struggle with chronic Lyme, Hypothyroidism, internal mold issues, several food allergies and sensitivities and pelvic congestion syndrome. I have been “working out” for the last 11 years and have gone from being 178 lbs to my lowest now of 110lbs. (I am 5’8.5″) I workout 6 days a week alternating between heavy weights upper and lower body 3 days a week and cardio the other 3 days. I also walk daily 3 to 5 miles and when the weather is nice I bike 3 to 15 miles daily. I am also flabby, like it grosses me out to look in the mirror. Its like the thing you cannot “unsee”! I also fast daily the 16 to 17 hour fast from lunch/dinner day prior to breakfast. Then only eat twice a day – but big meals. I am only able to eat whole unprocessed foods and about 10 different foods that I try to rotate.
      Lifting heavy for me is NOT building any muscle at all.
      I totally relate…..

    Adele says:

    Hi,
    Thank you for these articles. I have always naturally been either underweight or at the very lower end of the normal range, but I am extremely pear shaped, so while my arms and torso look very thin and sickly, I have a lot of fat on my thighs. Because of this, I tried to lose even more weight (“it has to start going off the legs at some point, right?”), but it didn’t help at all. Everyone says you have to put on muscle if you’re skinny fat, but I was scared it would make my legs even bigger. I felt very stuck – my BMI is now too low to lose more weight and it’s not even helping.
    This article gives me hope that maybe it is possible to get rid of the fat without losing weight or the risk of getting bigger after all. I’m currently at 50 kg, 175 cm. Is there anything specific I need to keep in check at such a low body weight besides eating enough?

      Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,
      I would recommend doing more resistance workouts and weight lifting than cardio. Also eating more whole foods rich in protein.:) You will be able to maintain your weight if you eat as many calories as you burn! xx

      Love,
      Diana

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