Visceral fat is denser than subcutaneous fat. It’s stored deep in the body, surrounding your organs. A moderate amount of visceral fat is healthy [E1], because it insulates and protects your organs and plays a role in hormone regulation [E2]. However, too much visceral fat can be deadly.
What Causes Visceral Fat?
Many factors impact the way your body stores fat, including genetics, diet, stress, hormone levels, and lack of exercise. Some people are just more inclined to store fat around the middle than others. The way you handle stress also impacts how fat is stored. When your body senses danger (whether real or perceived) it produces cortisol – the “fight-or-flight” hormone. Elevated cortisol levels cause digestion to slow. Over time this disrupts your body’s normal fat hormone function [E4], which causes it to pack on and retain more visceral fat.
The dangers associated with elevated levels of visceral fat aren’t limited to the obese. Even people considered “classically thin” can unknowingly be at risk.
How do you know if you have excess visceral fat?
Fortunately, there are a number of indicators that can help determine if your body is storing an unhealthy amount of visceral fat. A good place to start is by comparing your relative size and proportions. As a general rule, waist circumference should be less than 40 inches for men and 35 for women [E6]. And the ratio of waist to hips should be less than 1 for men and less than 0.8 for women. The formula for calculating waist to hip is waist divided by hip. It’s important to note that while excess visceral fat often expands the waistline by pushing the mid-section out, some thin people with relatively small waistlines can also be at risk.
Technology reveals more than the eye can see.
Body scanning technology, like the 3D body scan that we use at Next Age Fitness can offer critical information beyond what you can measure with a scale or tape measure; in addition, it also provides you with the most popular measurements taken. With a 3D body scan, we can track your body’s percentage of fat vs lean mass. We can also track other health markers that will help you understand your risk associated with the way your body stores fat such as waist to hip ratio and torso volume vs leg volume (which can only be done with scanning, either DEXA or our 3d scanning). Knowing these numbers is incredibly helpful for establishing a baseline and in creating a plan to maintain or improve your health. It’s also important, in tracking your overall health, to be aware of changes in these numbers, particularly in relationship to changes in your diet, exercise, and age.
How to reduce visceral fat.
When you notice your pants getting tighter at the waist it’s tempting to think about exercise for quick spot reduction. But the truth is, exercise doesn’t eliminate fat in just one area like that. And while liposuction might help in reducing spots of subcutaneous fat, visceral fat is stored too deep in the abdomen for this type of procedure to be effective. Reducing your fat (both subcutaneous and visceral) requires a more holistic approach which gives you more bang for your effort. Here are some steps you can take to be healthier:
The good news about visceral fat – in case you thought it was all bad – visceral fat around the belly can respond better to diet and exercise. Taking on any one of these practices should help you say goodbye to that dense fat and hello to a healthier you.
Next Age Fitness Staff
Check these out if you are in Atlanta:
It's that time of the year when we’re simultaneously gorging ourselves and making New Year’s resolutions to take better care of ourselves. While this is amusing, it’s important to realize that our culture prizes ‘busy’ and puts less energy towards the very activities that keep us healthy (e.g., using better ingredients, getting adequate sleep, making time for exercise). So, how can we help ourselves, and by extension, loved ones, toward positive health changes?
Tip 1: Take care of yourself. Just like the ‘putting your oxygen mask on before helping others’-mantra for plane flights, when you can take care of yourself, you serve as a good example to others. Make good food choices, make time to workout and take extra steps to ensure the best possible sleep. You don’t have to be perfect, and contrary to what’s glamorous, show the work it requires. Taking care of yourself pays dividends in the long run, but it requires time in the short-run. Don’t be afraid to share your successes and failures as you take care of yourself.
Tip 2: It's ok to do it one step at a time. Small improvements can add up. If your loved one is not ready to change their food choices, maybe just giving up grains or dairy or alcohol for 30 days (or even 10) or walking the neighborhood every day is something that would get them headed in the right direction. Strength training in a short 20 minute workout (Next Age Fitness specializes in this) might be more tolerable than other steps that take a bigger commitment. It's a start and it's in the right direction to living a healthy lifestyle.
Tip 3: Form partnerships, aka, ‘accountability-buddies’. A shared effort to get healthier, even if your individual goals differ, can be one way to show support. You can check-in regularly as a part of your normal relationship, and you can help your loved one recognize when their plan is (or is not) working. Cheer them on to find what works best for them to get healthy.
