I admit it. I bought the National Enquirer. I know, I know, you should never admit you bought the Enquirer, but the headline GOT me!“Hollywood’s Deadly Skin And Bones Diet: Stars Risking Their Lives To Be Thin.”Not to be outdone, IN TOUCH magazine’s cover story was remarkably similar with the headline:“SCARY SKINNY!”

Actually, I wasn’t “reading” the Enquirer at all, I was, ahem, “Doing professional research…”

And besides, you have a lot of time on your hands at the checkout line when your weekly grocery list includes:

7 grapefruits, 4 packs of blueberries, 6 apples, 12 dozen eggs (yes, I still eat mostly egg whites and throw away the remaining yolks, deal with it), 9 lbs of chicken, 2 lbs of lean top round steak, 3 packs of salmon, 4 cans of tuna fish, 2 tubs of quaker old fashioned oats, 7 bags of broccoli, 7 bags of mixed vegetables, 4 bags of spinach, miscelleanous salad vegetables, a big giant bag of sweet potatoes, several bags of brown rice… uh.. and that’s just in the first shopping cart!


Anyway, on the cover of the Enquirer there were photos of a “bony skinny” Angelina Jolie at 5′ 7″ 100 lbs, Anna Kournikova at 5′ 6″ and 110 pounds, and Cate Blanchett at 5′ 8″ and 106 pounds, among others.
After I flipped past the picture of Sharon Stone’s butt cellulite circled and enlarged for detail (no, I’m sorry to say, I’m not joking about that!), the feature story inside discussed an issue that’s really quite serious:

Dr. Stanley Title said that, “The skin and bones diet is extremely dangerous and can cause serious health implications. Literally, they are starving themselves to death.”

Dr. Title said that Hollywood celebrities know that they look 10 lbsheavier on camera so they’ve almost all at one time used extreme measures (often including diet drug abuse), to the point where even casusal observers notice the protruding bones and rail thin bodies and wonder if they’ve gone too far.

People are dying to be thin, and unfortunately, that cliche has provento be literally true on more than one occasion in the case of severe anorexia.


All too often, people forget to include “health” when they’re setting their goals. It’s just “X lbs” or “size X” or “X percent body fat,” but seldom a mention of health, strength, energy, nutrition and quality of life.

There’s a side to this “scary skin and bones diet” that’s even more alarming than what the Enquirer alluded to.

I am privy to this only because I’m a fat loss coach who has taken thousands of body composition tests over the years, which is why most people don’t know about this.

Dr. Title, in the Enquirer story, said that these diets “leave the dieters looking skeletal with bones protruding under the skin.” True. And many clearly are flirting with eating disorders.

But something else I’ve noticed from my experience is that starvation dieting can often produce the opposite of the intended result. Instead of improving your body composition…


That’s right. Not only does skinny NOT = healthy, skinny also does NOT = lean, and skinny certainly does NOT = muscular.

Starvation dieters become victims of “skinny fat syndrome” and they diet off lots of “weight”, but the weight consists of more muscle than fat, so they end up with almost no muscle left, but a lot of the fat still remains!

Too bad they’re dieting off all their muscle, because MUSCLE is the engine that drives your metabolism and MUSCLE is what gives you the fit and athletic look that everyone is really after.

Sometimes it’s not the “skin and bones” diet at all, it’s the”Bones and Fat diet.”

I’ve measured the body composition of some women who at a casual glance looked thin or even down right skinny, and to my absolute shock and dismay, I found they were carrying body fat in “worse than average” range!

One woman I took a test on was about 5′ 7″ and 121 pounds.On any height weight chart or by any other standard that would be thin.

And this shows the flaw of thinking only in terms of “skinny,” “thin”or even just “bodyweight”: Her body fat measured an astonishgly high 28%!

That’s 34 lbs of fat out of 121 lbs, leaving only 87 pounds of lean body mass and fat free-tissue!

Imagine for a moment an arm bone, with a one inch pad of fat surroundingit, kind of like foam insulation around a pipe. That’s what her arm was like, only the insulation was pure fat!
When I grabbed the back of her (very thin) arm- it was just one giant fat fold! Literally no muscle – just bones and fat.

Are you now starting to see the problem we have here with the way most people are dieting and thinking?

Do you realize how slow your basal metabolism would be if you only had 87 poundsof lean body mass? How about how weak you would be?  Is that what youreally want?

