Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
15 Nov


Ladies, I’m concerned about the skinny-fat among us. You know what I’m talking about. Skinny-fat women might look nice in a v-neck, but they’d sooner crawl into a hole than expose an upper arm or leg.

This is what happens when you become “skinny fat” instead of genuinely lean and fit (where the muscle and fat are fairly evenly distributed and you have a lot less cellulite). While you can’t fight your body’s natural shape, you can certainly maximize what you’ve got. What I’m talking about is the difference between curvy and super-fit Gabby Reece or Evangeline Lilly and certain starving-yet-sagging starlets (I won’t name names, mainly because there are too many these days and who can be bothered to keep track).

Skinny-fatness strikes women a lot more than men. I think this is mainly because men aren’t afraid of lifting weights to lose weight (and, to be fair, men naturally do have so much more muscle and far less fat). We women, on the other hand, evidently prefer inventing bizarre and complicated diet regimens revolving around arcane preparation rituals, subsistence on one food group or arbitrary calorie limits (whoever said women were bad at math has never met a woman 2 weeks before her high school reunion or 2 days before a date).

Simply dieting will eliminate weight, but it won’t tone anything. And because of our unique feminine physiology, the fat cells in our lower body are world-class clingers.

But before you get too depressed about the latest Kate Moss advertisement, consider this: I’m bringing this up because skinny-fatness is about a lot more than physical appearance. In fact, your dress size has nothing on the bigger issue – health. The good news: simply being skinny is not akin to being healthy. In fact, the skinnier you get, the more you’re at risk for things like osteoporosis! (There I go beating that llama again.)

The less muscle you have, the less work your bones have to do, and they begin to shed that incredibly valuable osseous material: your bones, which are, in fact, living tissues directly related to your blood, immune system, strength, longevity – even your mood. You know how coral reefs are actually living organisms that provide all sorts of vital and irreplaceable functions to the fish and plants and water surrounding them? Your bones are your body’s coral reef. You have to feed them, and weight-bearing activity = food for bones. In this country of aerobic fanatics and serial dieters, is it any wonder American women have such high rates of osteoporosis and a perpetual state of skinny-fatness? I watched my own mother live on Tab and jazzercise during the early 80s, and now, faced with bone trouble, she’ll be the first to tell you: lift something! Who wants to look like Nicole Ritchie, now seriously? I’d rather look like Evangeline!

There’s only ONE solution to the problems we women face: osteoporosis, beach season, and the belly that won’t budge. The solution is weight-bearing activity. Aerobics will get your heart pumping and burn some calories, but it won’t maximize your shape. Dieting will help you shed excess weight, which is great for increasing your energy and reducing chances of myriad health conditions and diseases. But neither will make you look toned and sleek, and neither will do much to put a dent in your osteoporosis risk.

Are you lifting some weights yet? Get to it!

Lift, girls!

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Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I’m female 5″10″ and was always proud to be a tall and slender girl. But as I got older I turned into a ‘not so skinny’-fat, had a hard time keeping that abdominal fat tucked in…and just ran out of energy to try.

    I’ve always used starvation as a way of staying lean and had no clue it actually hurts my body. I just wanted to keep that youthful body regardless of the cost…then I found MDA.
    Now I eat primal, feel naturally strong instead of fragile and lift weights 3x a week.
    My overall appearance has changed from weak and fragile to muscular and tough…and I don’t care what guys think anymore. I know they all want this fragile little girl on their side, well this one sports a couple of leancut bicepts and shoulder muscles that puts the average mans to shame. :-)

    Annika wrote on June 6th, 2011
  2. Osteoporosis in the first world is often caused or exacerbated by eating too much red meat, which leaches calcium from the body during the digestive process. Areas such as India where complete proteins are created through beans/legumes/etc. rather than reliance on beef show very low levels of osteoporosis.

    claudia wrote on July 13th, 2011
    • Do you have a study to cite?

      pabelong wrote on July 14th, 2011
  3. Sadly, there are some skinny fat people that will be skinny fat forever. If you could see my body, you’d understand. I have excess fat in my stomach, thighs and bottom. I have cellulite and I’m flabby in those areas. I could use some loss of fat there and yeah, I know that there’s no such thing as ‘spot’ reduction. So what should I do? I should lose weight generally, right?? Well, it turns out I’m VERY thin in my upper body. My arms are like straws, and my backbone and ribs can be seen protruding. I have no muscle whatsoever in my back and my skin there clings to my bones. So losing any more weight is out of question.

