Belly fat is dangerous

Your weight is basically determined by how you balance the calories you eat with the energy you burn. If you eat too much and exercise too little, you will put on extra pounds. This will include belly fat. Getting older also plays a role. Muscle mass gradually diminishes with age, and fat accounts for a greater percentage of your weight. Less muscle mass decreases the rate at which your body uses calories (it lowers your basal metabolic rate), which can make it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight or lose excess pounds. Many people notice an increase in belly fat as they get older – even if they aren’t gaining weight. This is due to a lowered basal metabolic rate and decreased activity levels. The trouble with belly fat is that it’s not limited to the extra layer of padding located just below the skin (subcutaneous fat). It also includes visceral fat – which lies deep inside your abdomen, surrounding your internal organs. Visceral fat is associated with several dangerous health consequences. That’s because an excessive amount of visceral fat produces hormones and other substances that can raise blood pressure, negatively alter good and bad cholesterol levels and impair the body’s ability to use insulin (insulin resistance). An excessive amount of any fat, including visceral fat, also boosts estrogen levels. All of this can increase the risk of serious health problems including: cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer. Recent research also has associated belly fat with an increased risk of premature death – regardless of overall weight. Some studies have found that even when those were considered a normal weight based on standard body mass index (BMI) measurements, a large waistline increased the risk of dying of cardiovascular disease, cancer and other causes. How do you know if you have too much belly fat? Simply measure your waist. Here is how: 1) Place a tape measure around your bare stomach, just above your hipbone 2) Pull the tape measure until it fits snugly around you, but doesn’t push into your skin 3) Relax, exhale and measure your waist, resisting the urge to suck in your stomach. For men, a waist measurement of 40 inches (102 centimeters) or more is considered cause for concern. For women, a waist measurement of 35 inches (89 centimeters) is considered a concern. You can tone abdominal muscles with crunches or other targeted abdominal exercises, but these exercises won’t get rid of belly fat. Fortunately, visceral fat responds to the same diet and exercise strategies that can help you shed excess pounds and lower your total body fat. To fight the bulge, stick to the basics: 1) eat a low fat diet 2) watch your calories 3) increase exercise levels to burn excess calories.

Does losing weight mean you are healthy?

Not necessarily. I hear all the time about people who have lost weight and are now healthy. The two are not equal. Although, losing weight clearly goes a long way towards improving your overall health. Going on a starvation diet does not make you healthy. Taking hormones to lose weight does not make you healthy. Drinking shakes to lose weight does not make you healthy. Two important steps to long term health (isn’t this the real goal?) are eating more healthy foods and increasing exercise/activity levels. Eating more foods low in calories and high in nutrients, fiber and anti-oxidants is important to improving your long term health. Drinking shakes that leave you hungry and are void of soluble fiber and healthy anti-oxidants found in fruits and vegetables may help in the short term, but clearly is not a long term solution. Most short term weight loss solutions fail in the long term. Losing weight by eating less calorie dense foods and more high fiber, nutrient rich foods is the best way for long term success. Exercise needs to be a part of any long term weigh loss/healthy life style plans. Increasing activity helps burn calories, keep weight down, lower blood pressure, and increase endurance levels over the long term. Your long term goal should be improved overall good health, which may also include weight loss.

Awareness is critical!

Part of eating well and losing weight is awareness. You need to be aware of what you are putting in your mouth at all times. Part of being aware is looking at the labels of foods we buy. Look at labels to see how much fat and calories are in the foods you purchase. The less fat and calories the better. Also look at the nutrients, you want the most nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fiber, ect.) you can get for the least amount of calories. Most importantly, check the serving size. Looking at calories alone is not enough. I have been shocked at how small some serving sizes are. At first glance a food may only have 150 calories. Unfortunately, the serving size is so small, most people eat 3 or 4 servings at a time and thus eat 450-600 calories at a time. This is much more than they were expecting and a big reason people put on weight, but do not understand why. Always look at labels and check serving sizes. I have gotten into the habit of measuring serving sizes of many foods so I get an idea what a true serving size looks like. For example, many eat a lot more cereal than the suggested serving size. Measure it first. Finally, you also need to be acutely aware when you go out to eat. Many restaurants hide calories or fat in “healthy” meals. Make sure you know if there is a cream sauce, butter, or other added fats/calories. The fresher your food is the better. Do not be afraid to ask how meals are prepared or about the ingredients. Ask if the fish is cooked in butter. Ask about any added cream. It is your health – take control! Becoming aware at all times and gaining control of what you eat is the first step to losing weight and getting control of your health.

