In the past, there were only two body types – you were either classified as fat, or skinny (the luckier type, obviously). But over the last few months, even thin folks are beginning to doubt just how healthy they really are. A new piece of jargon is making its way into fitness and nutrition vocabulary. The term “skinny fat”, which at first would seem like a ridiculous and conflicting concept, is being featured in morning talk shows, explained by nutrition and bodybuilding experts and is ultimately getting several opinions (and knitted eyebrows) from everybody else.

To clear the confusion, here’s how to describe, in lay man’s term, characteristics that give one the skinny fat syndrome:

  • If your BMI (basal metabolic rate) is within normal range and your body type is thin, but your body fat percentage is higher than normal limits
  • If you are thin but have localized bulging areas and fatty deposits,  such as thick thighs, butt, hips or flabby arms
  • If you are thin or may appear proportioned but you have love handles or a muffin top
  • If your clothes make you look lean, but you are really flabby when naked
  • If you are thin but your diet consists of junk, processed, and cholesterol – laden  foods

In short, individuals who are “skinny fat” only appear skinny, but they have much too less muscle mass and more unhealthy fat in their bodies. They may appear proportioned, but there is usually a part of their body that has stubborn, unwanted fatty deposits because of poor muscle mass. Here’s an example: If you are skinny fat and have a waist line of 27 inches, and try on a pair of 27 size jeans, the jeans may get stuck around the thighs while you’re putting them on if your thighs and hips are fat. Or, the jeans might fit, but you get a muffin top.

Fitness experts unanimously agree that the secret to busting the skinny fat syndrome is resistance training. This involves any exercise that causes the muscles to work against an external resistance such as weights to increase the strength, mass and tone of the muscles. Resistance exercise styles may be weight lifting (less than six repetitions, usually for athletes), power lifting (typically consists of a bench press, squats, and dead lift), and Olympic lifting (overhead weight lifting).

Many people are turned off by the idea of looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and that’s why they shy away from the idea of resistance training. But the solution is rather straight-forward. The problem of skinny fat is that the body has too little muscle, and a lot of fat. Cardio,a must before any work-out, increases your metabolism, helping your body burn more fat. As you perform resistance exercises, the lost fat gets replaced by more lean muscle. The results are defined muscles, a firm body, and renewed energy. You only need a qualified fitness expert to personalize your training according to your needs.

Talk to a fitness instructor who will help you through a body composition analysis, to determine the ratio of your muscles to fat. You will need to commit to resistance training thrice a week, and high resistance cardio exercises three or more times a week. To really boost your muscle mass, opt for sprint and interval training rather than endurance. Alternate weights and cardio during your workout for burn more fats and build lean muscles. Eat properly, focusing on your daily calorie requirements. You may need to decrease your caloric intake and increase lean protein and complex carbohydrate per meal.  Finally, don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated.

Skinny Mom Fact: More than one study has shown that untrained women who lifted weights could burn an extra 30-35 calories for each pound of muscle gained.