The human body has two kinds abdominal fat: subcutaneous and visceral. Subcutaneous fat is the stuff that you can pinch and move with your hands; visceral is the kind that can make the belly bulge, but feel hard to the touch (the notorious beer gut). Even if you don’t sport a beer belly, you might still have visceral fat that could be giving you health problems.
While being overweight is not an ideal state of health in general, it’s the visceral fat in particular that nutritionists and health experts cited at ScienceBlog.com connect most commonly with diabetes, glucose-related problems, hypertension, and heart disease.
Problem is, visceral fat doesn’t always stick out. Doctors have discovered thin-looking patients whose abdominal organs are packed with visceral fat. These people face the same kind of health risk as their more obviously beer-bellied counterparts.
We all know it’s risky for your health to be overweight. Does that mean you’re in the clear for dangerous medical problems if you’re thin? Not so, say experts.
The Skinny on Fat
Dr. Jimmy Bell, a professor of molecular imaging at Imperial College in London, says, “being thin doesn’t automatically mean you’re not fat.”
Doctors say internal fat that surrounds vital organs – such as the heart, liver and pancreas – may be just as risky to your health as visible body fat.
Experts aren’t quite sure why internal fat happens without the presence of external fat. They believe people accumulate fat around the stomach area first, but sometimes the body may store it in other places. The amount of internal fat you have also seems to increase with age.
Most people have areas of their body they wish they could change. There are hundreds of workouts that promise to tone your tummy, trim your waist or tighten your butt. It’s certainly possible to build muscle in these areas, but an article from CNN points out that you may not be able to change the underlying shape of your body, even with significant weight loss.
“People come in with unrealistic expectations from magazines and spot-reducing,” says Gary Foster, director of Temple University’s Center for Obesity Research and Education. “That doesn’t happen. When you start to lose fat, it’s proportionate throughout your body, whether it’s your neck, waist, ankle circumference. You’ll come out smaller but have the same body shape.”
In other words, a person who is pear-shaped will remain a pear, and a person who is apple-shape will remain an apple. “Basically, when we lose weight, we lose weight all over in exactly the proportion that’s distributed throughout our body,” says Susan Fried, director of the Boston Obesity and Nutrition Research Center at the Boston University School of Medicine. CT scans, dexa scans and MRIs reveal that as a person loses weight, fat is reduced evenly around the body.
Stress is simply a part of life. Stress can be a positive thing: It can save your life in a fight or flight situation, or it can be the kick in the butt you need to finally finish that project at work you’ve been putting off. Too much stress, however, can have a negative effect on your mental and physical health. In today’s society, where we are moving faster, taking on more responsibility and are constantly technologically connected to the demands of work and home, our lives are becoming more overwhelming, and it may be taking a toll on our waistlines.
Cortisol, dubbed the “stress hormone”, is an important hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, responsible for many functions in the body including regulating metabolism and blood pressure, immune function, inflammatory response, and releasing insulin, which maintains blood sugar levels.
Cortisol isn’t only secreted when the body is under stress, but it is secreted in higher levels during the body’s “fight or flight” response to stress (think of when something pops out and scares the crap out of you. That surge you get is your body’s fight or flight response- you either jump and run, or start swinging.) The stress we encounter on a daily basis isn’t always so obvious or sudden, but daily stress, i.e. a jam packed schedule the next day or not knowing how you are going to afford next month’s bills, isn’t immediately remedied, so your stress levels stay elevated for an extended period of time until the stressor is remedied, or more often than not, until another stressor comes along and takes over.
Just as with everything in life, too much of something is never a good thing. Elevated cortisol levels cause many physical, negative changes to the body, including impaired cognitive function, blood sugar imbalances, high blood pressure, and lower immunity, causing you to feel slow and drained of energy, or even come down with an illness.
Fitness and weight loss is a science. Personal trainers, coaches, doctors and others in the health field know this, because we’ve studied it at length and have devoted our lives to it.
Unfortunately, most of what the general public knows about weight loss is what they hear on TV, read in magazines or glean from late night infomercials. The problem with that? Everyone is trying to sell you something. They don’t have your best interests at heart. Their goal is to confuse you into thinking they have the one, true answer, when, in fact, everyone knows the answer to weight loss: a healthy diet and consistent exercise.
There are a few insider tid bits that don’t make it to the general public very often, because it doesn’t help anyone sell machines or diet pills or meal plans. Sorry if any of these shatter your weight loss world as you know it, but knowledge is power, folks.