I’m pretty sure every American knows that having too much body fat is not a good thing. What many people don’t know, though, is that not all fat is created equal. The kind of fat a person has, and where it is located on the body, can have different effects on that person’s health. Most of us have a layer of fat that is between the skin and the muscles. You can find this fat by giving yourself a pinch. This is called subcutaneous fat and it helps to keep us warm and stores needed calories. As long as there isn’t an overabundance of it, subcutaneous fat is relatively harmless.
Far less harmless, unfortunately, is belly fat. Fat itself is a living tissue that can produce and release hormones that affect the organs in your body. Belly fat, also called visceral fat, is tucked up in among our vital organs and therefore has a larger impact on those organs than subcutaneous fat. Having an abundance of belly fat can raise your LDL (also known as bad cholesterol) as well as your blood pressure. Visceral fat can also make you less sensitive to insulin, which increases your risk for Type 2 diabetes.
Not everybody tends to store extra fat in the abdominal area. Take a look at your basic body shape. Are you more like a pear or an apple? That is, do you store extra fat in your lower extremities, like your hips, thighs, and butt, or do you tend to store fat in the upper regions of your belly and chest? If you are more like an apple than a pear, you should probably start thinking about getting rid of some of that dangerous belly fat.
Making some dietary changes can have a big effect on visceral fat. Try to make your diet as low-carb as possible without worrying quite so much about fat. That doesn’t mean to go crazy with the bacon and prime rib, but replace some of the carbs in your daily meals with lean protein. Restricting carbohydrates has been found to have a big effect on visceral fat. If you want to get some ideas, the keto diet or Adkins diet will both have some guidelines. As you adjust your diet, remember that a slow weight loss (1-2 pounds per week) is healthier and more likely to last than fast, drastic weight loss.
Beyond adjusting your diet to include more protein and fewer carbohydrates, you can also shrink your belly fat by sweating for about 30 minutes per day. Find something you like to do, such as biking, swimming, or dancing, that elevates your heart rate and causes you to get a bit sweaty.
In recent years, researchers have learned that our mental state affects our physical health. In fact, stress is a major factor in adding fat to our bellies. Stress makes our body respond by storing as many calories as possible, right around the mid-section. While it may not be possible to get rid of all the stresses in our lives, it helps to learn healthy ways to deal with those stresses. Take a bath, listen to music, garden, walk, go fishing. Whatever works for you to lose some of that stress, it is well worth the time and effort. Also, attempt to get a good night’s sleep as often as possible.
So, if you are like me and are more of an apple than a pear, it may be time to work on getting rid of some of that very dangerous belly fat. Let’s turn those apples into carrots!