What is skinny-fat syndrome? How do I know if I’m skinny-fat?

It was just another day of algebra before “the incident.” I was looking at the chalkboard. Trying to FOIL. Two girls sitting to my right broke my focus when they started giggling.

I looked over at them. They looked over at me. It was one of those awkward I'm pretty sure you're laughing at me and looking at me because you want me to know you're laughing at me but I can't say anything to you because if you aren't laughing at me then it makes me look bad because it hints that I feel like I'm worthy enough to be talked about moments.

I broke through my introverted nature (somehow) and asked, “What's up?”

The alpha female went in close and whispered to her servant. The servant pigeoned her head in my direction. She covered half of her mouth with her hand. She knew the devastation she was about drop was huge. She was doing me a favor. Keeping the blast radius small. Limiting public consumption.

“You have girl boobs,” she said.

Game, set, match. Ego defeated. Walls up. That whole being able to break through introversion and talk to girls? Nope. Gone. Forever. Bye.

anthony mychal skinny-fat

But the girl boob thing wasn’t much of a surprise. I wore an undershirt on gym class days so I didn’t have to show my soft and flabby stomach. I couldn’t do one push-up, let alone one pull-up. I had cheerio sized wrists. Chunky love handles. String bean arms. A sunken upper chest. And, uhhh, oh, yeah, moobs.

It was a combination so elegantly unique that only Emeril Lagasse could have cooked up such a magnificent blend of lanky and muffin top.

I remember watching Comedy Central's The Man Show. Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Corolla were talking about a dude’s physique. They say he's one of those dudes that looks decent with a shirt on, but, without a shirt, things change.

I couldn't help but think to myself…oh man, that’s me. I didn't hear the term “skinny-fat” until I saw an article written for skinny-fat ectomorphs on Kelly Baggett’s website (Higher Faster Sports).

I didn't know what being a skinny-fat ectomorph entailed, but I immediately identified with the term. I didn't have much muscle, hence skinny. I had a bunch of fat, hence fat. Made sense to me.

The ectomorph bit comes from the somatotypes, which loosely categorizes people into three distinct body structures.

Somatotypes and Skinny-Fat Syndrome

Endomorphs (leftmost) live on one side of the spectrum. They gain weight easily and have a difficult time staying lean. They are usually short. Just think Wario.

Mesomorphs (center) split the middle and can usually put on muscle fairly well while also staying lean. Just think Mario. Well, the new age cool Mario. Not the old and fat version.

Ectomorphs (rightmost) live on the other side. They are usually thin with longer limbs and have difficulty gaining weight. Just think Luigi.

McFitness loovooovoveesss the somatotypes. People are quick to categorize themselves, too. I’m an ecto! I’m a meso! I’m an alien! 

But the somatotypes weren't even created for physique or performance purposes, and the vast majority of people don't fall cleanly into one category.

Categories are man made buckets that don’t really exist. A lot of times, categorization kills, but, well, us humans love to categorize, so let's pander.

Skinny-fat guys are a cross between ectomorphs and endomorphs, which means skinny-fat dudes have the worst of both worlds.

Even though endomorphs get fat easily, they can usually build muscle. Even though ectomorphs have trouble gaining muscle, at least they are lean. The rich get richer is the appropriate thought to have.

But, all in all, I don't find much use in the somatotypes. Not only because of that categorization thing, but also because they add no additional color to the picture.

If you're skinny, you probably have some ectomorphic traits. That is, if your conception of an ectomorph is someone with a smaller bone structure without a lot of muscle. And if you're fat, you probably have some endomorphic traits. That is, if your conception of an endomorph is someone with a decent amount of body fat.

Skinny-fat ectomorph? Nah. Just skinny-fat.

The reason why people gravitate towards the somatotypes, methinks, is because it provides a rationale as to why they are the way they are, hinting at some sort of genetic predisposition.

But the vast majority of skinny-fat dudes don't have genetic abnormalities. The use of the word “syndrome” isn't medically rooted.

