So What Can We Do About Belly Fat?
A lot, it turns out.
Losing abdominal fat, or "belly fat", is a common weight loss goal. Unlike fat stored on the hips and thighs, abdominal fat releases harmful hormones and inflammatory compounds that can create serious health risks like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
So, keep in mind, It's not just about the “pinchable” fat under the skin (you know, that “muffin top”), it's about the internal fat around your abdominal organs that can be the real issue.
Below I'll describe the importance of why your waist circumference matters, how to measure your waist and then give you actionable tips to help you trim your waist.
Let's start by looking at your waist circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”)
Do you remember the fruity body shape descriptions being like an “apple” or a “pear”? The apple is sort of round around the middle and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.
THAT is what we're talking about here.
Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases)?
Yep – that apple!
And it's not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that you may refer to as a “muffin top”. The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs there.
This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that's where a lot of the problem actually is. It's this “un-pinchable” fat. Visceral fat can be a health issue because it is directly linked with higher total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower HDL (good) cholesterol, high blood pressure and insulin resistance.
And the apple-shaped body tends to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.
So as you can see where your fat is stored is more important that how much you weigh.
Do you know...Am I apple-shaped or pear-shaped?
It's pretty simple to find out if you're in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape. You can do it right now.
Measuring Your Middle
Stand and place a tape measure around your bare stomach, just above your hipbone.
Pull the tape measure until it fits snugly around you, but doesn't push into your skin. Make sure the tape measure is level all the way around.
Relax, exhale and measure your waist, resisting the urge to suck in your stomach.
What does it mean?
Women, if your waist is 35” or more indicates an unhealthy concentration of belly fat and a greater risk of health problems. Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.
For men the number is 40” or more.
Of course this isn't a diagnostic tool. There are various risk factors for chronic diseases. Waist circumference is just one of them.
If you are concerned about your waist measurement, consult with your doctor about safe ways to reduce your risk of chronic disease.
What to do about it? Here's how to trim your waistline
Eat more fiber. Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways. First of all it helps you feel full and also helps to reduce the amount of calories you absorb from your food. Some examples of high-fiber foods are Brussel sprouts, ground flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries.
Add more protein to your day. Protein reduces your appetite and makes you feel fuller longer. It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs and ensures you have enough of the amino acid building blocks for your muscles.
Nix added sugars. This means ditch the processed sweetened foods especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice).
Move more. Get some aerobic exercise. Lift some weights. Walk and take the stairs. It all adds up.
Stress less. Seriously! Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat.
Get more sleep. Try making this a priority and seeing how much better you feel (ad look).