Think Small

What is the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Becoming healthier is not an all or nothing proposition. They key is to make small, easy changes over time. Consistent, small modifications can lead to big changes in your health over time. Start with small changes such as decreasing the amount of red meat you eat. Or, increase your daily servings of fruits and vegetables. After successfully making one change then try another, then another and so on. Do not feel that you need to make drastic changes on the first day. Make small, manageable goals that you can achieve and then build on those.  The same goes for exercise. Start with small manageable goals. Maybe try exercising for 10 minutes 3 times a week. Then increase it to 15 minutes 3 times a week. Losing weight is no different. Make a goal of losing 5 pounds which is manageable, not 50 pounds. Many people make large goals, have difficulty achieving them and then just give up. The key is to be persistent and consistent. Small, consistent changes over time can lead to large results. Do not give up. Expect small failures. Your goal is long-term success. Small changes will pyramid into significant changes in your overall health and weight over time. You must be patient. If you try eating a whole elephant in one bite you will never succeed.

Am I overweight?

There are several ways to evaluate your proper weight. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from a person’s weight and height. BMI provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems. BMI can be considered an alternative for direct measures of body fat. For adults 20 years old and older, BMI is interpreted using standard weight status categories that are the same for all ages and for both men and women. Below 18.5 is considered underweight, 18.5 – 24.9 is considered normal, 25.0 – 29.9 is overweight, and 30.0 and above is obese. (Goal BMI is less than 25.)  Calculate your BMI here:   BMI ranges are based on the relationship between body weight and disease and death. Overweight and obese individuals are at increased risk for many diseases including: hypertension, dyslipidemia (for example, high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides), type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon). Of note, highly trained athletes may have a high BMI because of increased muscularity rather than increased body fatness. It is also important to remember that BMI is only one factor related to risk for disease. For assessing your likelihood of developing overweight- or obesity-related diseases, another predictor is your waist circumference (because abdominal fat is a predictor of risk for obesity-related diseases). To determine your waist circumference, locate the upper hip bone and place a measuring tape around the abdomen (ensuring that the tape measure is horizontal). The tape measure should be snug but should not cause compressions on the skin. If you are a woman with a waist circumference of at least 35 inches (88 cm) or a man with a waist circumference of at least 40 inches (102 cm), you are at greater risk, regardless of your BMI. It is not necessary to take this measurement if your BMI is 35 or above. You cannot reduce your waistline through sit-ups or other spot-reducing exercises. You must reduce your intake of fat, saturated fat and total calories to promote weight loss. Eating too much total fat and saturated fat is the biggest contributor to waist circumference. Exercise also plays a key role in losing body fat. Be patient, though, since you tend to lose body fat last in the areas of your body where you store it first!




Quick Health Tip #2: Eat less cheese to lose weight

I love cheese. There are so many interesting types of cheese including Cheddar, Gouda, Mozzarella, and Swiss amongst many other tasty varieties. Unfortunately, cheese has a lot of calories and saturated fat. It is very calorie dense (a lot of calories in a small serving size). In fact, a serving size is approximately the size of a dice. Most serving sizes have approximately 100-150 calories. Most people will eat several servings at once, thus taking in a large number calories without realizing it. This is especially easy while at parties. Cutting back on cheese is one way to cut back on calories and fat to help with weight loss. Unfortunately, even reduced fat cheese tends to have a fair amount of calories and saturated fat in a small serving size. (Watch those labels!)

Quick Health Tip #1: Every meal should begin with fruit or vegetable

Every meal should begin with either a piece of fruit or vegetable. Both are low in calories so they help to fill you up with less total calories for your meal and help with weight loss. They are filled with fiber which helps to keep you regular and fills you up with less calories. They are loaded with many essential vitamins and minerals. Both contain multiple anti-oxidants which help in preventing cancer and other chronic diseases. For example, breakfast can start with a banana, apple, orange, or berries. Lunch can begin with fruit or a salad. Dinner can begin with a salad containing many different vegetables. The more colors the better! The more fruits and vegetables you eat, the healthier you will become.