Skinny Fat


Skinny Fat or TOFI (thin on the outside, fat on the inside) is a term used to describe someone who appears thin on the outside, but they have an imbalance in the fat to muscle ratio.

They are effectively metabolically obese, despite having a normal weight range for their height, which puts them at increased risk for high cholesterol, raised blood sugar and high blood pressure. Inflammatory conditions can be aggravated and levels of good cholesterol, which is anti-inflammatory could be reduced.

Sarcopenia is a medical term which is characterized by a loss of muscle mass and function.

 It is very common in the elderly, but young people who eat poorly, don’t exercise and who are nutritionally deplete are also at risk.

When the diet does not include sufficient protein, which provides the building blocks for amino acids and muscle tissue, the body will utilize its own muscle as its source of protein so that it can survive.

Excessive dieting, especially low-calorie diets or starvation diets can increase a person’s risk for being skinny fat.

A bad diet will always have a consequence. Consumption of too many sugary, carbohydrate dense and fatty foods, can be as harmful as obvious obesity. Likewise, not enough exercise can also be a contributing factor.

With someone who is skinny fat, the fat is not visible on the outside, but it effectively turns inwards and is stored as visceral fat.

Visceral Fat is an unhealthy body fat that is stored around several vital organs including the liver, stomach and intestines. It can also build up in the arteries. 

Visceral fat is inflammatory, which causes tissue damage, narrows blood vessels, and increases your risk for chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease, not to mention degenerative brain diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Visceral fat takes time to develop so it will take time to lose it.

Apart from diet, stress plays a major role in the storage of excess visceral fat. When we are stressed, our body’s release a hormone called cortisol, which increases how much visceral fat our bodies store.

If you have high levels of visceral fat, it’s important to reduce your stress levels while choosing an eating and exercise plan that will support a healthy body composition.

So, how would you know if you are skinny fat?

  • You never do any weight bearing exercise
  • Your blood sugar levels fluctuate, and you struggle with brain fog, memory problems and concentration issues
  • You have a “spare tyre” around your waist, but are slim everywhere else
  • Your diet includes large quantities of artificial sweeteners, carbohydrates, and simple sugars – no veggies in sight and limited protein

Here’s what you can do to change your body composition for the better:

  • Get a base-line idea of where you are with a health professional
  • Start eating a more balanced diet. Include protein, veggies and healthy fats and eat only small amounts of slow releasing or whole grain carbohydrates
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes per day. Combine cardio with weight bearing exercise
  • Manage stress levels. Stress raises hormones that increase storage of unhealthy body fat
  • Get enough sleep

Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 11 February 2021 to learn more.

Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am