    Well, I’ve been working out regularly for almost a year now, with at least 2-4 weight training sessions per week, and I’ve greatly improved my fitness level but I haven’t been able to remove the flabby bags of fat from my legs, abdomen and bottom. The fat there is stored over the muscles and you can not see my muscle definition since my muscles are hidden by the fat. I think this kind of fat is impossible.

    So I’m kind of at a loss about what to do. Can’t lose weight, can’t gain weight, but still I look awful in both my upper and lower body for just the opposite reasons: I look all flabby and undefined in my lower body, but I’m really scrawny in my upper body.

    So there’s no solution for me unless I undergo some kind of cosmetic surgery to remove that excess fat on my lover body. But seeing how skinny I’m in my upper body, the doctors would think I had gone crazy.

    Misty wrote on August 12th, 2011
  4. Misty I totally know what you are talking about. I am 5’6 and weigh 118 lbs and have always been very athletic. my legs are super toned and hot (if I do say so myself) and so is my butt and stomach. But even though I have played sports all my life and in my mid 20s I started proper weight training and yoga that toned me up further my upper arms and upper back are still fat. They look like they belong to another person and even my trainer has suggested lipo for them after trying everything on them for 3 years. Its the part above my bra and just a few inches of my upper arms. And like you, I have incredible tricep muscle under they layer of fat but it just doesnt show at all. I’m trying massaging the area now- someone said that might help break down the fat?? I wouldn’t have bothered but at this point flabby arms on a toned body are looking extremely ridiculous and out of balance.

    Buckie wrote on August 16th, 2011
  5. Although swahili is my first language I was delighted reading it.

    baidu wrote on September 8th, 2011
  6. Hi
    Any help for me?
    5’4 115 but 28%bf
    Oh and 53 years old
    Is it my diet or exercise
    I follow paleolithic diet and Trx and walking

    Caroline wrote on September 15th, 2011
  7. I would suggest something that will add some of your wise knowledge
    Rule no 1
    before eating drink water in ample amount so that when u are eating or after eating you dont have to drink water again.

    that will gonna give your digestive system boost and this method is for thosse people speically who really dont care what they are eating because they are currently fit and in shape,

    Rule 2.

    Specially for over weight ladies

    4 cup of black tea in a day with concentration of lemon juice.
    will gonna burn your fat ,with no sugar

    in addition if u are following some diet plan and at some point you feel so hungery and cant hold on for eating something odd to your schedule.
    again have a cup of black tea with lemon juice drops in it,
    after 15 min u will forget your hunger level.

    i am not a doc or somehting
    but i have seen my grand mother doing that when she had to control her diet and my mother do exercise these methods

    thank u

    Steve wrote on October 24th, 2011
  8. Hi i m 29 yer old married woman. I m from India i have been Canada for 2 years.And my muscle is so weak i couldn’t run properly
    even my back shape is curved not straight and i m skinny fat please give me advice.

    Thnaks Anjali

    Anjali wrote on November 1st, 2011
  9. So I’ve decided to start working out again but I’m so confused on what I’m doing wrong. In the summer I worked out a lot doing high intensity training and running plus dieting and I did lose weight but not where I wanted. I’m 5’3 118, and I went down to 108lbs. I just wanted to lose my belly fat and I ended up loosing my butt and my breast got smaller, I was just skinny all around but still had a little gut. I ended up gaining all the weight back in like a month and a half. I really don’t want to lose weight I’m okay with everything else but my stomach. I think I might of dieted too much or maybe my calorie intake was too low. I was taking in 1000 to maybe 1200 calories a day. Also I didn’t do much weight training either. I’m trying to find a new method this time around to stay around 115lbs but lose my belly fat. Help I just want a flat stomach and to be fit and healthy not skeleton skinny.

    Sandy wrote on November 3rd, 2011
    • I’m in the same boat you are, only I’m 5’0″ and 110. Extra weight from Italian big legs. People tell me I look good but and I walk 2 miles a day but I just feel weak and flabby. I’ve had a pooch belly for 25 years and I hope going primal helps me feel stronger. I’m only Day 4 and don’t feel any different yet.

      Anyway, I think you’re eating too few calories — you’re not going to build muscle on so little food. I suggest a little more protein with lunch, and frying two eggs in good fat and adding that on whatever you have for dinner. That will get your protein up.

