Here is the skinny on abdominal fat: Not all fat is created equal. However, many of us are treating all of our fat the same way and not really understanding why it happens and what we can do about it — and that that answer may differ with different body types and responses.
“While we don’t exactly know why abdominal fat is so harmful, we do know there are two types of fat; subcutaneous fat (under the skin) and visceral fat (fat inside the abdomen and around the organs),” said Dr. Robert Graham, MD, MPH, ABOIM, FACP, Chief Health Officer for Performance Kitchen and co-founder of FRESH Med.
Visceral fat is bad for your health. “It’s been linked to our inflammatory and stress response mechanisms. Through the activation of these systems, we have diseases like obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, high cholesterol especially high triglycerides, fatty liver and blood clots,” said Dr. Graham. All in all, research has revealed that this will increase the risk of insulin resistance, cardiovascular and cardiometabolic diseases. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You Have “Long” COVID and May Not Even Know It.
In America, roughly 33% of adults and 25% of children are obese. Society assumes that individuals who struggle with obesity are lazy. The majority believe that overweight people simply eat too much. “Sadly, this false paradigm exacerbates the problem. In reality, the issue of obesity is not that simple,” said Digbi Health founder and CEO Ranjan Singh.
If this condition isn’t caused by laziness and simple overeating, what is it? “Obesity is a multifaceted disease which can often be linked to numerous other adverse health conditions like sleep apnea, cancer, heart disease, digestive issues, stroke, etc.,” said Singh. Furthermore, obesity is one of the few maladies that can have a negative impact on social health and interpersonal relationships.
Obesity symptoms include being overweight, binge eating, potbelly, fatigue, and snoring. However, the disease is diagnosed by calculating a patient’s body mass index (BMI). “It is determined when a person has a higher BMI than what is considered healthy,” said Singh. A person with a BMI of above 30 is considered obese. And, there are three classes of obesity, according to Singh. The ideal BMI for a healthy adult falls in a range between 18.5 and less than 29.9. Anything above this may be linked to other serious physical illnesses.
- Class 1 Obesity: BMI of 30 to 34.9
- Class 2 Obesity: BMI of 35 to 39.9
- Class 3 Obesity: BMI of 40 or higher
How do you know if you are obese? Obesity can be quickly self-diagnosed. Enter your height and weight in this BMI calculator to discover your BMI and find out where you fall into the spectrum.
This is an unavoidable truth. While many factors play a role in obesity, what we put in our bodies is a leading factor. As much as we wish it were true, you can’t spot reduce but you can make changes to get to a healthier weight. “Clean up your diet by reducing processed foods and increasing the amount of whole fruits, veggies and fiber-loaded foods you eat every day,” said Sherry Ross, MD, OB/GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. Experts also agree that it takes a combo of diet and exercise to see results so start moving your body every day for at least 30 minutes. “There’s lots of evidence that strength training can kick your exercise up a notch but the most important thing is consistency so find something you can stick with,” said Dr. Ross.
Our metabolism starts to slow down as we age, which means we burn less calories and we naturally start to lose muscle. If you want to prevent that, it means you need to start to modify your routine by eating less and exercising more. “Eliminate some of the discretionary calories during your day – like dessert or wine instead of having both,” said Dr. Ross. Think about either increasing the amount of your exercise or to be more efficient, increase the intensity. “Look at changing up your exercise routine and including some high intensity interval training (HIIT) as a way of raising your game,” said Dr. Ross.
“Obesity is affected partially by genetics with the gut microbiome as a contributing factor. Lifestyle choices, socio economic issues, age, pregnancy, lack of sleep, stress, and previous attempts to lose weight also play a role,” said Singh. While healthy eating choices and exercise are recommended for obesity, there is no one-size-fits-all cure. The reason a cure can not be defined is that each individual body is different. Consequently, treatment should be recommended on a case-by-case basis because diet and exercise alone cannot cure obesity.
“With a genetic evaluation and gut bacteria analysis, physicians, health coaches, and individuals can create informed and effective healthcare and weight-management plans,” said Singh. “Obesity is a life-threatening disease with direct links to other physical and social issues. The cause is complex with multiple, unique factors in every case.” So, effective obesity treatment requires a customized strategy.
Identifying risk factors is the first step in dealing with obesity. “It’s important we treat patients with increased abdominal obesity aggressively by modifying their risk factors using a multifactorial lifestyle approach in addition to just medications,” said Dr. Graham. First: “We must share with our patients that this is completely preventable and reversible by using lifestyle as medicine.”
For Dr. Graham, that means food, relaxation, exercise, sleep, and happiness. When it comes to food, it’s important to eat more plants. A Mediterranean style diet, avoiding simple sugars and sodas, eating more fiber and less meat, are all important. Also important is self-care. Relax, according to Dr. Graham, which means find time to control and manage your stress, and exercise, sleep at least 7-8 hours/night, and just be happy!
“Health is contagious, other people matter so surround yourself with healthier, happier, more positive people,” said Dr. Graham. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.