Let’s get straight to it: not all fat is created equal. From subcutaneous fat that accumulates just below the skin’s surface to essential fat, which your body needs so your brain, nerves, and other body systems can work properly, they all rank differently on the good to not so good scale. But the one we can all agree to hate is visceral fat. That kind is no bueno.
More commonly known as belly fat, visceral fat hides out of sight, building up between your muscles and vital organs, like your liver, stomach, kidneys and intestines. But the worst part is it’s metabolically active… in the nastiest way imaginable. Yepp. Visceral fat is like its own weird organ that has a real talent for producing inflammatory substances, interfering with the hormones that regulate your appetite, weight, mood and brain function, sending your cortisol levels through the roof, which is not good news for your stress levels.
That’s why this little sucker is known to increase your risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes, strokes, high cholesterol and certain types of cancer. Basically, visceral fat tells a pretty tragic tale of activating a mess of health problems.
But there is some good news.
While belly fat is known to be the most dangerous type of body fat going, it’s also buried deep within your body, making it one of the easiest to get rid of. But before we get to that stage, let’s delve into all the other essential parts you need to know about. After all, knowledge is power.
Understanding How Much Belly Fat You Actually Have
Okay, so this one is tricky to answer because, well, visceral fat is almost invisible on the outside. Even the belly fat you can pinch isn’t always visceral. That fat is called subcutaneous fat and it collects just below the skin’s surface and it can form all over your body, from your abs to your calves
The only real way to measure your visceral fat is to have an MRI or a CT scan, both of which are pretty hard to get. And even if you do manage to, and your visceral fat levels are in uh-oh territory, your doctor will probably tell you to change your diet ASAP and start exercising a whole lot more.
That leaves you to guess what your visceral fat levels are, which are usually around 10% of your overall body fat. Since MRIs aren’t cheap, you could start by guesstimating your visceral fat level. Translation: it’s time to grab a measuring tape and a body fat calculator.
Look At Your Waist For Clues
Not to be the bearer of bad news again, but there’s no secret formula to figuring out what your visceral fat levels might be. That said, your waist offers up a pretty reliable clue and it goes like this:
For Women: with a waist circumference bigger than 35 inches are considered to be high risk
For men: a 40-inch waist or bigger is thought to be an issue.
Of course, we would recommend taking that with a proverbial pinch of salt because those numbers can be distorted by a bunch of other factors, like health conditions and muscle gains. So if you do decide to use your waist as a measure, follow it up with a visit to your doctor, as they should be able to understand the accuracy of your calculations based on the little things that make you you.
Just How Bad is Visceral Fat
In a word: bad. It doesn’t matter what size or shape you are, having a high level of visceral fat is going to put you in the fast lane to a bunch of nasty health problems that will only accelerate if you don’t change your lifestyle or do something about it.
In fact, people wearing white lab coats have discovered that visceral fat is no bueno for a whole host of reasons, from heart disease (especially amongst women) to insulin resistance, breast cancer to neurological diseases, and so much more. That’s what reducing your visceral fat levels is about. Not body-image, self-confidence or body-positivity, but your improving your health.
6 Ways To Reduce Visceral Fat
When it comes to scary stuff, visceral fat is right up there with the most nerve-wracking of them all. That’s partly because of the awful health issues that arise as a result and partly because it’s invisible, buried out of sight. But as nerve-jangling as this belly fat is, there are some simple ways to proactively burn visceral fat levels.
Relax To The Max: Stress isn’t just seriously exhausting, it’s also pretty harmful to your body. In fact, research shows that belly fat is heavily linked to the stress hormone, cortisol. Basically, people (especially women) with more belly fat also suffered from an increased amount of low moods, and had a lot more stress to deal with in their lives. That’s the bad news. The good news is, you can tackle both your negative moods and visceral fat issues by trying to make stress relief your priority. Swap doom scrolling through instagram for an uplifting book, sign up for a relaxing yoga class, make time for some long soaks in the bathtub, try meditating in the mornings and get into the habit of clearing your mind on a run.
HIIT The Exercise: Yepp. There’s a reason why good old exercise is known to be the oldest trick in the fat loss book. The trick is knowing which forms of exercise will help you torch the most amount of calories and burn the most fat. The answer: High Intensity Interval Training. By alternating between hard and easy workouts, not only will you lower your insulin levels, but you’ll also push your body into burning your fat reserves instead of squirrelling it away. The same goes for resistance training that combines cardio and strength exercises, something we are constantly encouraging at our all-inclusive fitness retreats. By lifting weights and engaging in bodyweight exercises, you’ll build up your lean muscle tissue in a way that simultaneously burns calories (even when you’re resting), and the more kcals you burn, the more belly fat you’ll work off.
Cut Down On The Calories: This is it. The No.1 rule for losing weight, end of discussion. Why? Because to lose weight or shed that belly fat, you need to use more calories than you consume, which means, eating less. Of course, that doesn’t mean trying out any wild diets, skipping meals or anything like that, it simply means reducing your portion sizes and making healthier choices. Ditch the bread basket, add more lean protein to your meals and focus on soluble fibres, which are known to slow down the delivery of digested food from your stomach to your intestines, not only reducing your appetite but visceral fat too.
Coffee + Cocktails Aren’t Great: Water, black coffee, unsweetened tea and herbal brews are the best things to sip and slurp. Flip that coin over and you have a bunch of drinks that are super-high in calories; the kind that make burning off your belly fat almost-impossible. That large latte you grab on the way to work and that sugary cocktail you order afterwards, those are going to straight up stall your weight loss goals. That’s right. Drinking alcohol isn’t just the cause of soul-destroying hangovers, but storing visceral fat around your belly too. Luckily, we remove these kinds of temptations at our boot camps.
Avoid Trans Fats: in case you’re wondering what trans fats are, they’re artificial fats that you tend to find in processed foods. But it’s not just belly fat that’s a concern here, it’s your health in general as processed foods will also increase your risk of heart disease. Luckily, a lot of companies have made the move away from these nasty ingredients, but it’s always worth checking the label or, better yet, staying away from processed grub entirely, especially if you are trying to lose weight.
Sleep On It: When it comes to conclusive science results, it doesn’t get clearer than this: not enough sleep will lead to weight gain, especially around your belly. The reason for this is simple: when you’re tired, your hunger hormones go crazy, making you crave calorific foods like pizza, cookies and ice cream, while that same tiredness saps your motivation to get up and exercise. So if you’re serious about losing weight, reducing your belly fat and even improving your mental health, add 8 hours of sleep to your new healthy eating and exercising habits, something we prioritise at all of our fitness retreats.