You’re familiar with body mass index (BMI), right? That’s the number your doctor gives you after a visit to determine whether you’re overweight or obese. It’s a simple calculation—you can find your number here—that’s based on just your height and your weight.
A number between 18.5 to 24.9 is considered ideal—that’s normal weight. Overweight is 25 to 29.9, and obese is anything above that.
Sounds simple, right? Well, it might be too simple. Just because your BMI falls within the normal range doesn’t guarantee that you’re in the clear. You could still be “skinny fat.”
You might’ve heard the term used to describe someone who looks flabby, but not big enough to seem overweight. But it’s not just about appearances—it’s linked to some serious health issues.
Around 20 percent of people who are normal weight are “overfat”—where their BMI is normal but they are considered metabolically obese, a study in Hormone and Metabolic Research found. In normal-weight people, it’s often due to excess abdominal fat, which can put them at risk of a whole host of health issues.
And many people who are “overfat” don’t even know it. “BMI tests miss more than half of people who have unhealthy levels of excess body fat,” says Philip Maffetone, Ph.D., an independent exercise physiology and nutrition researcher who first coined the term “overfat” in 1977.
That could put overfat people at risk for serious health issues. Here’s what you should know about what people consider “skinny fat,” and how to tell if your body fat levels are where they should be.