Skinny fat can best be described as someone who has too much body fat on a relatively small frame. From afar they look thin, but upon closer inspection you notice that while they're not fat-fat, they're skinny fat. Being skinny fat is a result of a frame that has too much fat and not enough muscle. The fix is to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Solution to Being Skinny Fat
The solution to being skinny fat is simple: exercise more and eat less (and healthier). Even skinny people can gain an excessive amount of fat by eating junk and ignoring any sort of physical activity. Solving the problem while you don't have a lot of weight to lose is a lot easier than trying to solve the problem when it grows out of control.
Your calorie balance is the relationship between how many calories you eat and how many you burn. At the end of the day, calorie balance is the only factor that will determine whether you gain or lose weight. There are plenty of diets and exercise programs claiming you can lose weight and burn fat without sacrificing anything. Any program that tries to sell you on change without sacrifice is robbing you.
Your body is storing fat because you are eating too much. When you eat more than you burn, you create a calorie surplus. A calorie surplus combined with a sedentary lifestyle is how people get fat.
To reverse fat storage and burn off the extra weight, you need to create a calorie deficit - burn more calories than you eat. When you burn more calories than you eat, your body turns to fat stores to make up the difference and you lose weight. You can create a calorie deficit by either eating less, exercising more or a combination of both. Use the calorie calculator to figure out how many calories your body burns each day and adjust your intake accordingly. Yes, this means you're going to have to track what you eat. Use an app such as Calorie King to make your life easier.
Diet vs. Exercise
Both diet and exercise can help you create a calorie deficit to burn fat. The effects of each are different. Cutting your calorie intake too drastically can adversely affect your metabolism. Your metabolic rate is the amount of energy your body burns each day. This number isn't fixed and can go up or down depending on many factors. One of the biggest factors is how much food you eat. When you cut your calorie intake, your body can compensate by slowing your metabolism to conserve energy. To avoid this, cut your calorie intake moderately (by 200 calories under what you burn each day - calorie calculator) and use exercise to burn more calories. Don't rely on diet alone to lose weight.
While diet can slow your metabolism, exercise will help speed it up. Exercising not only burns calories to perform the movement, it also elevates your metabolism for 24-48 hours after you stop. Exercise causes tiny tears to your muscle tissue. These tears are treated by the body as injuries and get repaired during rest. The repair process requires a lot of energy, helping to speed up your metabolism.
The repair process also builds bigger and stronger muscles. Muscle tissue burns energy even at rest which will increase your metabolic rate throughout the day. The more muscle you build, the more calories you body burns, even when you're sitting in front of the TV.
A smart way to moderately cut calories is by replacing junk food with healthier options. Healthy foods are usually lower in calories and making the switch will help you lower your intake without too much calorie counting. Avoid: sugary foods (soda, cookies, doughnuts, fruit juices, sweets, candy), foods high in saturated/trans fats (hydrogenated oils, fatty meats, whole dairy products) and fast food. Instead, eat: fruits, vegetables, whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, nuts, seeds, beans, seafood, lean meats and low fat dairy products.
Exercise can be split up into two groups: strength training and cardio. Strength training will help solve your 'skinny' problem and cardio will help solve your 'fat' problem. You can view a sample workout that includes both cardio and strength training at: Ken's Official Beach Body Exercise Routine.
The Bottom Line
After you've fixed your diet and exercise routine, the most important step you can take is being consistent with your plan. By eating healthy and exercising on a regular basis, your results will come quick.