I know this is a hard concept, but this spring I want you to ditch the scale for a moment and look at your body in a different way. I want you to look at your waist circumferance and body type.
Are you a pear or an apple? Do you know the difference? Knowing about each type can be helpful in identifying possible health risks and underlying conditions. You might of heard of this before, but we are going to explore our waists and impact on health.
Waist Circumference (a.k.a., “Belly Fat”)
Do you remember the fruity-body-shape descriptions as being an “apple” or a “pear”?
This is what I’m talking about.
To put simply, an apple-shaped person stores fat around the middle of the body (think "beer belly") and a pear shape body stores fat around the hips/thighs.
Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g., insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat and arterial diseases)?
Yup – that apple!
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. This internal fat is called “visceral fat.” You can’t pinch it, and it's where many health problems start.
Visceral fat releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure. Unfortunately, apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.
So as you can see, where your fat is stored is more important that how much you weigh.
Are you 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.
Ladies, if your waist is 35” or more, you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category. Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.
For men, the number is 40”.
Of course this isn't a diagnostic tool. This is just a quick test. There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases. Waist circumference is just one of them.
If you have concerns, definitely see your doctor – many of us don’t go for an annual check up. I don’t mean to scare you, but this is a “weight” issue that often gets ignored for more glamourus quick-fixes and muffin-top reduction diets. Belly fat is a key predictor of your long-term health. Treat it seriously.
If you have been toying with changes to diet, now is the time to do it. There are many simple changes that can have dramatic impact. But if you don't start, you won't move forward.
Tips to help reduce belly fat
Eat more fiber. Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways. It helps you feel full and therefore 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. A great way to up your fibre – make sure half of your plate contains vegetables at each meal. Consume 1 – 2 Tbsp of ground flax or chia daily (add a spoonful to soups, stews or salads).
Add good quality lean protein to all your meals. It balances blood sugar and reduces appetite. It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs (you need more energy to metabolize protein). And it delivers the amino acid building blocks you need for muscle.
Nix or reduce added sugars and refined carbohydrates. This means ditch the processed and sweetened foods, especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice). Excess sugar is stored as fat. Plain and simple.
Forms of packaged sugar include:
brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, liquid fructose, malt syrup, molasses, fructose, lactose, maltose, carbitol, diglycerides, disaccharides, fructooligosaccharides, galactose, glucitol, glucoamine, hexitol, inversol, isomalt, maltodextrin, malted barley, malts, mannitol, nectars, pentose, raisin syrup, ribose rice syrup, rice malt, rice syrup solids, sorbitol, sorghum, sucanat, sucanet, xylitol and zylose
Refined grains/carbohydrates include:
breads, croissants, crackers, pastas, cereals, bars
grains as close to nature as intended (brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat), whole fruit, natural sweeteners (in moderation) such as honey and maple syrup
Move more! Get some aerobic exercise. Lift some weights. Walk and take the stairs. It all adds up. Go for a walk at lunch, and then again after dinnner with a friend. There are also hundreds of apps that will motivate you to hit goals and even provide customized workouts for you.
Stress less. Seriously! Elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat. It is proven that meditation and breath work has an incredible impact on the nervous system. www.calm.com is a great free app you can use to channel 5, 10, 15 and 20 minute free guided meditations to bring stress levels down and increase health. If meditation is not your thing, find other ways to reduce stress - a walk outdoors, connecting with friends, reading, music.
Get more sleep. Try making this a priority and see how much better you feel (and look). A regular sleep routine will help balance your hormones. If you are member of FMTV, there is a wonderful series of interviews with health experts focused on improving sleep. When you sleep, you reduce your cortisol, increase growth hormone and allow your body to recover and repair.
Waist circumference is more imporant than weight
If your waist is wider than guidelines, you may be at risk for disease. Please see a doctor for a check up
Increase fibre through vegetables and seeds
Increase lean protein to balance appetite and increase metabolism
Decrease sugar and refined carbohydrates and replace with whole foods
Move more - event a simple exercise routine will help increase metabolism
Find ways to reduce cortisol levels during the day
Sleep lowers cortisol and increases growth hormone for repair
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