You May Be Fat and Not Even Know It
Why the belly fat we can’t see is more dangerous than we realize.
April 30, 2012 | 9:00 a.m. EDTBy Chai Woodham
There’s more to fat than meets the eye. Literally. While most of the population obsesses over that which wiggles and jiggles, research suggests it’s the fat we can’t see that’s of greater concern. And it’s not just about how much fat you have, but where you tend to store it that worries most doctors.
There are two types of fat: subcutaneous and visceral. Subcutaneous fat is located beneath the skin in places like the abdomen, thighs, hips, and buttocks. You know it, you see it, you hate it. Visceral fat, better known as belly fat, is located deep within the midsection, surrounding the liver, heart, lungs, and digestive tract. And it’s invisible to the naked eye. “People are self-conscious about the fat they can see,” says Heather Hausenblas, associate professor of exercise and health psychology at the University of Florida’s College of Health and Human Performance, but “hidden fat, in people of any size, poses the bigger threat.” Why? Visceral fat churns out inflammatory substances called cytokines that can wreak havoc on the body’s organs.
Subcutaneous fat—that roll of fat you can pinch between your fingers—patiently sits beneath the outermost layer of skin, and while unsightly, it’s not as dangerous as visceral fat. A 2004 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the removal of subcutaneous fat through liposuction —nearly 23 pounds of it—in obese women had no effect on their blood sugar, blood pressure, or cholesterol levels after three months. Visceral fat, on the other hand, is very active metabolically. It constantly releases substances that travel to the liver and influence the production of blood fats. “[It] supplies a feeding tube to your vital internal organs, messing up the blood that is sent to those organs,” says Hausenblas. That’s why the subcutaneous fat on your thighs, she explains, doesn’t matter as much to your health as the visceral fat in your belly.
Visceral fat makes the body more vulnerable to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, and even certain types of cancer. A recent laboratory study, for example, suggests that visceral fat may promote the spread and growth of ovarian cancer. Says Ernst Lengyel, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago who led the research: “Cancer cells can feed from visceral fat and,” he adds, “there isn’t necessarily a connection to obesity because lean women also get ovarian cancer.” Other cancers such as breast, gastric, and colon, research shows, may also be fueled by visceral fat.
So who accumulates visceral fat? “Everyone,” says John Morton, associate professor of surgery and director of bariatric surgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Men have more visceral fat than women, although after menopause, women tend to gain more visceral fat than subcutaneous fat. Genetics can also play a role. “Some ethnic minorities like Hispanics and Native Americans are more prone to collecting visceral fat,” says Morton. If we all have it, how do you know if you should be concerned? To find out, doctors say you need nothing more than a mirror and a tape measure.
The most precise way to gauge visceral fat is through an MRI or CT scan, but these procedures can be costly and inaccessible. MRIs and CT scans have shown that waist circumference is an indicator of abdominal fat. So simply take a good look at the shape of your body. Those with an apple shape have a large percentage of their total body fat concentrated above their waist. They’re more likely to have more abdominal fat, and therefore more visceral fat, than those with a pear shape, or larger lower body, where body fat settles primarily below the waist. Also measure your waist. Studies show that women with a waist circumference of 35 inches or more and men with a measure of 40 inches or higher have dangerous levels of visceral fat.
11 Weight Loss Tips Leading to a Healthier Life
- JUICING VS. BLENDING: WHICH ONE IS BETTER?Drink Your Water: It’s important to stay well hydrated on a diet. People often mistake thirst for hunger. So, the next time you get a hunger pang, drink a glass of water first to make sure you’re really hungry.
- Remove Sugar : If you want to lose weight, you have to remove the SUGAR. Sugar makes it easy for our bodies to store fat. Removing sugar out of your life is an easy way to shed and keep off the pounds. Sugar is found in many forms, so if you are trying to reduce sugar intake you also have to stop eating the foods that act like sugar in our bodies, making it harder to store fat. For a complete list of these foods, go to our Healthy Living section.
- Eat Smaller Portions (use a scale): America is getting BIGGER and with the advent of “super-size” meals and increasingly huge portions and all you can eat restaurants, our concept of normal serving sizes is a distant memory. Be mindful of the amount of food you consume at a sitting. When possible, use a scale and avoid the “super-size” meals and huge portions when eating out.
- Keep a Journal
: Write down what you eat in a journal. This helps you stay aware of whether your meals are balanced, how frequently you’re eating, and how many calories you’re consuming. Meal planning is necessary for managing a balanced and calorie controlled diet.
- Eat Your Vegetables (replace starchy food): Vegetables are a 5-star food. Not only are they low in calories, they are high in fiber. Vegetables are a great replacement for rice, pasta and other starchy foods during weight loss. Non-starchy vegetables are the best selection for weight loss; they include asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, cucumbers, field greens, spinach and more. For a complete list of non-starchy and starchy vegetables. Learn more under our Healthy Living section.
- Get Enough Protein: Protein is the best fill-me-up food. It’s more satisfying than carbohydrates or fats and keeps you feeling full for longer. Protein also helps preserve muscle mass and encourages fat burning. So be sure to include healthy proteins like lean meat, sugar free yogurt, cheese, nuts, or beans into your meals and snacks.
