Wouldn’t it be nice to totally ditch the scale? I don’t like generalizations, but in this case I think I can safely say there’s not a person on the planet who, at one time or another, hasn’t thought about or worried about their weight. But guess what? What you weigh can matter, but only to a certain extent.
When it comes to real health, there may be something more important – your waist measurement. We’re not just talking about the “pinch an inch” fat under your skin either. We’re talking about the internal fat around your abdominal organs – that’s the real issue.
Let’s look at your waist circumference (well…you look at yours and I’ll look at mine – deal?), and I’ll give you a bunch of actionable tips to help you reduce it. I believe in never presenting a problem without also presenting a solution.
Waist Circumference (aka “Belly Fat”):
Do you remember the fruity body shape descriptions being like an “apple” or a “pear”? The luckiest people were the “bananas,” long and lean. The apple is kinda round around the middle (you know – belly fat-ish, kinda beer belly-ish) and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.
Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases).
Yup – that apple!
And it’s not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that you might refer to as a “muffin top”. The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs.This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that’s where a lot of the problem actually is. It’s the “un-pinchable” fat. And apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.
That internal fat (aka“visceral fat”) is proven to release a bunch of hormones and inflammatory compounds that mess with your blood sugar, blood fats (i.e triglycerides), and blood pressure.
So as you can see, WHERE your fat is stored is more important that how much you weigh.
It’s pretty simple to find out if you’re in the higher risk category. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape. You can do it right now.
But first, let’s define where your “waist” is in this example. Time and time again, I hear from men, “That’s not what my pants size is.” That’s not where we’re measuring. Preferable, and more accurately, waist measurement for determining health is at your belly button, a little higher than where most of us wear our pants. Measure just above your belly button, but just below your rib cage. In fact, when you bend to the side, the little crease that forms is your natural waistline. Women, if your waist is 35 inches or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category. Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.For men the number is 40”.
Of course this isn’t a diagnostic tool. There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases. Waist circumference is just one of them. If you have concerns you should definitely discuss them your doctor.
Tips for helping reduce some belly fat:
- Eat more fiber. Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways. First of all it helps you feel full and also helps to reduce the amount of calories you absorb from your food. Some examples of high-fiber foods are brussel sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries.
- Add more protein to your day. Protein reduces your appetite and makes you feel fuller longer. It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs and ensures you have enough of the amino acid building blocks for your muscles.
- Nix added sugars. This means ditch the processed sweetened foods especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice).
- Move more. Get some aerobic exercise. Lift some weights. Walk and take the stairs. It all adds up.
- Stress less. Seriously! Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat.
- Get more sleep. Try making this a priority and seeing how much better you feel (and look).
Remember that with knowledge comes responsibility. Now that you know your waist measurement, what are you going to do with that information?