The other day one of our virtual 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, however, are relatively slim looking, but have a high percentage of body fat. This is where the health risk lies, as a high body fat percentage is a risk, regardless of a person’s size. 

What is Skinny-Fat?

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!)

what to do if you are skinny fat (or think you might be)

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

Strength training increases your lean tissue and boosts your metabolism. Strength training is crucial for building and maintaining lean muscle mass, which plays a key role in boosting metabolism and promoting fat loss. Additionally, engaging in regular strength training helps enhance overall physical function, improving balance, coordination, and bone density. Beyond the physical benefits, it also contributes to increased mental well-being, fostering confidence and a positive body image.

If you are not sure where to start, consider a Nielsen Fitness in-home personal trainer in Toronto.  An expert will help ensure that you are exercising safely and getting maximum results.

2. Re-assess Your Nutrition

Your diet should consist of whole, unprocessed and low glycemic 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 coaching is included. Your trainer will be able to help you make the right dietary choices.

3. Don’t Rely on Cardio Alone

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!

Include a well-rounded fitness routine that incorporates strength training, as building lean muscle mass can boost your metabolism and contribute significantly to fat loss. Moreover, remember that nutrition plays a crucial role, so focus on a balanced diet to complement your exercise regimen and achieve sustainable results.

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.

final words

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. It’s important to shift the focus from external appearances to overall well-being, emphasizing factors such as nutrition, regular exercise, and mental health. Remember, true health is a holistic concept that encompasses physical, mental, and emotional aspects, and cultivating a balanced lifestyle contributes to long-term vitality and happiness.

Personal Training Toronto
We'd love to help you improve your health and fitness.

For the reasons above, we always speak to our clients about body image as part of their overall picture of health and wellness. If you’d like to talk through your goals – and how we can help you reach them – book your free assessment and first workout here. We train clients in several locations – including Toronto, Ottawa, London, Hamilton and Collingwood. Not in those service areas? We also train offer virtual personal training. We’d be delighted to help you!