Skinny fat: What is it?

"Skinny fat" comes from English and describes people who are slim and have a low body mass index (BMI), but have a high percentage of fat in relation to their body weight. An estimated 70 to 80 percent of all lean people are skinny fat. When dressed, it is difficult to tell if a person is "skinny fat." The truth comes out in a swimsuit or bikini. Rather than seeing tight contours, what comes to light are hanging buttocks, a big gut, flabby upper arms and cellulite on the thighs. At first glance, people who are "skinny fat" make a slim and fit impression, but on closer inspection you can see the deficits.

A woman before and after a cellulite treatment of her thighs

How do you become "skinny fat"?

Above all, people who move little, do no exercise and at the same time repeatedly go on diets are at risk. Lack of exercise causes muscles to shrink, just as the saying goes: "Use it or lose it." Especially with crash diets, muscles are broken down first and then fat only in the second step, because this is easier for the body. At the end of a diet, reduced muscle mass means even fewer calories and the excess energy is immediately stored in the fat tissue for emergencies.

Elderly people become "skinny fat" even without diets if they do not counteract the natural conversion of muscle mass into fat by exercising. This process starts already at the age of 25. However, this change does not necessarily mean that all older people gain weight. Often the weight remains the same or even decreases, only by the body silhouette can one see the change. This is primarily due to a loss of muscle mass, which increases the proportion of fat in relation to body weight.

How can the percentage of body fat be determined?

The percentage of body fat is usually measured through a technique known as the bioelectrical impedance method (BIA). A weak current is conducted through the body and the body fat percentage is measured with the aid of the electrical resistance measured. Scales for measuring the fat content are available on the market. However, the results of these devices are very inaccurate. Meaningful results can only be obtained with professional equipment such as that used by doctors or specialized institutions.

What is the optimal body fat percentage?

The optimal body fat percentage depends on several factors such as age, gender and body type. Women generally have a higher body fat percentage than men. A certain amount of fat is necessary for the body to function properly. For women, the lowest limit of body fat is 12 percent, while for men it is 6 percent.

Assessment of fat content in percentage of body weight in women

Age good medium high
20 - 24 22,1 25,0 29,6
25 - 29 22,0 25,4 29,8
30 - 34 22,7 26,4 30,5
35 - 39 24.0 27,7 31,5
40 - 44 25,6 29,3 32,8
45 - 49 27,3 30,9 34,1
50 - 59 29,7 33,1 36,2
>60 30,7 34,0 37,3

Assessment of fat content in percentage of body weight in men

Age good medium high
20 - 24 14,9 19,0 23,3
25 - 29 16,5 20,3 24,3
30 - 34 18,0 21,5 25,2
35 - 39 19,3 22,6 26,1
40 - 44 20,5 23,6 26,9
45 - 49 21,5 24,5 27,6
50 - 59 22,7 25,6 28,7
>60 23,3 26,2 29,3

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