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April 2019

How Belly Fat Is Sabotaging Your Health

What do you have in common with an apple? If you’re like most men, that round shape is what you look like with a few too many pounds—widest around the middle. Women, on the other hand, tend to be pear-shaped: Extra fat typically heads to their hips, rather than their waists.

Overweight man jogging outdoors

That difference is an important one—especially for men. Storing most of your fat around your waist, rather than at your hips, puts you at higher risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. High belly fat is also linked to with high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol.

Bad fat, worse fat

A certain type of fat called visceral fat is linked with having a larger waistline. Visceral fat is nasty stuff. It interferes with how your body regulates blood sugar. It also increases inflammation, promotes a fatty liver, and infiltrates your major internal organs—all of which increase your risk for a variety of diseases.

Lose your belly

You can’t help where your body stores fat. But you can do something about how much of it your body has. Losing just 5% to 10% of your body weight can greatly improve your health. You may also notice you have more energy, you can move easier, and you feel more confident.

Follow these tips to lose your gut for good:

  • Set realistic, short-term goals. Think about your long-term goal—for example, losing 40 pounds—and break it down into daily changes that you can achieve. Maybe start with taking a 15-minute walk every evening, or eating a salad or vegetable with dinner. Small changes every day can lead to big results. And research shows that people who lose weight gradually and steadily are more successful at keeping it off.

  • Keep calories in check. To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your body is using. If you’re hoping to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week (the recommended amount), decrease your daily caloric intake by 500 to 1,000 calories. To learn how many calories you typically consume, keep a food diary for a few days. Track everything you eat and drink, plus the number of calories they have.

  • Don’t forget physical fitness. Health experts advise combining a reduced-calorie diet with increased physical activity. This duo encourages weight loss and can also lead to a decrease in abdominal fat. If you’re just starting out, start slow and build up to the goal of getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. Break down the 150 minutes into as many smaller sessions as needed.

Size yourself up

A waist circumference greater than 40 inches (for men) or 35 inches (for nonpregnant women) puts you at risk for obesity-related diseases. Here’s how to get an accurate waist measurement:

  1. Stand up and wrap a tape measure around your bare belly.

  2. Adjust the tape so that it’s just above your hipbone and parallel to the floor.

  3. Relax and exhale, letting the tape expand.

  4. Check the number.

 

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Mukamal, Kenneth, MD, MPH
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
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