- Limit Late Night Snacking: Evening snacking occurs most often after dinner, when you finally sit down and relax. Snacking while reading or watching TV is one of the easiest ways to throw your diet off course. The best advice is to not snack after dinner. Or, allow yourself a low-calorie snack like fruit, low-fat cheese or a sugar free yogurt with a serving size of about 100 calories.
- Get Your Sleep : Get your sleep! Without proper sleep (7.5 hours), your body overproduces the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and under-produces the hormone leptin, which tells you when you’re full. Proper sleep makes you feel refreshed, full and limits unnecessary snacking.
If you enjoy drinking, be aware that calories add up quick – a five-ounce glass of wine has 125, a bottle of beer about 153. Alcohol increases our blood sugar levels, causing the pancreas to secrete insulin to stabilize blood sugars, enabling our body to store fat, thus leading to weight gain if alcohol is used in excess. Consider limiting drinking for the weekend and keep it to a drink or two each night.
- Get Moving : Regular exercise is an important part of effective weight loss. It helps to control your weight by using excess calories that otherwise would be stored as fat. Physical activity also helps prevent many diseases and improve your overall health. Regular exercise can help prevent heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, back pain and osteoporosis. Enjoy your exercise routine whatever it may be; sports, a trip to the gym, bike riding, walking, household chores, yard work, or work-related tasks — all are beneficial.
- See a Professional or Join a Weight Loss Program: Getting support can help you reach your weight loss goals. Talk with a weight loss specialist or join a weight loss program to get the help and support you need to make the changes to lead a healthier lifestyle. When you feel like giving up, they will help you, keep you honest, and cheer you on, making the whole experience a lot easier. Call and sign-up today at Ideal Weight Loss 517-331-6827.
This is a question that we get asked all the time. Which is better: juicing or blending? Does one offer more health benefits than the other? Juices and smoothies both play an important role in any wellness program and we discuss the benefits of each in both of our films, Food Matters and Hungry For Change. We believe that both juicing and blending are very beneficial, but in different ways.
Here is a short comparison that explains the differences between the two as well as some of the specific benefits of each.
What’s The Difference?
Juicing is a process, which extracts water and nutrients from produce and discards the indigestible fiber.
This is especially helpful if you have a sensitive digestive system or illness that inhibits your body from processing fiber. The fiber in produce helps slow down the digestive process and provides a steady release of nutrients into the blood stream. Jason Vale calls juicing “A nutrient express!”Without all the fiber, your digestive system doesn’t have to work as hard to break down the food and absorb the nutrients. In fact, it makes the nutrients more readily available to the body in much larger quantities than if you were to eat the fruits and vegetables whole.
Freshly squeezed vegetable juices form part of most healing and detoxification programs because they are so nutrient rich and nourish and restore the body at a cellular level.
A word of caution: When you remove the fiber from the produce, the liquid juice is absorbed into your blood stream quickly. If you are only juicing fruits, this would cause a rapid spike in blood sugar and unstable blood sugar levels can lead to mood swings, energy loss, memory problems and more!
Fiber is also filling and without fiber in the juice, some people tend to get hungry again quickly.
Unlike juices, smoothies consist of the entire fruit or vegetable, skin and all and contain all of the fiber from the vegetables.
By including the fiber in your smoothie, the volume will increase. Also, you can pack more servings of fruits and veggies into a single serving of juice than you can into a smoothie.However, the blending process breaks the fiber apart (which makes the fruit and vegetables easier to digest) but also helps create a slow, even release of nutrients into the blood stream and avoids blood sugar spikes. Smoothies tend to be more filling, because of the fiber, and generally faster to make than juice, so they can be great to drink first thing in the morning as your breakfast, or for snacks throughout the day.
Juicing and Blending Rules
- It’s best not to combine fruits and vegetables (unless it’s apple). This can affect how well your digestive enzymes function.
This doesn’t seem to matter too much in green juices and smoothies, but vegetables like carrots, beetroots, broccoli and zucchini don’t combine well with fruit due to their high starch content. In his book Food Combining Made Easy, Dr. Herbert Shelton explains that starchy foods have to be eaten alone because starches are digested with enzymes different from those used for any other food group. Combining starchy foods with fruit may cause fermentation and gas. However, Dr. Shelton found that green leafy veggies combine well with pretty much everything.
- Try to drink your juice or smoothie straight away. After 15 minutes, light and air will destroy much of the nutrients. If you can’t drink it straight away, transfer to a dark airtight container until you’re ready.
Using The Right Equipment
To get the most benefit from your juices and smoothies, it’s important to use the right equipment. Invest in a good-quality juicer. Cheaper, centrifugal juicers introduce heat and oxygen and destroy the enzymes and nutrients in your fruits and vegetables. While it may cost you a bit more initially, a premium cold-press juicer will produce a superior-quality juice and allow you to extract more from your fruit and vegetables, saving expense in the long-term. The machines themselves will also generally last longer. In contrast to the rough extraction of centrifugal juicers, mastication or cold-press juicers compress fruit and vegetables to ‘squeeze’ out their juice.
Using a Vitamix or Ninja is money well spent. Remember, we spend money on gadgets, clothes, restaurants and other luxuries so, if you can afford it, investing in your health by buying a quality juicer or blender is totally worth it.
There are four phases in the Ideal Protein Weight Loss Protocol. During all four Phases you will receive one-on-one coaching, teaching you how your body gains weight and what you should be eating in order to maintain a balanced weight.
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