You can’t zip your jeans! And you’re at the last notch of your belt. Fat had stealthily accumulated around your middle but you haven’t been aware of it.

Know Thyself

Most of us don’t really care if we have large bellies reasoning that most people are rounded at the middle anyway. But this is something serious. It is not only hideous. It’s dangerous to your health!

Dr Robert Eckel of the American Heart Association says, “A big waistline puts you at increased risk of many health problems – diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.”

Belly fat as we call it, is not only that fat which is located at the subcutaneous layer of your abdomen’s skin. Essentially, it is those lumps of fat that enfold your abdominal organs such as the small and large intestines and the stomach. So, it is properly called visceral fat. It can only be visualised through a CT or MRI scan. Thin people can have hidden belly fat or visceral fat.

To know if you have unhealthy belly fat, simply measure your waist. Stand straight and place a tape measure around your bare stomach just above your hipbone.  Make sure that the tape measure is level all around and placed snugly around your middle. Don’t pull the tape measure too tight. Relax and exhale, read your measurement.

If you’re a woman – a waist measurement of 35 inches or 89 cm or more means you have unhealthy concentration of fat at your middle.

If you’re a man – a waist measurement of 40 inches or 102 cm or more means a risk for chronic diseases.


The Dangers of Belly Fat

  • A high risk for developing diabetes. It was thought that fat cells are inert and body fat is a storage area where the body draws energy when needed. However, studies show that they are active and produce hormone like substances akin to an endocrine gland that produces hormones. They release leptin and adiponectin. Leptin is produced after a meal to decrease appetite while adiponectin affects the response of cell to insulin which disrupts the normal balance and functioning of insulin. This means you have a high risk of developing diabetes.
  • Increases cardiovascular disease risk. Visceral fat produce immune system chemicals. These chemicals are called cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-6. They can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by promoting insulin resistance and low level chronic inflammation.
  • Increase in cholesterol levels and atherosclerosis. The location of abdominal fat is near the portal vein that carries blood from the intestinal area to the liver. As such, chemicals or substances released by visceral fat reach the liver through the vein. At the liver these substances affect the production of blood lipids, increase total cholesterol and LDL or the bad cholesterol and causes insulin resistance.
  • Higher incidence of breast cancer. According to some research studies women with belly fat have a one third higher risk of breast cancer including uterine, cervix, kidney and pancreas.         
  • Increase in colorectal cancer. A research have shown that people with belly fat have a 52% increase in colorectal cancer.
  • Large middles predict the development of high blood pressure regardless of total body fat
  • People with belly fat according to a study have worse memory and less verbal fluency


Battle your Bulge

There is no shortcut to eliminating those lumps of fat on your abdomen.  While you can tone your abdominal muscles with exercises that target the fats at your abdominal area such as crunches and sit up they aren’t as effective for belly fat. Experts say belly fat can be eliminated with the same strategies that help you overhaul excess weight and lower your overall body fat.

Here are what works:

  • Eating a healthy diet.  Eat more veggies, fruits and whole grains and limit meat and high fat dairy product as they are high in saturated fats. Use monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from fish, nuts and vegetable fats.
  • Make it a habit to pay attention to portion sizes
  •  Be physically active. Don’t be a weekend exercise warrior. Look for ways and means to incorporate physical activity in your daily life. Moderate aerobic activity is highly recommended and you can do it for 150 minutes per week rationed equally for most day of the week such as brisk walking or 75 minutes of vigorous activity like jogging. Add strength training a week. Of course, if you’d want a fast melt of those globs of fat exercise more. Be consistent and be determined to make it a part of your lifestyle.