Skinny Fat

By Tyler Brown of Tyler and Lisa Brown’s Flow

I chose the title because I’ve heard people called “skinny fat” before.  When someone is called “skinny fat”, it means they don’t have any muscle tone even though they weigh less than most people on the scale.  Frankly, I’ve thought that the concept was pretty abrasive, and I haven’t used it to describe anyone.  But at the same time, it fairly accurately describes a lot of people who don’t weigh very much but still don’t look very healthy.

The cause of being “skinny fat” is focusing on total weight loss.  Because of this, people will restrict their food as much as they can to lose total weight.  The problem is that when they do this, they lose both muscle and fat.  This doesn’t sound horrible until you think more about it.

Three main factors:
1.  A pound of muscle burns 35 to 50 calories per day (even at rest).
2.  Weight loss from restricting calories without exercising can result in up to half of that weight loss being muscle loss.
3.  Once you stop restricting your calories, your body is extremely likely to go back to its original weight.

What does that look like in real life?  Let’s take an example of a statistically average American woman who decides to lose weight by cutting a lot of calories without exercising.

January 1 (Before Diet)
Height:  5’4”
Weight:  165lbs
Bodyfat Percentage:  25%
Lean Body Mass:  124lbs
Fat Mass:  41lbs

Summary:  She’s statistically as average as I can possibly make her for an American woman.

April 1 (After Diet)
Height:  5’4”
Weight:  125lbs (40lb loss)
Bodyfat Percentage:  17%
Lean Body Mass:  104lbs (20lb loss)
Fat Mass:  21lbs (20lb loss)

Summary:  Now, she’s lost 40lbs from her overly-restrictive diet with no exercise.  20lbs of that was fat, and 20lbs was muscle.  The 20lbs of muscle loss equated to a 1,000 calorie loss in her metabolism, but at least she’s leaner too.

July 1 (After Three Months of Eating Normally Again)
Height:  5’4”
Weight:  165lbs (no change from January 1)
Bodyfat Percentage:  37%
Lean Body Mass:  104lbs (20lb loss from January 1)
Fat Mass:  61lbs (20lb gain from January 1)

Summary:  Her body bounced back to its original weight as it almost always does after severe calorie restriction.  Once her body realized that it had survived a starvation period, it took steps to make sure that she doesn’t starve to death in the future.  She did nothing to make her body need to build muscle, so it got back to its prior weight by building body fat.

Now she is the same weight she was when she started her six-month diet attempt, but she is 20lbs fatter.  Her metabolism is also 1,000 calories slower.  Any future diet attempts she makes will be much more difficult due to her now sluggish metabolism.

This is how someone becomes “skinny fat”.  They do too many weight-loss diets without exercise to build or maintain muscle mass.  In a few days, I’ll write a realistic example of what can happen over six months if you simply eat a little less and exercise a little more.  The results are dramatically different.


To find out more about FT’s customized Fitness and Nutrition programs, check out

For more about Tyler and Lisa Brown go to their blog at Tyler and Lisa’s Flow


1 Comment

Filed under Diet, Fitness, Fitness Goals, Nutrition, Trainer Tips, Weight Gain, Weight Loss

One response to “Skinny Fat

  1. Pingback: Guest Post at FT Gets Results « Tyler and Lisa Brown's Flow

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