      My exercise is to do balance ball videos. It’s very functional and low-impact and not too much cardio. And it’s fun because you get to hug something when you exercise. When I got good at the videos I added wrist and ankle weights. When you add weights, don’t try to keep up with the video anymore — go 1/2 as fast so you don’t pull a muscle. I did that and I could FEEL stronger after a couple months.

      oxide wrote on November 3rd, 2011
  10. I am 5 foot 6 inches and 27 yrs old. I weigh 65 kgs, which is correct weight for me. But i look leaner than what i should be for my weight. I don’t have big mussels either. When people look at me, they expect me to be 55kgs, which i am not. What should i do to look a little bigger than what i am by maintaining my current weight?

    Sridhar wrote on November 20th, 2011
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    Exercises for Losing Arm Fat wrote on November 24th, 2011
  12. Guys, help me out. 5’11 185 pounds feeling skinny-fat(guy). I’m taking 180-190 grams of protein a day but I still don’t feel lean. I’m trying deadlifts out but I keep thinking I have an iodine defiency.

    Should I consume more protein or check out my iodine levels?

    Hamze wrote on January 12th, 2012
  13. Skinny-fat! Skinny-fat! That’s ME! I’m 22, 5’0″, about 90 lbs. I don’t look anorexic, I have muscle, but have that stubborn belly that won’t go away! I look like I’m three months pregnant..especially after I eat, lol! I’ve had it for years. I’m trying to gain weight (at least get to a nice 105 lbs) the healthy way – eating healthy and gaining muscle. Everyone says to increase my daily calorie intake and focus on strength training, which I have been doing for about four weeks now. I’ve also been doing low-intensity cardio and certain ab workouts like crunches, planks, etc. Am I going about it the wrong way? I’m eating a lot of healthy foods – especially protein – and exercising to gain muscle but I haven’t seen any results yet. I don’t want to lose fat though, that’s the last thing I need. Help!

    Lia wrote on January 26th, 2012
  14. God I’m so surprised at the fact so many women have the problem like me. I do have strong ab muscle that shows up when I stand up straight, I can do 100 sit-ups no problem…too easy.
    I have good muscle on arms and thigh and yet I have flabby inner thighs, bottoms and underarms, and of course, the big belly fat that shows up when I sit down.

    I have no idea what I’ve been doing wrong. Since my childhood I’ve been drinking a lot of water, black tea and green tea. I eat low-fat, no-suger home-made meal. I hardly drink juice as it’s too sweet and I hate cereals and oats with too much sugar in it. However I don’t drink milk due to my lactose intolerance, so I buy soy milk from asian grocery that tastes like tofu.

    Although I don’t go to gym and do strenuous exercise, I do Yoga and do some exercise using weights and exercise balls.
    I have weak joints and don’t want to hurt my shoulders and knees again.

    There might be a few things I could try but I don’t want to get too obsessed and stressed out either…is there any way I can lose this ugly looking fat?

    Troubled wrote on February 9th, 2012
  15. I am 60 yo and reading this stuff is very disheartening.I agree with the girls who get fit for themselves not for a MAN..I might be classified as fat skinny having gone thru menopause which they say a little bit of tummy fat protects in place of all the estrogen we have lost.I do the best I can and try to stay away from pesticidinal fruits and veggies and GMOs, there are countries who have outlawed these, not the US, and its proven there is no increase in yield, all it has done ia lower the nutrients in our food and the FDA does farmers are fighting a losing battle cause bees fly hundreds so miles to pollen and feed, they get sued.fined if their products test out with anything in them.and your pollinators are from the next county or state.we never had all of these health issues till the US stared messing with Mother Nature, till that changes we will continue to be unhealthy no matter what we the way fructose and sugar is directly linked to hi name it.its linked so quit eating those chips and sweets

    KaitteMurry wrote on April 4th, 2012
  16. And most of you are under 30 and under 130 lbs.doing the skinny.fat psycho thing.stop trying to be like someone with your bodies as they are not going to lose weight if your bodies are already mostly muscle.muscle weighs more than fat.we as women need to get OFF this twisted idea of what we should look like.all of the women of the past 50yrs ago were gorgeous and they weren’t skinny Mae west,Marilyn Monroe,lolobridgida, and lots of others

    KaitteMurry wrote on April 4th, 2012
  17. 80% of your physical results will come from your nutrition.

