Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”):
It can be too easy to think or worry about your weight. However, there is something else that may be more important when it comes to real health. Your waist circumference.
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 is the real issue.
The internal fat (AKA “visceral fat”) is known to release hormones and inflammatory compounds that can mess with your blood sugar, blood fats (i.e triglycerides), and blood pressure.
We are all shaped differently. That’s part of our beauty. Tall, short, scrawny or soft, athletic or round there is good and not so good in it all. As a very general way to understand how different body types have different health implications, we are often categorized into fruit references.
Those with an apple shaped frame carry extra weight in their mid-section. Pear shaped individuals carry extra weight in their bottom half, the hips and thighs. Each shape comes with its own set of unique hormone makeups and associated health risks.
Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and sleep apnea
Yup – that apple! This is the more common shape that is linked to health risks.
The health risk is from the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs there. This internal fat is called “visceral fat”. The fat that resides directly under the skin is called subcutaneous fat. We may not like that part but it actually the least of our worries when dealing with excess weight around the middle.
The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.
Apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.
Recognizing where your fat is stored is more important that how much you weigh.
Apple or a Pear?
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.
Women, if your waist is 35” or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category. Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.
For men the number is 40”.
Of course this isn’t a diagnostic tool. There are many risk factors for chronic diseases. Waist circumference is just one tool to use to help understand your level of risk.
If you have concerns definitely see your doctor.
Tips for helping reduce some belly fat:
- Eat more fiber. Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways. First of all it helps you feel full as it is digested more slowly. Fiber will also help regulate your bowel movements. Having an efficient elimination system will help rid the body of toxins and allow for optimal function of the digestive system and metabolism. Some examples of high-fiber foods are Brussels sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries.
- Add more protein to your day. Protein reduces your appetite and makes you feel fuller longer as it is broken down and digested slower. It also has a high TEF, thermic effect of food, which means it requires more energy (calories) to break down the protein rich foods. Eating protein ensures you have enough amino acid building blocks for your muscles. Muscles are metabolically active which means they burn calories to stay alive. More protein, more active muscle fibers, more caloric burn equals lower waist circumference.
- Nix added sugars. This may be the most important change to make when it comes to managing your weight and taking control of your health. Sugar, in all its forms, is the biggest contributor to weight gain specifically in the mid-section. Ditch the processed food Remember that sugar comes in many different forms. It does not always have to taste sweet to have sugar in it. Crackers, white bread and pasta, processed luncheon meats, condiments and sauces, packed cereals and granola bars al contain hidden sugars that will contribute to mid-section weight gain and increase risk for health concerns.
- Move more. You don’t have to turn into a gym rat to make a difference in your health. Go for a walk, get out and explore a trail in your area, or go window shopping in that fancy neighborhood. Take the stars at your office building. Try a yoga or dance class you have always been curious about. Lifting weights a minimum of 2/ week can help to increase muscle mass and improve your metabolic rate. It doesn’t have to be crazy intense or hours a day to make a difference. It all adds up. But consistency is key. Move your body often.
- Stress less. I know this may be easier said than done but it is 100% necessary to improve your health. Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat. Stress will often trigger emotional eating and who grabs a salad when they are stressed? Carbs seem to be the go-to food when stress levels are high. So again, those added sugars from the carb fix are sneaking into your diet. Work on creating a plan to manage your stress. Something as simple as carving out 15 minutes a day for yourself. Whether you use that 15 minutes to go for a walk, read, listen to music, journal, stretch whatever it is that helps you feel balanced, do it.
- Get more sleep. Make this a priority and seeing how much better you feel and look. I promise it can be a game changer. When we are sleep deprived, our hormones go out of wack, our appetite is triggered, our energy is lower, and mood is less than perky. By getting a good night sleep ideally between the hours of 10pm and 6am, you start the day off on the right track.
To learn more about how to holistically care for yourself and develop a personalized plan, CLICK HERE for your Free Consultation Call.