Jim W. commented... Talk to me about losing my gut size. It appears that I have a lot of fatty tissue there. And, yes my diet now includes meat, eggs, etc. Not much plant food.
Jim, I’m glad that you’re paying attention to the size of your waistline. Your growing “gut,” as you put it, is a sign that you’re accumulating visceral abdominal fat. And that needs your attention. BIG TIME!
Most of the time, your body packs away extra dietary fat and calories as subcutaneous fat. That's the fat right under the skin. It collects on your thighs, hips, and backside, etc. From a health perspective, these fluffy pockets of fat are mostly NOT dangerous. (Notice that I said “mostly.” Because any excess body fat is a liability.)
Your gut though, my friend, is a hot mess.
Some of the fat around your middle -- including your muffin top -- is subcutaneous. But there’s a good chance that you’ve accumulated visceral abdominal fat too.
Visceral abdominal fat – which I’ll call VAT -- is different than the subcutaneous fat that you can see on your middle. VAT lies deep within your abdomen, surrounding your organs. It’s often described as “hard fat” or “hidden fat.” And unfortunately, it's much more than a cosmetic problem.
Your DNA often determines where you store your fat. How your parents and grandparents carried their body fat (or not) plays a big part in how you carry yours. If you could have picked your parents on this one, that would have been a blessing.
White women generally carry more VAT than African American women do. People of European origin tend to have more VAT. East Asians (Chinese, Japanese and Koreans) have more VAT than they do subcutaneous fat. So, they appear to be thinner than Americans, but they may actually be at greater health risk.
Here are some other things we know about VAT:
- Generally, men have more VAT compared to pre-menopausal women.
- Menopause increases accumulation of VAT.
- Fast weight gain and re-gained weight is gained as VAT.
- VAT increases the amount of unstable plaque in the arteries that can cause a heart attack of stroke.
- VAT spills fat into your blood, so the high fat content of the blood remains 24/7. Not good.
How do I know if I have VAT?
Take your waist measurement: Wrap a tape measure around your waist just above your hip bones. For women, 35 inches or more means you're at risk for health problems stemming from VAT. For men, the number is 40 inches or more.
Here are some of the dangers of having too much VAT:
- VAT causes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance.
- VAT causes glucose to back up in the bloodstream, which damages blood vessels and can lead to diabetes.
- VAT increases your risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
- VAT releases harmful inflammatory molecules to the brain. People with too much VAT have a higher risk of developing dementia later in life.
- VAT interferes with how your lungs work. So, VAT makes it difficult to breathe.
VAT takes up limited available real estate in your chest cavity. So now your lungs can't expand like they need to. VAT also mucks around with hormone levels and shoots up inflammatory compounds. Both throw your body into a spiral and limit the amount of air you move with every breath.
You may have you thought, “WOW, I’m out of shape!” And you may have blamed that on getting older or on not getting much exercise. But the fact is that our big bellies themselves are to blame.
So, what can you do to reduce your visceral fat and improve your health? Here are some tips:
- Physical activity reduces VAT. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
- Focus on eating whole foods that are high in fiber and other nutrients. Beans and lentils, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains will help reduce VAT. Avoid processed foods and sugary drinks.
- For goodness’ sake, if we’re trying to trim the fat (on your body), stop eating it! I’ll be blunt here… The fat you eat is the fat you wear. So cut out oils, meats (including beef, chicken and turkey, fish, pork, etc.), dairy, and eggs. If you can’t omit these things, at least eat less of it.
- Try time restricted eating (TRE). Limit your eating window—the hours during which you consume food -- to at least 12 hours to target VAT loss. Increasing that window to 14 or 16 hours (of not eating) will drive the benefits. It’s better to eat earlier in the day, finishing dinner by 5pm. BUT! If delaying or skipping breakfast is an easy place to start with TRE, be my guest.
- Reduce stress: High levels of stress increase VAT. Try meditation, exercise, or talking to a therapist.
- Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep increases VAT. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Catch-up sleep doesn't reverse VAT. The VAT you got on the nights that you stayed up binge-watching your favorite TV show, is there now. Sleeping late on Saturdays ain’t gonna fix the damage that’s done.
- Quit smoking: Smoking is not only bad for your lungs, but it can also increase your VAT.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption: Drinking too much alcohol increases VAT.
Jim, I’m so glad that you asked. Let’s start to fix this. NOW!
Start with breakfast. First of all, stop eating eggs. With no fiber and a load of fat and cholesterol, How Do You Get Protein If You Don't Eat Meat?. Bacon is a problem too. Get rid of it. Switch to oatmeal and fruit. Oatmeal and berries are best, and bananas and apples work great too. High in fiber and low in fat, your middle will giggle every time you eat it. Cook your oatmeal with water and skip the nuts on most days.
Move on to lunch. Then dinner. Skip the lunch salads -- egg, chicken, tuna, etc. -- and the cold cuts. They're not helping. Make the salad the meal. Fill a big bowl with leafy greens and brightly colored chopped vegetables -- carrots, bell peppers, corn kernels, radishes, red cabbage, etc. Add chick peas or black beans. Or for extra credit, add both. At dinner, swap the chicken and rice for rice and beans. A big baked potato topped with salsa or a big bowl of lentil soup can start melting the VAT away.
Drop me a line sometime… Let me know how it goes!
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