    20% of your physical results will come from exercise.

    piefrog wrote on April 11th, 2012
  18. Cool article! I guess I have been skinny fat most of my life. 5’6″ 115 pounds. I am now more like 112 pounds, my butt is still not firm haha. But yeah since starting this diet and exercise I have a 6pack for the first time in my life, and I am really getting there when it comes to having a very toned body. I am also hoping my breasts get bigger on this diet. My body seems to slowly be balancing itself out. (I have always been pear shaped.) I know I am a little underweight when it comes to BMI, but I have delicate frame, and I eat a ton and work out and feel healthier than ever! Looking forward to see how my genes respond over a longer period of time. :)

    Cristina wrote on May 24th, 2012
  19. I totally agree w/the skinny fat syndrome. I see it all the time. BUT, even though you mention Jazzercise in the 80’s, please realize it has totally changed. I am a Jazzercise instructor and there is approx 25 min of strength along with some stretching at the end of the cardio section (a class is anywhere from 55-60 min long). It is a lot of fun and I encourage anyone to give it a try as part of their activity.

    Debbie wrote on May 31st, 2012
  20. I’m already muscular as I am an athlete. I’m not skinny fat at all. However, I would like to decrease my overall weight a bit. I want to be a better endurance runner and my weight with fat and muscle weighs me down. (5’3 135lbs) I’m afraid if I get too thin, I will lose my great 36D breasts. Did any of you ladies lose cup sizes from getting too fit?? Years ago when I was 113lbs I had a C cup but I was a teenager and maybe not fully developed yet. I DO NOT want to go back down to that.

    Lilly wrote on June 5th, 2012
  21. Mark, the last time I checked, men don’t like women with A cup breasts and the form of a 12 year old boy. I’m thin but not disgustingly so. My gender is obvious to all.

    Lilly wrote on June 15th, 2012
  22. Lilly you don’t sound thin or athletic, in fact with a 36 bra band on a 5’3 body, you are probably big boned. Also, with a large breast size like that, yes you are at the very least skinny fst, if not fat fat. Boobs ARE fat, and giant boobs make women look even fatter. A C cup is the perfect size, maybe a small 32 or 34 D at most.

    shut up wrote on July 13th, 2012
  23. Oh for Gods sake, will you people please go and get a personality… instead of worrying if you are (WTF) skinny and fat at the same time.
    Stop believing the BS.

    RobertJH wrote on December 7th, 2012
  24. Epitome of skinny fat guys! At 5″2′, I’m 118lbs but I can get smaller, I know! Flabby arms, lower belly fat, thighs and butt too large for my petite frame…
    I’m dieting, but what sorta workouts should I do? I have no access to gyms either. Am I doomed?

    Nina wrote on April 23rd, 2013
  25. Eight weeks ago I went to Canyon Ranch and had a Dexa scan. The results – I’m skinny fat. Here’s how I recovered from the shock and got to work!

    Jenny Block wrote on July 29th, 2013
  26. I was once “skinny fat.” I gained weight in my middle that no amount of Crossfit, paleo eating or cardio would touch. At 5’6: tall, I weighed 128 pounds which you would think is normal but I had 38% body fat and a 31.5 ” waist. I had my body fat tested once at a local gym in a Bodpod (very accurate to my dismay) and then again at the University of Virginia’s Exercise and Physiology Lab in a Bodpod again. Basically obese!
    I was told over and over again I was going through menopause and there was nothing I could do about my large waist. I sought out a homeopathic doctor for help. I found one and she said I was SO toxic that for all my healthy eating I was basically putting nutrition on top of garbage.
    She explained to me the toxins were the reason I couldn’t lose weight in my middle. My fat was protecting my organs from the toxins. The homeopathic doctor told me to stop taking all the supplements I had been taking and begin a nutritional cleansing program she recommended and see her in 30 days.
    After 30 days of following the nutritional cleansing program, I went back to see the doctor, I’d lost a few pounds but 3 1/2 inches off my waist!! My waist is where I had been holding me weight for along time and I was very excited!! Plus went down to a more normal 28% body fat. She said my cells were cleaner and ready for the mercury chelators.
    My boyfriend did the nutritional cleansing program with me to support me. He lost 44 pounds in two months. He tells me he feels 20 years younger! Losing weight is not what nutritional cleansing is for but it is a side effect if you are toxic and holding on to visceral fat. For me, I wanted inches gone more than weight loss. I wanted muscle and not fat around my organs.
    I am really excited about sharing my knowledge with others in hopes that I can help people who had excessive visceral fat in their middle like me.

    Maurie wrote on January 18th, 2014

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