Even people with perfect abs have some belly fat.
That is typical. However, excess belly fat can harm your health in ways that other types of fat do not.
Some of your fat is located directly beneath your skin. Other fat is found deeper within your body, around your heart, lungs, liver, and other organs.
Even in thin people, deeper fat, known as “visceral” fat, may be a bigger problem.
Even thin people can have an excess of belly fat. It’s more about your level of activity than your pant size.
Deep Abdominal Fat
You require visceral fat. It acts as a cushion around your organs.
However, if you have too much of it, you may be more prone to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and certain cancers, such as breast and colon cancer.
The fat isn’t just sitting there. According to Kristen Hairston, MD, assistant professor of endocrinology and metabolism at Wake Forest School of Medicine, it is an active part of your body that produces “a lot of nasty substances.”
When you gain too much weight, your body begins to store fat in unexpected places.
According to Carol Shively, PhD, professor of pathology-comparative medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine, “with increasing obesity, you have people whose regular fat storage areas are so full that the fat is deposited into the organs and around the heart.”
How Much Stomach Fat Do You Have?
A CT scan or MRI is the most accurate way to determine how much visceral fat you have. However, there is a much simpler and less expensive way to check.
Take a measuring tape and wrap it around your waist at your belly button to determine your girth. Make sure the tape measure is level while you’re standing up.
For your health’s sake, your waist size should be less than 35 inches for women and less than 40 inches for men.
A “pear shape,” defined by larger hips and thighs, is considered safer than a “apple shape,” defined by a wider waistline.
“What we’re really pointing to with the apple versus pear is that if you have more abdominal fat, it’s probably an indicator of more visceral fat,” Hairston says.
It also affects thin people.
You can have too much visceral fat even if you’re thin.
How much you have is determined in part by your genes and in part by your lifestyle, particularly how active you are.
Inactivity is preferred by visceral fat. Thin people who watched their diets but did not exercise were more likely to have too much visceral fat in one study.
The key is to stay active, regardless of size.
4 Steps to Losing Belly Fat
Exercise, diet, sleep, and stress management are the four keys to controlling belly fat.
- Vigorous exercise reduces all fat, including visceral fat.
5 days a week, get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise. Walking counts as exercise if you walk fast enough to break a sweat and raise your heart rate above normal.
Step up your pace and get some vigorous exercise, such as jogging or walking, to get the same results in half the time. That would require 20 minutes per day, four days per week.
Jog if you’re already fit, or walk briskly on a treadmill at an incline if you’re not. According to Duke researcher Cris Slentz, PhD, vigorous workouts on stationary bikes, elliptical or rowing machines are also effective.
Moderate activity, such as raising your heart rate for 30 minutes three times per week, is also beneficial. It slows the accumulation of visceral fat. However, in order to burn visceral fat, your workouts may need to be increased.
“Rake the leaves, go for a walk, garden, go to Zumba, and play soccer with your kids.” “It doesn’t have to be in the gym,” says Hairston.
If you are not currently active, it is a good idea to consult with your health care provider before beginning a new fitness program.
- Diet: There is no such thing as a belly fat diet. However, when you lose weight on any diet, belly fat is usually the first to go.
Increasing your fiber intake can help. According to Hairston’s research, people who consume 10 grams of soluble fiber per day without making any other dietary changes accumulate less visceral fat over time than others. It’s as easy as consuming two small apples, a cup of green peas, or a half-cup of pinto beans.
“Even if you kept everything else the same but switched to a higher-fiber bread,” Hairston says, “you might be able to better maintain your weight over time.”
- Sleep: Getting enough sleep is beneficial. People who slept 6 to 7 hours per night gained less visceral fat over 5 years in one study than those who slept 5 or fewer hours per night or 8 or more hours per night. Sleep was not the only factor that was important, but it was a factor.
- Everyone experiences stress. It is important how you handle it. Relaxing with friends and family, meditating, exercising to relieve stress, and seeking counseling are all excellent options. As a result, you are healthier and better prepared to make good decisions for yourself.
“If you could only do one of these things,” Shively says, “exercise probably has the most immediate benefits, because it addresses both obesity and stress.”