One of the most dangerous places for weight gain is the abdominal area. You've probably heard about the dangers of stress and a sedentary lifestyle, but do you know just how at-risk you really are?
Subcutaneous vs. Visceral Fat
Fat deposits in the abdominal area come in two forms—subcutaneous and visceral. Subcutaneous fat is what is right under the skin, like love handles or "back fat." While it's unattractive to us, those extra pounds aren't the most dangerous. Visceral fat is the second kind of fat and it lies deeper in the abdomen and builds up around your organs. Think the jiggle is what's bad? Think again. Visceral fat doesn't move, and by all appearances, you may not even have noticeable subcutaneous fat. Studies done at the Mayo Clinic and Wake Forest show that people who have visceral fat, but aren't technically obese, have a higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and dementia.
Risk Indicators for Visceral Fat
If you exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet, but suffer from continued stress, you may be at high risk. Stress is the ultimate contributor to the build-up of visceral fat, as when the body releases cortisol, it is deposited into the abdominal area.
Get out the measuring tape, because you're especially at risk if your waist measures more than 35 inches for a woman, or 40 inches for a man. Knowing your hip-to-waist ratio is another way to measure your likelihood for visceral fat.
How to Decrease Your Risks and Lose Belly Fat
First, understand that there is no quick fix. Even if you have the fat removed by a cosmetic surgeon, studies show that it does NOT reduce your risk for the above-mentioned diseases and ailments. Second, make an immediate plan to improve your health and daily habits. Increasing fiber intake and eliminating sugars and processed foods from your diet have been shown to successfully reduce the amount of visceral fat. If you already eat well and exercise, consider adding relaxation techniques, such as yoga and meditation, to your daily routine.
Reduce bad belly fat and the associated health risks with a few little tweaks to your current lifestyle:
- Get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week
- Strength train twice a week—there are a ton of great body weight exercises you can do, such as burpees, push-ups and squats that are easy to incorporate into your exercise routine
- Add more fiber to your diet! Raspberries, black beans and artichoke are all excellent sources
- Take more breaks at work—sitting all day contributes to weight gain
By making healthier choices and increasing the effort to move more, you can significantly reduce body fat.