I remember the day I first realized I was skinny fat.
I was in my early 20s, hanging out with my then-boyfriend, when he casually asked me, “Hey, have you ever thought of working out? You know, like lifting weights? I think you should.”
I know what you’re thinking.
How could he?!
Trust me, my defenses went up too. I wasn’t overweight and I thought I looked just fine, thank you very much. Why else would I wear belly shirts to the clubs with my friends? (Yep, I cringe thinking about that now!).
Still, I decided to hear him out. He insisted/back-pedaled that while he thought I looked great as is, working out would get me that attractive muscle tone I’d envied on other women. He’d recently gotten into fitness and thought I’d enjoy the lifestyle too. (Turns out, he was right!). He also knew that I’d never lifted a dumbbell in my life.
That got me thinking. Sure, people called me “skinny” … but was I fit? Nope. Did I have any muscle tone? Only if I flexed really, really hard and put a microscope to my arms. Would I rather have shapely shoulders and a tighter stomach? You bet!
From then on, my goal was clear: out with the soft, squishy figure and in with a healthier, fitter body! I bought my first gym membership, ventured bravely to the weight section, and put skinny fat in its place!
Fast Forward to YOU
If you’re also feeling like you want to add some healthy muscle tone to your frame, I’ve got some easy tips to help you out. Muscle doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s worth every ounce of effort. Not only will you look better, you’ll feel stronger and even burn more calories at rest because of it. It’s a win-win-win.
Full disclaimer: I’m not talking about mammoth muscle here, although I sure do admire the dedication it takes to build it. This article is for you, the woman who wants just enough muscle tone to have people say, “Wow, she looks really good lately! I wonder how she got so fit.”
So, without further ado, here are four ways you can take a soft, skinny-fat body and turn it into a leaner, fitter figure:
Tip #1: Get Lifting
It wasn’t a coincidence that my ex suggested I start lifting weights (aka resistance training). When it comes to exercise, it’s the easiest way to build muscle and help re-shape your frame.
While you can’t completely transform your body type (i.e. apple shape, pear shape, hourglass), you can use resistance training to enhance or minimize certain features. I’ll give you an example. My sisters and I have been cursed with a pear-shape body. (Thanks, Mom). I know that I’ll never have super slim, model-esque legs, but building my shoulder muscles helps “balance out” my lower half.
Lifting weights can also help turn stick-like arms into ones that look great in T-shirts, tank tops, or sleeveless dresses. Again, it’s not about becoming the Hulk. It’s about adding beautiful definition so you can take your current body to the next level. By making resistance training the core of your exercise routine, you’ll be one step closer to that goal.
Tip #2: Go for the Burn
While you don’t want to be keeling over in pain during your workout, it’s important to give your muscles a run for their money. Starting light will help you get into the groove of things, but don’t stick with those five-pound dumbbells forever. To build your muscles, you’ll need to literally break them down first, and that won’t happen if your weights are lighter than your phone.
So how heavy is heavy enough without risking injury or over-exertion? Lee Labrada says it best in The Lean Body Promise book: “You don’t want something too light, otherwise you won’t have a prayer in reaching your growth threshold. Likewise, you don’t want something that will pin you to the floor of the gym. The idea is to select a weight you can lift about 10 times. And by the tenth time, it should be difficult to lift.”
If you’re new to working out, it’ll take some trial and error to find this magic number. Keep your focus on proper form, and gradually add more weight as the weeks progress.
Tip #3: Be Cautious with Cardio
Cardio activities like running, swimming, and biking are great for your heart, lungs, and overall wellness. That’s why the Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity per week. Plus, there are the psychological benefits. Sometimes a good jog around the block or a brisk walk on the treadmill can do wonders for your stress levels.
With that said, too much cardio can work against you. In excess, your body will actually start to burn your muscle tissue instead of bodyfat! Too much aerobic activity also slows down your metabolism, making it even harder to lose unwanted pounds. This explains why you sometimes see cardio instructors or cardio junkies who don’t look as fit as you’d expect. They practically live at the gym but lack the muscle tone to prove it.
The sweet spot is one of balance. Get your cardio of course, but make sure you’re prioritizing weight training at least three times per week.
Tip #4: Feed Your Results
Do you ever feel like exercise gives you a free pass to eat whatever you want? Surely that tough leg workout warrants a junk food reward, right?
We’ve all been there before, but to get out of the skinny-fat zone, you’ll need to rethink your nutrition. This means eating at regular intervals throughout your day to keep food cravings in check (no more skipping meals), keeping sugary, fatty foods to a minimum, and getting more protein to help build lean muscle and improve overall strength.
I admit, the protein bit was hard for me at first. I knew I needed to consume more of it, but how was I going to do that? Was I supposed to eat dry chicken breasts and smelly egg whites at every meal? Did I have to stink up my office space with a can of tuna at every lunch break? There had to be a better way.
Thankfully, I was introduced to the wonderful world of supplements shortly after I started working out. Now, with products like Lean Body RTDs, I can enjoy delicious, nutritious protein any time, anywhere – without the hassle of cooking or prep work. And no weird smells!
Remember, protein is especially important after a workout when your muscles need to be replenished. By having a high-protein shake within 30 minutes to an hour post-workout, you’ll be in a better place to build more muscle and see better results.
So Long, Skinny Fat
Looking back, I’m so glad I was gently “nudged” into the fitness lifestyle. Whenever I find myself slipping back into the skinny-fat zone (it happens!), I remember the fundamentals described in this article. I hope they help pave the way for your fitter body too!
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.