Klinefelter syndrome is the closest thing to skinny-fat syndrome, which is when males have extra X chromosome material. After puberty, a skinny-fat body blossoms.

klinefelter syndrome skinny fat

photo: source

Common symptoms of Klinefelter syndrome:

  • Tall stature
  • Feminized physique
  • More breast tissue than normal
  • Wide hips
  • Poor beard growth

Only a professional can diagnose Klinefelter syndrome. From my random musings on the Internet, most parents are recommended to talk to their children about the diagnosis. If you haven’t had said talk, I’m in the dark here otherwise. If you think you might have it, talk to your parents and talk to your doctor. Don't make up a story in your head.

Because, uhh, I'm almost thirty years old. I still can't grow a full beard. I'm 6'4″. I have narrow shoulders and wide hips. I had girl boobs. Fuck. Looks like I have to go the doctor.

Another genetic condition that has ties with (but isn't elusive to or indicative of) skinny-fat syndrome is gynecomastia, which is often shortened to “gyno.”

gynecomastia skinny-fat

photo: source

Lots of guys think they have gyno. But having a bit of fat around the nipple area isn't exactly gyno. For instance, below is a picture I took from very early on in my own transformation, alongside a picture of Georges St-Pierre.

I show these pictures for two reasons. First, on Georges you can see “puffy nipples” despite an absurdly low body fat. (Some might attribute this look to performance enhancing drugs, of which puffy nipples are  side effect.) Second, on me, you can see how my body fat funneled to the lower chest.

Neither are gyno. Lots of kids get puffier nipples during puberty, but the problem goes away with time. True gyno can only be removed with surgery. Once again, visit a trusted doctor.

skinny fat puffy nipples

So there are some genetic conditions that can be associated with skinny-fat syndrome, but most dudes aren't skinny-fat because of their genetics.

But if skinny-fat syndrome isn’t genetic, why is it such a unique and identifiable body type? Because your physique is a reflection of how your genes have interacted with your environment.

Our primitive software combined with the first world environment is a perfect stew for skinny-fat syndrome.

Now, I realize we've come a long way and I still haven't really answered the question at hand: how do you know if you're skinny-fat?

If you identify with anything I've written to this point, you can consider yourself skinny-fat. A mile high view of skinny-fat syndrome: a body that's chosen to get fat instead of muscular. There are many reasons why this decision was made, but it's useless to think about the past.

A more Anthony Mychal view of skinny-fat syndrome: a body that has a specific body fat problem and a specific muscle mass problem.

Most skinny-fat guys carry their body fat around their lower belly, lower chest, and love handle region. And most skinny-fat guys have a wider hips, narrower shoulders, and a smaller bone structure (think thin wrists).

skinny fat physique a frame

This frame and bone structure lends itself to an “A” frame. Not a lot of muscle in the halo area (shoulders, upper chest, upper back) combined with the narrow shoulders leads to a smaller upper torso. The wider hip and fat distribution in the lower chest, lower belly, and love handles leads to a wider bottom torso.

In other words, perhaps the ultimate test as to whether or not you're skinny-fat is if you notice some similarities between E.T. and you. That was a mean one, yes, I know. But I can say deliver the blow because I'm not only here to help you turn the wheel in the opposite direction, but also E.T.‘s cousin.

Identifying with the “skinny-fat” idea is one thing. But it's kind of like saying I'm a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Who cares? It doesn't matter. You're still pink on the inside.

This is why you have to dig deeper. Now that you know you're skinny-fat, what's next…?


There is a Part 2 to this article in the works. If you want to be the first to know when it drops, signup to my private email list (form below). 

Trying to lose fat, build muscle, and build a body you’re proud of?

Maybe you’re a little lost right now.

Maybe you don’t have much motivation.

Maybe you don’t what program or diet to use.

I don’t know…

But what I do know is this:

Everything you need is inside of you.

You’re capable of more than know.

You just have to open your eyes.

My weekly column can help.

Just a small little honest note from me sent every Sunday.

Unless I’m hungover.

And then it comes Monday.

What I’m trying to say is that it’ll come Monday.

(These weekly columns don’t get posted to the site.)

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