What It Means to Be “Skinny Fat”

The ratio of fat to lean body mass is a greater determinant of health than body weight.

Do you know someone who can eat whatever he or she wants without ever gaining an ounce? No need to be envious anymore, because science says body composition—the ratio of fat to lean body mass—is a greater determinant of health than just plain body weight.

Normal-weight obesity, also known as “skinny fat,” is a growing problem in the United States. These terms describe a person’s body composition that is high in fatty tissue in comparison to lean tissue, while still within normal limits of the body mass index (BMI). Those who are considered to be “skinny fat” do not appear to be overweight; however, they have a high percent body fat, especially visceral fat—the fat that surrounds vital organs.

A major problem for these folks is that they often are misclassified as healthy when they actually could be at high risk for chronic disease. The fact is that “skinny” is not at all synonymous with “fit and healthy”. In the same manner that muscular athletes can still have optimal body composition while technically being in the overweight BMI category, people who appear to be thin can actually have high levels of body fat. Think of sumo wrestlers who can weigh upwards of 300 pounds—it is possible that they are more fit and healthy than the thin spectators who have a higher fat-to-muscle ratio.

A recent study showed that percent body fat was inversely related to cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF)—a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease and premature death (1).  Subjects that had larger amounts of body fat were found to be less fit, independent of body weight or stature.

Numerous studies show similar trends between body fat and risk of chronic disease and mortality. While much focus has been on how increased body weight can lead to a greater risk of disease, little emphasis has been on the health risks associated with being underweight and unfit.

In a study that reviewed the relationship between cancer mortality and various adiposity (obesity) measures as well as fitness (quantified as the duration of maximal treadmill exercise test), researchers found that unfit, underweight subjects were at a higher risk of mortality than the obese, fit subjects (2). These results suggest that, in addition to weight management, physical activity should be emphasized as a critical part of a healthy lifestyle and disease prevention.

“Good health is more than a BMI or a number on a scale. We know that people who choose a healthy lifestyle enjoy better health,” reported Keith Bachman, M.D., a weight-management specialist with Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute, in a press release. Dr. Bachman emphasized a balanced diet, physical activity, and stress management as healthy lifestyle practices.

In addition to supporting weight loss and preventing weight gain, increasing your muscle mass contributes to overall health and prevention of disease.

Take skinny out of your vocabulary and focus more on healthy, strong, and fit. Get there by incorporating more protein into your diet with Isagenix IsaLean products (Shakes, Bars, and Soups), IsaPro, and IsaLean Pro, which pack in anywhere from 18 to 35 grams of undenatured whey protein to promote and maintain muscle and strength.














  1. Lakoski SG, Barlow CE, Farrell SW, Berry JD, Morrow JR, Jr., Haskell WL. Impact of body mass index, physical activity, and other clinical factors on cardiorespiratory fitness (from the Cooper Center longitudinal study). Am J Cardiol 2011;108:34-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2011.02.338
  2. Farrell SW, Finley CE, McAuley PA, Frierson GM. Cardiorespiratory fitness, different measures of adiposity, and total cancer mortality in women. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2011;19:2261-7. doi: 10.1038/oby.2010.345

About Jerry on Health2Money
I am an executive with an internet-based food company in health and wellness. The company was founded in 2002 and is headquartered in Arizona with about $300 million in annual sales in 8 markets (US & Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong & Taiwan).

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