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What it means to be ‘skinny-fat’ – it’s worse than you think

Skinny fat feature image

‘Skinny-fat’ is one of the latest terms thrown around nowadays within the fitness industry and social circles, describing one’s body composition. An obvious oxymoron – how can someone be described as being both skinny and fat? What does ‘skinny-fat’ even mean? Well, let’s break it down…

A simple google search will give you an array of images of what body types best fit this description; however, this term is mostly used in fitness-related posts as a cheeky attempt of humour. The truth of the matter is that being ‘skinny-fat’ is not funny at all.

The medically accepted term for ‘skinny-fat’ is metabolically obese normal weight (MONW). This should instantly clear up some confusion about what this term entails. It usually refers to a person who has a ‘normal’, or even what is medically considered a ‘healthy’ body weight, but their body composition is far from ideal.

In essence, someone who is MONW will have a high body fat percentage, with most of that fat generally concentrated around their midsection. Another typical trait of someone with MONW is a very low proportion of lean muscle tissue.Why is this dangerous? Central obesity generally entails increased levels of visceral fat (fat surrounding the organs).


Health complications of being MONW, which increase your risk of:

  • insulin resistance
  • pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes
  • serious cardiovascular disease such as hypertension and high cholesterol

So you see, it is possible to maintain a ‘skinny’ exterior but suffer from these metabolic conditions which are generally associated with obesity. These health-related factors, as well as a far-from-fit-and-firm exterior is what could land you a spot in the skinny-fat category.

It is important to note that due to a variety of factors such as – genetics, metabolic rates, lifestyle choices, and so on; not everybody who eats poorly is obese. However, the fact of the matter remains that this is a lifestyle disease that is commonly shared among people whose diets consist highly of processed foods, and excessive intake of sugar; as well as low levels of activity.

Poor eating habits and nutritionally-deficient diets , combined with a lack of physical activity and exercise are the biggest contributing factors explaining the low amounts of muscle tissue carried by someone who is MONW.

In order to overcome MONW:

  1. Clean up your diet – this means cutting out all forms of refined sugar, manage your carbohydrate intake better to promote insulin sensitivity, and eat more balanced, natural foods.
  2. Get active – follow a training programme aimed at adding muscle tissue and reducing fat stores. Don’t focus too much on the scale as you’re technically already at an ideal weight; but rather shift your focus towards changing your body composition and your overall long-term health.

Primal Sports Nutritional products which may assist in getting you back into shape and improving your body composition: