Did you know that all body fat is not created equal? That some fat is more dangerous, causing serious health risks? How can you tell if you’ve got the risky fat or the “protects your bones and keeps you warm” fat?
First, what exactly is fat?
Fat is a living tissue that is needed by the body for functions such as temperature regulation, proper hormone regulation (particularly reproduction in women), energy metabolism, the regulation of some nutrients, maintain healthy skin, hair and nails and protect from bruising.
- Essential fat is the amount your body needs to protect your organs from damage and basically make sure your hormones function properly.
- Reserved body fat is typically stored in the muscles and used as back up fuel for the body.
- Excess body fat is any fat beyond the essential and reserved fat in your body. This is the fat that increases your risk for disease, heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.
Subcutaneous fat is the fat you pinch when you grab your stomach. It lies between your skin and muscle. This type of fat stores extra calories which helps keep you warm, cushions you against shock. Subcutaneous fat doesn’t cause as many health risk as visceral fat.
Visceral fat stores calories too, but is located in and around your organs. It’s hidden deep within the abdominal cavity and is firm when you press it. This type of fat is more dangerous due to it’s proximity to your organs as it releases inflammatory chemicals into your body. This can raise your LDL and blood pressure and increase your risk for Type 2 Diabetes by making you less sensitive to insulin.
Skinny doesn’t mean healthy!
Having a large waist circumference is not always the best way to judge the effects of visceral fat on the body! You’ve heard of skinny fat. This dangerous fat may not be noticeable and by all appearances, a thin person could look completely healthy. However, they could be carrying visceral fat and at risk for diseases much like an obese person. Whether obese or skinny fat, both have too much body fat and not enough lean mass (muscle). The biggest causes of this condition are poor-quality diet and inactivity.
How to tell if I’ve got visceral fat.
Truly, an MRI or CAT scan is the only way to see how much visceral fat you have. But since that is rarely an option, you can check your Waist to Hip Ratio.
The waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) takes the circumference of your waist and divides it by the circumference of your hips.
Measure your waistline at the level of the belly button — not at the narrowest part of the torso — and always measure in the same place. Men should have a WC of less than 40 inches (102 cm) and women should have a WC of less than 35 inches (89 cm).
To measure your hips, stand in front of a mirror then figure out the widest part of your butt and measure that circumference.
Then use this formula:
WHR = (Waist circumference) / (Hip circumference).
Men should have a WHR of less than 1 while women should have a WHR of less than 0.8.
This is just an indication of the presence of visceral fat. Whether or not you are overweight, if you are eating poorly and not building and maintaining muscle, you likely have some visceral fat.
What can I do to get rid of visceral fat?
Improving your nutrition and building lean mass is the best way to rid your body of visceral fat.
If you’d like guidance on how to do so, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be honored to help you.