Types of Fat and Your Unique Shape

Types of Fat

We have adipose tissue all over the body. This tissue is made of adipocytes (fat cells) whose sole job is to store energy in the form of fat. Body fat distribution differs from person to person. There are generally two types of fat storage:

  • visceral (surrounding organs)
  • subcutaneous (beneath the skin - about 80% of all body fat)

When it comes to losing fat - it often does not go according to plan. Despite many claims of spot reduction (i.e. "lose belly fat first") - it rarely happens this way.

Basic Areas

  • Women - generally around the buttocks and thighs (gluteofemoral): "pear-shaped".
  • Men - generally around the abdomen: "apple-shaped".
Note that these are the predominant patterns - but both 'apple' and 'pear' shaped distribution can be found in either gender.

Specific Areas

Knee Fat often builds up on the inside region of the knees in women.
Upper Arm Also common in women, fat build up can occur in the middle to upper area of the upper arm - typically covering the triceps area.
Abdomen Fat buildup around the navel area is common in both men and women. It is also one of the few fat deposits that are also found in slim women.
Inner Thigh Fat storage between the thighs is common in women - but also occurs with men. It is more noticeable in women due to the width of the pelvis that in turn influences the position of the thigh (femur).
Outer Thigh Sometimes called "Riding Breeches" - this area is the most likely place for the pitted or 'quilted' appearance of cellulite. This fat concentration also blends with fat tissue on the inner thigh and the buttocks.
Buttocks Without fat here - sitting would be quite uncomfortable. Fat is held in place by the gluteal fold. If significant fat is lost from the buttock, then only appropriate training can prevent the buttock from sagging down against the thigh.
Lower Back This fat concentration often merges with the buttock area.
Chest Breast tissue comprises the mammary gland (one's 'endowment') surrounded by fat. Men also have atrophied glands and fat in this area. Both sexes gain fat in this area. In men this can sometimes be mistaken for the condition of gynecomastia - a condition that includes not only fat build up, but growth in gland tissue.

Gender and Ethnic Variation

There is considerable research showing that fat distribution varies between gender and ethnic groups. For example men have an overall less body fat percentage than woman and Asian adults are more prone to visceral and central obesity than Europeans. Mediterranean women are prone to fat gain in the outer thighs.

Losing It

It is possible to influence fat loss (whether it is visceral or subcutaneous) - however spot reduction is all but impossible.

Read more about body fat loss.

See also: Body Shape or Somatype


Last Updated 31 Aug 2012