There is a reason, besides vanity, that a lot of fat in the abdominal region can be dangerous.
Does an expanding waistline grow your risk for chronic illness?
- Location: Where your fat is stored on the body impacts your health. While most fat found on other parts of the body like the arms, legs and buttocks are considered subcutaneous fat, belly fat is more likely to be visceral fat.
- Pinchable or Pressable: Subcutaneous fat is the pinchable, squishy fat between your skin and muscle that stores extra calories, keeps you warm, and cushions you against shock. Visceral fat also stores calories but is not as pinchable because it is located around the organs. It is hidden deep within the belly which makes the belly firm when you press on it.
- Proximity: Fat is a living tissue that is capable of producing and releasing hormones that affect your other organs. Because visceral fat sits near your organs, it releases these chemicals in a poor position. Having more visceral fat can raise your LDL (bad cholesterol) and blood pressure. Visceral fat can also make you less sensitive to insulin. This will increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Identify Bad Fat
Even if you are thin, you can still have visceral fat in the abdominal region. There is no 100% sure-fire way to tell visceral from subcutaneous fat short of a CT scan, but it is important to get an idea of where/what your visceral fat storage areas are. Here are a few tricks:
- Waist Circumference: Feel for the top of your hip bone and circle around a tape measure around this point. Do not suck in your gut. Be honest with yourself. Take 2-3 measurements and figure out the average. Men should have a waist circumference of less than 40 inches and women less than 35 inches.
- Apple Shapes vs. Pear Shapes: These 2 different fruit shapes give a quick visual of where most of your fat is stored in the body. Pear shaped bodies tend to store fat in the hips, thighs and buttocks while apple shapes store fat in the upper region, belly and chest. The apple shapes tend to store this fat as visceral fat. It is a quick inspection but is not always accurate.
- Family Medical History: If any members of your immediate family have insulin resistance, heart disease or non-alcoholic fatty liver, you may be at a higher risk of storing visceral fat. Keeping an eye on your visceral fat is beneficial.
Say Goodbye to Visceral Fat
If you fall in the normal range for waist circumference, that is great! Continuing working on your fitness and weight loss goals. Because of visceral fats proximity to the liver, it is usually the easier fat to burn. It is less dangerous than subcutaneous fat that likes to linger.
Since we are not able to spot reduce the fat around the belly, no matter how many crunches are done, the next best thing to do is to live a healthy lifestyle.
- 30-60 Minute Work Outs Each Day: Visceral fat burns off with regular endurance exercises, such as biking, running, rowing and swimming. Exercises that will keep up your heart rate. As your body uses the fat as fuel to exercise, it will start using up your visceral fat storage.
- Use Measurement and Weight Tracking: Track your waist, hip and neck circumference in an app. on your smart phone. Use this feature to see how your measurements change as you are losing weight.
- Well-Balanced Diet: A diet with whole grains, vegetables, fruit and lean protein along with calorie control will set you for a gradual weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds a week. Cut back on alcohol consumption and added sugars since these type of nutrients will more likely end up as visceral fat.
- Sleep More, Stress Less : This is much easier said than done. But taking care of your mental state, you need to take care of your physical self. Stress and sleep loss can sabotage your fitness and health goals, so learn more about what it will take to ensure you get a good nights sleep. Do you need meditation or yoga in your life to tune into the mental and physical relaxation? This is not just about your health but it is also about your happiness.
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