Abdominal fat. Why it’s so much more than a weight issue.
Abdominal fat. You may dislike carrying extra weight around your midriff. But when it starts to get out of control it becomes far more than just your appearance. It becomes a health concern. That has far-reaching health implications around your body.
To understand why and what you can do about it, then read on.
Over the past thirty years, the amount of weight people carry around their waist and abdomen has increased at alarming rates. Far more than “middle-age spread”. Carrying a little extra weight in later years is not a cause for concern. But many people today are carrying large amounts of visceral abdominal fat.
Your health risks increase in line with your waistband.
Forget measuring your BMI.
A far more reliable health predictor is your waist measurement. If it’s increasing be aware of what may be occurring within!
The fat that is loose and you can easily grab hold off is known as subcutaneous fat. But the fat that lies much deeper within and is far more dense (those solid looking abdomens that have nowhere to hide) is visceral fat and surrounds your abdominal organs like your lungs and heart.
This type of fat is known to be biologically active and raises the risk of metabolic syndrome. Research has now found that it acts like an endocrine organ as it sends out hormonal signals and messengers around the body. These compounds have damaging effects around the whole body- increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes, creating hormonal imbalances, increasing inflammatory conditions and the risk of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease.
This fat produces cytokines which are inflammatory messengers putting the body in a pro-inflammatory state. The fat produces a hormone that causes blood vessels to constrict, increasing the risk of raised blood pressure. It is linked to increases in the more damaging LDL cholesterol and less (good) HDL cholesterol. It can also increase the female hormone oestrogen in men.
What drives this abdominal fat storage?
The hormone insulin is a key driver of fat stores around the abdomen.
When there is an excess supply of glucose in the bloodstream. Glucose is taken into cells by insulin to be used for energy production but when stores are full it will initially convert glucose to glycogen and store it in muscle cells and the liver for later use. Any remaining glucose is taken to the liver and converted into triglycerides and these fats are stored in the abdomen.
The problem with modern diets is an excess of glucose circulating in the bloodstream. It comes from; constant snacking; a diet rich in starchy carbohydrates; an overload of fruit in the belief it is healthy; and too many sweet foods that should be just an occasional treat.
Take action now!
What are you Consuming day to day?
Most people tend to think of fats and simple sugars as the causes of fat. Other than sugary foods, a heavy dietary intake of starchy carbohydrates, fruit, processed foods and the wrong types of drinks, drive the fat storage described above. These foods contain hidden sugars.
Look to replace all white refined carbohydrates with complex wholegrains. Brown rice in place of pasta, seeded sourdough in place of packaged sliced bread, oat cakes in place of white crackers; porridge in place of packaged cereals.
Reduce your portion size of all these starchy carbohydrates to form no more than a fifth of your meal. Do you need that jacket potato or banana? Can you emphasise the bolognaise sauce over the pasta? Can you add more colourful non-root vegetables to your plate so you eat less rice/pasta/potato with your meal? Non-root vegetables provide important sources of fibre.
Eat infrequently pizza, pies, sandwiches and quiche as a large portion of the meal is wheat-based with little good protein or vegetables.
Make sure a third of your meal is protein. With more protein you’ll need less starchy carbohydrates. You’ll stay full between meals with less desire to reach for snacks.
Snacking keeps insulin levels high which can drive more fat storage. Try to limit the number of snacks you eat each day.
Be careful with fruits as they contain a lot of sugar, especially avoid fruit juices, smoothies and dried fruit. Try to eat just two pieces of fruit each day whilst increasing vegetable intake.
Finally be careful over what you drink. Fizzy drinks, fruit juice and smoothies should be avoided. Even artificial sweeteners may negatively influence your fat stores, so be aware of these!
How much are you Moving day to day?
It’s important to move more for managing fat within the body. Walking (ideally briskly), gardening, dancing, swimming, yoga, housework all require physical expenditure of energy stores. This will encourage better uptake of glucose into cells. It’s more important to move regularly throughout the day than to do just one 60 minute workout. It’s important to vary your workouts to include some strength training. Building muscle mass will utilise additional glucose in the bloodstream so less available for fat storage.
Be careful with intensive workouts that can create a stress response. It triggers the hormone cortisol to be released and this can encourage further fat storage. A harder workout does not necessarily lead to fat loss.
It is not a quick fix, but by taking a slow steady approach to modifying your diet whilst increasing your activity levels you will start to lose damaging abdominal fat for good.
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