Skinny Fat: Not Just Hollywood’s Problem

Part II – Is Yoga Making You Soft? | Part III: Scale Subterfuge: Does Body Weight Matter?

On the whole, I swear that I am a pretty even keeled individual, but lately I’ve developed a real distaste with the vast number of individuals I encounter who are skinny-fat and seemingly proud of it.

For those of you who have never heard the term before, it can best be described as:

Skinny fat
“When someone is thin and looks great in clothes, but is all flabby underneath”

Urban Dictionary

Ok, I’ll admit… the Urban Dictionary is not the most credible source; however, it does a pretty darn good job of defining skinny-fatness.

Academically, I suppose we could label skinny-fatness as the condition where someone has a healthy body mass index (BMI: 18-25), but a body composition* that is anything but.

*If you are unclear of the significance of BMI vs. scale weight vs. body composition, I’ll be discussing these in greater detail in a soon to be released article.

Whereas skinny-fatness used to be a look primarily reserved for Hollywood Starlets, more and more females seem to want to emulate this physique.

Whether this “thin at all costs” distorted body image is a product of biology, cultural mores or just plain plain old-fashioned marketing, the current prevalence of skinny-fatness is reaching epidemic proportions… and the fitness industry deserves its fair share of the blame.

Actually, a good portion of the blame can be directed towards “Celebrity” trainers and their ilk. The widespread media coverage these individuals enjoy allows them to propagate their programs and products to millions… and the health of women everywhere suffers.

I’ll use a recent celebrity case to help you appreciate the thinking that leads to skinny-fatness.

Several weeks ago, Hollywood starlet Gwyneth Paltrow revealed that she is suffering from osteopenia, a condition commonly viewed as the precursor to full blown osteoporosis. Obviously, this is a very serious condition not to be taken lightly.

Normally when we think of osteoporotic women, we picture a 75-year old female who has long since passed through menopause and whose body now suffers from the loss of the bone protecting hormones, estrogen and progesterone.

However, Gwyneth is only 37 and completes 2 hours of combined resistance and cardio training daily, frequently under the watchful eye of her trainer. As any 1st year kinesiology student could tell you, resistance training is supposed to be good for your bones.

Which begs the question: just how does someone 37-years old working under the supervision of a professional become osteopenic anyway?!?!?

It happens because Gwyneth and her pea-brained trainer, Tracy Anderson, are the poster children for everything that is wrong with the conventional approach to female physical fitness.

For those of you unfamiliar with Tracy Anderson’s work, she is a “big-time” Hollywood trainer. Now when it comes to determining who is a big-time trainer in Hollywood, that designation stems from the quality of your marketing materials and how many names you can drop in a minute… it really has nothing to do with your knowledge or actual qualifications.

Anyway, Anderson is well-known for her Tracy Anderson Method, a fitness program that counsels females to never lift a weight HEAVIER THAN 3 LBS. I wish I were making this up but it’s true!

Anyway, if you’ve got 3 minutes to spare (and promise not to hate me for sending you here), you can watch a short video clip about Tracy and her training methods that is posted on Oprah’s website (now there’s another poster child for terrible diet and exercise practices).

So to summarize the key tenets of this program:

  • Weights no heavier than 3 lbs
  • A workout room that is cranked hotter than a sauna
  • A bizarre series of exericse bands hanging from the ceiling?

And Gwyneth feels this woman is “the exercise genius of all time”?

That’s a direct quote by the way…

Seriously – these two fools deserve each other.

Maybe someone needs to point out to Tracy that 99% of females everywhere have purses that weigh more than 3 lbs and that muscle growth is only produced under adequate strain… but as the old saying goes: you can’t teach a mule to dance.

Now it would be bad enough if that is all that the Tracy Anderson Method about, but there’s far more to her assinine program.

To help fuel these ridiculous daily 2-hour long workouts, this is what Tracy tells Gwyneth to eat:


I took the liberty of running a nutritional analysis on this meal plan. I tried to alternate between the higher and lower protein options suggested by Madamoiselle Anderson so as not to bias my results, but something tells me it probably wouldn’t have mattered.

Under Tracy’s recommendation, Gwyneth is to eat:

  • 950 kcal
  • 30 g fat
  • 115 g carbohydrates
  • 80 g protein

It’s no wonder Gwyneth’s bone are more brittle than porcelain. This anemic amount of total calories, fat and protein is insufficient for someone who sits at a desk all day, let alone someone exercising 2 hours a day.

Seriously – the only thing this diet is not lacking in is kale.

Honestly, how is it even possible to devise a meal plan with 3 meals centered around kale, while keeping a straight face? Even the most militant vegan dietitian would consider this to be cruel and unusual punishment.

Oh but Gwyneth needs the kale because it is high in calcium! Fat lot of good all that kale did for Ms. Paltrow’s bone status…

Although Gwyneth is a more extreme example, I had to share her story with you because it perfectly represents the distorted mindset that underlies the skinny-fat mantra. Unfortunately, far too many females I encounter make a number of similar critical diet and exercise mistakes that continue to leave them skinny-fat… mistakes I’ll cover tomorrow.

Till next time, train hard and eat clean!