Remember the scene from Gone With the Wind, where Mammy is cinching Scarlet’s waist into her corset?
And didn’t Scarlet have the tiniest waist ever?
Perhaps you’re thinking how impossible it might be to lose some weight and have a waistline like Scarlet’s, especially in mid-life.
In terms of good health, what you weigh can matter but only to a certain extent.
Let’s examine our waist circumference.
Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”):
Do you remember the fruity body shape descriptions – are you more like an “apple” or a “pear”?
The apple is kind of round around the middle (what we refer to as belly fat or to describe a male, we might refer to his beer belly), and the pear is rounder around the hips and thighs.
Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases)?
Yes – it’s that apple!
And it’s not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that you may 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 there.
This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that’s where a lot of the problem is. It’s this “un-pinchable” fat.
The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.
And apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than pear-shaped people do.
So as you can see, where your fat is stored is more important than how much you weigh.
Am I an apple or a pear?
It’s pretty simple to find out if you’re in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape. You can do it right now.
Place the tape measure around your body at the top of your hipbone, which is usually at the level of your belly button.
Women, if your waist is 35” or more, you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category. Pregnant women 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, definitely see your doctor.
Tips for helping to 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 of 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).
Maybe we shouldn’t envy Scarlet O’Hara’s amazing, small waistline. Even slim people may have unhealthy visceral fat beneath their slim appearance.
Have you measured your waist circumference? Please comment below by sharing any tips you may have for losing belly fat.