A thin person who’s healthy should not have a fat stomach.

Usually, the excess belly fat in an otherwise thin individual is caused by a problem with their exercise routine.

This article is about healthy people who have slender legs and arms, but mysterious pudge or rolls in their midsection.

They can pinch a lot more than an inch, and their belly and waistline feel like bread dough.

Sometimes there are literally rolls of fat, yet their legs are lean and may even be firm.

What in the devil is going on?

Let’s assume that such an individual is healthy, since there are medical conditions that can cause distended bellies.

The skinny but stomach is fat phenomenon is more prevalent in people over 40.

But I’ve seen plenty of it in 20-somethings.

Cause of Fat Belly in a Skinny Healthy Person

Quite simply, it’s lack of muscle tissue. This becomes very easy to understand when you ask yourself the following questions:

• Have you ever seen a person with “ripped” shoulders, arms and legs, but a doughy bloated belly of pudge?

• Have you ever seen a person with ripped abs and a tight trim waistline, but pudgy arms and doughy soft legs?

Muscle is the body’s best fat burner.

The more muscle you have, the faster will be your resting metabolism.

The solution is to lift weights and build muscle to stoke your resting metabolism.


The body will siphon the fat in your stomach to subsidize muscle growth that’s needed to support a weightlifting program!

Do not think, “I must bulk up to get rid of my fat stomach!”

Exercise vs. Diet

  • Cutting calories will not add the muscle that your thin-side body needs to boost metabolism.
  • Eating more fresh produce and protein will not build more muscle — your body’s metabolic furnace — though a clean plant-based diet with adequate protein should be part of a muscle-building plan.

When I was a personal trainer, I saw the chubby stomachs of my clients shrink as they increased lean muscle mass in their legs, back and chest. No sit-ups or crunches were necessary.

A program for building lean muscle tissue will raise your body’s energy needs.

Unless your diet is too caloric, your body will pull much of this energy from stored body fat.

This is what causes the stomach to shrink. You just pummeled your legs in the gym with weights. Your muscles are now screaming for recovery energy.

Where is that energy stored?

Your belly. Your belly will shrink as you increase lean muscle tissue and adopt healthy eating habits.

This means after a thrashing back and chest workout, you don’t go running off to Dairy Queen and getting a double cheeseburger and Blizzard.

You instead have a chicken salad sandwich on two slices of whole grain bread and some fruit.

I can go on and on about diet, but this post is about why exercise wins over diet when it comes to shrinking a fat stomach.

Ever notice that competitive bodybuilders, of all athletes, have the tiniest waists?

That’s because all that muscle prevents fat accumulation in the stomach and waistline – just barely enough for functional purposes.

Bodybuilders go on strict “cutting” diet phases to prepare for competition or photo shoots, but even when they’re not in competition mode or doing any fitness modeling, they can maintain very small and tight waists and stomachs by maintaining the muscle mass and controlling their diet.

However, you need not sculpt your physique into competitive caliber to dramatically shrink your stomach.

But I point out the bodybuilders so that you can appreciate just how effective increasing muscle mass is for melting off stomach fat.

If you’re already kind of skinny but have a plump belly, dieting is not the solution.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



Top image: Shutterstock/Suwan Wanawattanawong