When does having a pear outweigh the benefits of having an apple? When it is the shape of your body! Having a pear-shaped body with larger hips and thighs is a safer shape than one of an apple which has a larger waistline. The reason for this is body fat and where it is located in connection with your body organs.
Some of our body fat is just under the skin. Some of it is deeper inside our bodies and surrounds the lungs, liver, heart, and other important organs. This fat is called visceral fat, and everyone has it. It helps to protect and cushion those organs. The problem is that when we have too much visceral fat, we may become more prone to heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and even dementia.
When a person gains a large amount of weight, the body has to find places to deposit and store fat, and it starts by depositing it around the heart and other organs. The easiest way to measure fat on our bodies is with a tape measure around the waist. For good health, a woman’s waist should measure no more than 35 inches, a man’s waist should be no more than 40 inches. This is why the pear-shape beats the apple shape. Even thin people can have too much visceral fat because it is partly determined by genes. Lifestyle of course also plays an important role.
Getting Rid of Belly Fat
How can we prevent this belly fat from accumulating, and how can we get rid of it if it is already present? There are several ways. Making a few lifestyle changes can make all the difference. If you think about these changes as permanent habits (like brushing your teeth each day), the belly fat will disappear.
- Exercise – Try to get 30 minutes of moderate exercise 4 to 5 days per week. Get your heart rate up and breathe a little harder than you normally do. Walk around your neighborhood, jump on the treadmill, find yard work, or play with the kids outside. If you are already fit, try jogging or running. If it has been a few years since you last exercised, pace yourself and start out slowly with 10 minutes, then work up to a half hour. Keep in mind that you are melting away belly fat!
- Diet – Try to incorporate fiber into your diet with vegetables and fruits. Avoid foods that cause inflammation such as fried foods and excessive dairy. Avoid carbohydrates, alcohol, and caffeine. All of these foods can raise cortisol levels which contribute to visceral fat. Don’t skip meals—instead eat small meals and snacks throughout the day to rev up your metabolism and prevent fat storage.
- Sleep – Here is another reason to get 6 to 7 hours of shut-eye at night. Less visceral fat accumulates with this consistent amount of sleep compared to less than 5 hours or more than 8 hours. Again, hormones are at play with lack of sleep and gaining fat.
- Stress – Increased amounts of stress produce excessive amounts of the hormone cortisol. This hormone is associated with visceral belly fat. Learning to manage stress in combination with exercise works wonders to reduce this fat. Yoga, stretching, deep breathing are all good stress relievers. Take some time to relax each day in a way that reduces your stress such as writing in a journal, meditation, or visualization.
- Add omega 3’s – Fish oil has been found to reduce cortisol levels, thus lowering stress levels. Studies have shown omega 3’s and also B-complex vitamins to be effective in keeping cortisol at bay. Ginseng and green tea also help to reduce cortisol in the body.