Tip 4: Don’t shame, but create opportunities for reflection. One strategy is to bring up a recent news article (like Next Age Fitness on facebook as we share articles that may help) or item you saw in the grocery to talk about diet generally. You do not want to create ‘demon foods’, judge them, become the ‘food police’, or over-share what has worked for you. The issue is generally more complex than the basics; it’s likely they already know what to do, but they need to get over the mental blocks associated with bad health habits and build motivation to align with their goals. Keep the conversation focused on the goals they have stated for their health and their feelings, not the specific numbers they need to hit. It can be demoralizing. Keep positive about the change they are making, however small. It can snowball into big things!
TIp 5: Volunteer to help them change their schedules or home. For those friends and partners who are particularly motivated, it can be really helpful to have a friend help kick-off healthy habits by auditing what’s in the kitchen (or in the gym bag). Toss out the foods they want to stop eating, go with them to get new work-out clothes, or find other ways to help them rid bad habits.
Tip 6: Consider thoughtful gifts. This can be tricky, and very personal, so do not try this method unless the person has indicated that these would be wanted gifts and/or costs are a barrier to achieving good health. Gifts could include an appointment with a nutritionist, a journal or app to log foods, gym club membership, or a giftcard to the grocery to purchase healthier foods. If appropriate, a clever but useful gift might be helpful. View these as tools to help your loved one more easily say ‘yes’ to building healthy habits every day.
We wish you the best of luck on your health goals, and offer one big tip: Don’t wait to start this goal until New Year’s. You can make big health gains now!
Next Age Fitness Staff
So, great. You’re working out! Good for you! Now that this has become a regular part of your life (or soon will), you’re probably thinking, “How can I make the most of each workout?”.
Almost everyone feels crunched for time and energy. Next Age Fitness understands so lets be brief. The following list will help you efficiently maximize your workout and get the most from your exercise time:
Ok, so… what about when I’m not working out? Well, good news for you, these principles ring true for all of life. So, grab a glass of water, work out your grocery list, and off to bed with you!
Next Age Fitness Staff
The bathroom scale can certainly indicate change, but it doesn’t tell you if the change was good or bad. 3D body scanning is an affordable way to track metrics and better understand how food and exercise changes the body over time.
Next Age Fitness has the only Fit 3-D Proscanner inside the Atlanta I-285 perimeter. The scanner was originally developed to help see progress, providing motivation to stay true to a successful plan including improvement to health markers, reduce disease (related to food choices) and increase longevity.
Staying the course is equally challenging for anyone who has changed their body composition or currently working to improve. Falling back into old habits can be gradual and negative body changes may not be immediate. Regular 3D body scanning can put the brakes on those bad habits and hold you accountable to your fitness goals.
The Fit3D Proscanner uses infra-red and depth camera imaginary to extract hundreds of measurements to track progress. In a 35 second scan, you can obtain major measurements, body shape index, wellness risk, body fat% and posture. The avatar gives opportunity to capture the before picture and visually document the journey.
The data is securely stored making it easy to track metrics over time. The Fit3D account that is established can be transferred so even if you move, you can scan with the same technology using the same calculations to make it easy to compare to a previous self; and have an intervention with yourself if the metrics start heading south.
Being active, exercising intensely using the minimal amount needed for results and eating very clean will produce the best results. If one must prioritize, your time is best spent in preparing nutritionally dense food and eliminating inferring food sources (such as processed food). Meal preparation can be a very big commitment. I know. Someday I might find the extra hours each week to cook nutritionally dense food but in the meantime, I use Fresh N Fit Cuisine. I walk dogs daily, 20 minutes of high intensity strength training each week using ARX equipment and eat chef-prepared gourmet meals. And yes, I am making progress.
Schedule your scan today.
Enjoy a 10% discount at Fresh N Fit Cuisine by using code: NAF10
More information on Body composition:
Importance of Body composition
Feasible Body Composition Tests in Atlanta
If you pay attention to news and studies focused on nutrition you already know that sugar in all its forms should be a tiny portion of your diet. The answer for many of us is to use sugar substitutes. I love coffee...but think it's best with cream (or butter) and sweetener. If I have to give up one of those, I'd rather it be the cream.
There are several options if you want to use artificial sweeteners but many are felt to have harmful side effects. For many of us that spent a bit of time on the Atkins diet the go-to sweetener was Splenda (sucralose). Dr. Atkins felt that this was the safest of the artificial options.
The bad news? A recent study looked at the effects of sucralose at a cellular level and the results of this study indicate that consuming artificial sweetener actually promotes fat accumulation! I don't really use this to lose weight specifically but rather to avoid some of the negative consequences of consuming sugar - blood sugar spike and crash and false hunger, but I certainly don't want using sucralose to make me fatter!
I'm not sure I'll change my ways with this new knowledge...but it has made me think twice before ripping open another packet.