I used to think “fat” was bad. Then I found out about “skinny fat” – nothing worse than skinny-fat, right?

Not so fast, How about “skinny-fat, malnourished, unhealthy and weak?” NOW THAT’S BAD!
People are so fixated only on the pounds of bodyweight and the outward appearance of “skinny” or “thin’ they are paying NO attention to health, energy, strength, function, muscle and vitality – the things that count!


(1) FIRST. Above all else, do not starve yourself.

ANY very low calorie diet can work in the beginning, but that’s exactly where the danger is – there’s a false sense of success achieved with rapid initial weight loss.

Rapid weight loss almost never lasts. The thing is, in this day and age, you already know that. But you so desperately WANT to BELIEVE in the promiseof the quick fix, that you ignore your own logic and act on emotion.

Never starve yourself. It’s better to burn more calories with exercise and activity – which in includes resistance training for strength and muscle –  than it is to cut more calories.

A nice bonus: When you’re active and burning calories, you can eat much more, providing you with more vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, essential fatty acids and essential amino acids (That’s the essense of the Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle approach: “Eat More, Burn More.”

Proper nutrition = optimum health.
Starve yourself = inadequate nutrition = poor health

(2) SECOND, you must make strength training a part of your lifelong exercise program.

You must do resistance training. This is the stimulus and signal to your body to keep the lean muscle when you are on a moderately reduced calorie fat loss program.

Weight training is NOT just for bodybuilders. There is simply no substitute for strength training in keeping your muscle, stoking your metabolism, getting you lean, making you biologically young and keeping you healthy.

Yes – do your cardio too. But don’t do just cardio and think that’s enough. It’s NOT. Cardio + weight training are the TWO exercise elements that when done in combination will produce the fastest healthy fat loss results you can get, while maintaining all your muscle.

——————-DON’T DO THIS—————————
Almost all “skinny fat” people do two things:
1. Starve themselves on very, very low calorie diets
2. Refuse to lift weights

(3) THIRD, you have to change your language.

Words are so powerful aren’t they? Just a change in vocabulary can instantly change a feeling and begin to change your behaviors.

If we stopped trying to be “skinny” and stopped “dying to be thin”(what a terrible metaphor), and instead we focused on “being healthy,” “being lean” and being “strong,” what a difference it would make.

What if you focused on “improving your nutrition” instead of “going on a diet?” what kind of difference do you think that would make? Just the sound of that – “nutrition program” – how does it make you feel compared to “diet?” I’m SERIOUS, THINK about that. What associations come along with each word?

What if you added to your goal list a desire to look and be”athletic.” How would that change your perspective? Is the rail-thin, protruding bones waif-model look “athletic???”

————————–DO THIS!————————————-

  • Always include “being HEALTHY” in your goals, not just reaching a certain weight or dress size.
  • Always include “being STRONG” in your goals, never just getting skinny.
  • Always include “being LEAN” in your goals, never just losing bodyweight.
  • Always focus on “improving NUTRITION” not “dieting.”


(4) FOURTH, measure your body composition.

You must become aware of the difference between body fat and bodyweight and you must understand body fat percentage and body fat testing.

That doesn’t mean don’t use your scale and ignore what the mirrorshows you and how your clothes fit, it means doing all of the above.

Always measure your body composition (skinfold caliper or other method), and understand what youre losing – is it weight or fat? Is it just water weight? Could it be lean muscle you’re losing?

A single measurement will tell you.

Burn The Fat, KEEP The Muscle

Here’s an incredible revelation that you should tatoo onto your brain so you’ll never forget it: Everything I’ve described here about what you should do and what you should not do is the same approach that *natural* bodybuilders and fitness competitors have always used.

Why? Because these athletes CANNOT afford to lose an ounce of muscle, so they train hard and eat sometimes as many as five or six “nutrient-dense” “natural-food” (clean) meals a day to stoke energy levels and feed the muscle.

It’s the approach I use to reach the type of physical condition you see in the picture on my website, and its’ the approach I have been teaching to others for years in my Burn The Fat program.

I hope that more people who were focused only on being skinny will begin to focus on the right thing:
It’s not about being “skinny.” It’s about being lean and strong and healthy.

Your friend and coach,

Tom Venuto, body transformation coach and author of Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle

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