Belly fat a.k.a. that thickening middle that comes with age — as well as lower estrogen levels, shorter sleep cycles, and a not-so-hot diet — is mainly visceral fat. We’re not talking cottage cheese, subcutaneous “just under the skin” fat; visceral fat is the nasty, hidden kind. When you put on extra pounds, the body runs out of safe places to store fat — so it starts accumulating around major organs, like the heart and liver.
Visceral fat can wreak all sorts of havoc on your health. “Too much of it in the abdominal area increases risk of problems, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and, most recently found, colorectal cancer,” says Dr. Jessica Fanzo, a nutritionist at Columbia University. “It’s also thought to play a larger role in insulin resistance — which boosts risk of diabetes — than other fat.” Sigh. Are you at risk? Dr. Fanzo recommends wrapping a measuring tape around your middle. “Women with a waist circumference more than 35 inches are at an increased risk.”
So, you’ve identified your risk factor, but how do you banish the belly fat? Whole exercise empires have been built around just this quandary, and yet still we struggle with it. Well, that’s probably because it’s not just one thing that affects belly fat levels — it’s a whole menagerie. “Exercise, diet, sleep, and stress management are all pretty important when it comes to losing weight,” says Elizabeth Pongo, NYC-based personal trainer and owner of Pongo Power. “The best exercise regime for losing visceral fat includes a lot of core stabilization, and lower abdominal training.” Sounds easy enough, right? But there’s a catch.
Photo: Courtesy of Nike
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