The other day one of our personal training clients, who is in great shape, told me that one of her friends remarked to her, “Why on Earth do you work out? You’re skinny!” This comment is an example of a great misconception in our society: that skinny = healthy.

This client can deadlift and squat more than her own body weight, and has a healthy percentage of body fat and lean tissue (muscle).  She is lean, but also strong and healthy.  Some so-called skinny people, on the other hand, are none of the above.

Have you heard the term skinny-fat  It is everyday lingo for the medical term Metabolically Obese Normal Weight (MONW). This occurs in both men and women when their overall body weight is in the healthy range for their age, gender and height but the amount of fat on their bodies is high and their muscle tone is low.

Those classified as MONW, aka skinny-fat are:

  • At-risk for heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis as an obese person would be
  • May have elevated cortisol levels and their metabolism may be prioritizing fat storage
  • Likely not looking their best!  By building some muscle you will be firm, more proportioned and healthier-looking (and ladies – this does not mean you have to have bulky muscles, unless of course you want that!)

If you think you might be MONW, please consider visiting your doctor who can determine if you are at risk for heart disease, diabetes and other obesity-related illness. This is the first step. Next you’ll want to start working to improve your health and fitness.  Here’s how to start:

  1. Prioritize strength training to increase lean tissue and boost your metabolism. If you are not sure where to start, consider a Nielsen Fitness personal trainer.  An expert will help ensure that you are exercising safely and getting maximum results.
  2. Re-asses your nutrition. Your diet should consist of whole, unprocessed and low glycimic food (most of the time, anyways) and you should ensure that you are eating enough protein, which helps build muscle. With Nielsen Fitness platinum packages, nutritional counseling is included. Your trainer will be able to help you make the right dietary choices.
  3. Incorporate cardiovascular exercise but do not rely on it solely to lose fat. While cardio – such as walking or running – can help, it will not get the job done on its own!
  4. Get enough rest. Aim for 7-8 hours of uninterrupted, quality rest each night. During sleep, your body rebuilds the muscles you have worked during strength training, leading to an increase in your lean mass. On the flip side, too little sleep may cause you to crave sugars and carbohydrates.


The bottom line: skinny does not always equal healthy, and everyone – regardless of body type – can benefit from taking steps to improve their health and fitness.