Excess belly fat may be affecting your health and fitness. Let’s choose to lose it — here’s how!
As the overfat pandemic has overtaken the world — sweeping along with it even athletes and those who are very active — some new trends have developed over the last decade or so that are even more alarming and have contributed to this problem.
Consider these five factors:
- A new study in the Journal of American Medical Association (March 2017) revealed that the percent of U.S. overfat adults who have tried slimming down decreased from 56 to 49 percent between 1991 and 2012. Lack of success may be the most common reason, with low-fat/low-calorie diets still popular despite the long-term poor results.
- Another study in the journal Medical Care (February 2013) showed that U.S. primary care doctors reduced their weight counseling and clinical diagnosis of overweight and obesity between 1996 and 2008 from 7.8 to 6.2 percent. The reasons for this also are most likely due to lack of success.
- In a systematic review of published clinical trials in the International Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism (April 2015), complementary and alternative therapies for the treatment of overfatness, including herbal supplements, acupuncture and others had a negligible clinical benefit, barely surpassing that of the placebo.
- In the U.S., girls have slightly edged out boys in the overfat category. This may be due to increased belly fat. While the U.S. ushered in the overfat pandemic decades ago, this new gender trend is a rarity for a developed country but not uncommon elsewhere in the world in both children and adults. Cultural reasons are probably at play.
- While all these issues are of serious concern, even more significant is that excess belly fat — ab fat — is now pushing the pandemic to new heights.
Of course, the most successful long-term approach to reducing excess body fat is to do it yourself, using food macronutrient manipulation to re-set your metabolism. In essence, become a better fat-burner.
Excess abdominal or “belly” fat is of special concern because, more than any other area of over-accumulation of body fat, this problem can impair both health and fitness most. In particular, it can adversely affect the metabolism, the cardiovascular system, and even increase the risk of cancer. In sports, it can reduce movement economy for running and other activities, disturb gait, and increase the amount of energy needed to complete a competitive event.
Despite becoming socially acceptable, excess ab fat is not sexy just because it’s common and difficult to remedy — just like smoking cigarettes is not sexy.
Measuring ab fat can’t be done on the scale because fat doesn’t weigh as much as lean muscle, for example, but it takes up more room. This makes measuring it quite simple.
While many people have excess fat deposits in various body areas, it turns out that waist size is a great measure of being generally overfat. Over the years, various forms of waist measurements have been used, but the current one is the waist-to-height ratio (WHtR). This is accurate for everyone in the world. While it doesn’t indicate percentage of body fat, which has no consensus of normal cutoffs, a WHtR of .50 and above measured at the level of the belly button indicates being overfat, defined as an excess amount of body fat to impair health. For example:
A person with a 30” waist and height of 62”: WHtR = .48
A person with a 35” waist and height of 70”: WHtR = .50
The key message is simple: The waist measure should be less than half the height.
Choose to Lose
Most of us have struggled with ab fat, but winning the battle has a single focus — insulin. This hormone, which rises with the amount of carbohydrate we consume, converts half these carbs to fat, and prevents us from burning as much stored fat for energy. Insulin also can move fat stores from other areas in the body into the belly for storage.
The worst insulin-spiking offender is junk-food carbohydrates. This includes most carbs in our food supply.