One of the most common concerns of my clients is the extra weight they are carrying, and that they feel it has grown mainly around their waist-line no matter what they do. So I wanted to share my recommendations on this topic.
We have this weird kind of relationship with our “weight”. I mean, it doesn’t define us (obviously) yet we sometimes look at the number and let it dictate how we feel that day.
What you weigh can matter, but only to a certain extent. In fact, many of us can have what is considered to be a “normal” weight but are still at increased risk of certain diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. The issue is about your waist circumference.
Waist Circumference (“Belly Fat”):
Do you remember the body shape descriptions such as an “apple” or a “pear”? The apple is round around the middle (the belly fat) and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.
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)?… It’s the apple.
But it’s not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that we often 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 that is most worrisome.
The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is that it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.
And the apple-shaped people tend 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 can be more important than how much you actually weigh.
Am I an 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. You can do it right now.
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 lots of risk factors for chronic diseases. Waist circumference is just one of them. If you have concerns definitely see your doctor.
Tips to help 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 and also helps to reduce the number of calories you absorb from your food. Some examples of high-fiber foods are Brussels sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries.
- Add more protein. 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).
- Reduce damaged fats. Saturated fats such as coconut oil hold up better when heated and also help to increase metabolic rate. Avoid using unsaturated fats for cooking.
- Get more sleep. Try making sleep a priority and seeing how much better you feel (and look).
- Move more. Get some aerobic exercise. Lift some weights. Walk and take the stairs. It all adds up.
- Stress less. Seriously! Elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat.