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What is Waist Circumference and Why Does it Matter More than My Weight?




Knowing our what our weight is can have it’s benefits. While the idea of weighing in daily even can be beneficial for weight loss and weight maintenance, have you ever just wanted to totally ditch your scale?


It’s not uncommon for people to have a weird type of relationship with their scale and the weight it shows.


While many of us might also know that the number on the scale doesn’t define us, it can still matter.... although, it’s not the only measurement we want to be looking at.


What might be another measurement to consider?


Good question! Let's look at your waist circumference (well...you look at yours and I'll look at mine).


Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”):


Have you ever heard people talk about being “apple” or “pear” shaped?


The apple is kinda round around the middle (you know – belly fat-ish.... some people might even think of it as a type of beer belly).


The pear on the other hand is referring to being rounder around the hips/thighs.

But why is that important?


Well, did you know that one of these shapes is actually associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases)?


Yup – the apple shape is the one I am talking about here!


And it's not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that many of us might refer to as a “muffin top”. It is actually the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs there, that can lead to an increased health risk.


This internal fat (or the inside fat as I mentioned) is called “visceral fat” and that's where a lot of the problem actually is. Think of it as the “un-pinchable” fat.


The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.


The apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.


So as you can see where your fat is stored is more important that how much you weigh.


Am I an apple or a pear?


It's pretty simple to find out if you're in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape. You can do it right now if you have a measuring tap near by.


Women, if your waist is 35” or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category. Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.


For men the number is 40” or more.


Of course this isn't a diagnostic tool. There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases. Waist circumference is just one of them that can help us identify who might be at an increased risk for those health problems I mentioned earlier.


If you have concerns definitely see your doctor.


Ok, that is good to know, but “how to I lose the belly fat?” you might be wondering. Don’t worry, I got you covered with some helpful ideas.


Tips for helping reduce some belly fat:


Eat more fiber. Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways. First of all it helps you feel full and also helps to reduce the amount of calories you absorb from your food. Plus, there fiber is a great source of pre-biotics, which is what pro-biotics (the good bacteria in our guts) eat, so it can help promote optimal gut health. I always recommend choosing whole food choices of fiber. Some examples of high-fiber foods are Brussels sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries. As we can see these are all plants! That is just one reason why I am a big fan of plants. You can’t get fiber from animal sources, only plants. And while you could get some Metamucil, Benefiber, or other products that add fiber in, there is no substitute as good as the real thing. Some research shows these fiber supplements are not as beneficial for certain health goals, such as weight loss. Plus, some of these fiber supplements can interact with some medications, unlike the whole foods choices.


Add more protein to your day. Protein reduces your appetite and makes you feel fuller longer. It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs and ensures you have enough of the amino acid building blocks for your muscles. Just in case you missed it, you can read more on this topic in my What Do I Really Need to Know About Metabolism Blog Post.


Nix added sugars. This means ditch the processed sweetened foods especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice). But as you are working to reduce the sweetened foods and drinks, don’t go for sugar-free options instead. Neither real or artificial sweeteners are really great for us, so reducing both as much as possible can be the healthiest way to go.


Move more. Get some aerobic exercise. Lift some weights. Walk and take the stairs. It all adds up during the day.


Stress less. Seriously! Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat.


Get more sleep. Try making this a priority and seeing how much better you feel (and look). More on this topic coming soon, so keep an eye out for my upcoming blog posts.


Looking for a naturally high-fiber dish to enjoy?


Make sure to check out this Garlic Lemon Roasted Brussels Sprout recipe below. It’ pairs well with almost any protein! Enjoy with some tofu, beans, roasted chicken, or other protein of your choice for a balanced meal.


Garlic Lemon Roasted Brussels Sprouts


Recipe (High fiber side dish): Garlic Lemon Roasted Brussels Sprouts


Serves 4


INGREDIENTS:

1 lb Brussels sprouts (washed, ends removed, halved)

2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

dash salt and pepper


DIRECTIONS:

1.) Preheat oven to 400F.

2.) In a bowl toss sprouts with garlic, oil, and lemon juice. Spread on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper.

3.) Bake for about 15 minutes. Toss.

4.) Bake for another 10 minutes.

5.) Serve and Enjoy!


Tip: Brussels sprouts contain the fat-soluble bone-loving vitamin K. You may want to eat them more often.



References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-abdominal-fat-and-risk

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/visceral-fat-location

http://www.drsharma.ca/inspiring-my-interest-in-visceral-fat

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-definition/abdominal-obesity/

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/weights-poids/guide-ld-adult/qa-qr-pub-eng.php#a4

https://authoritynutrition.com/6-proven-ways-to-lose-belly-fat/

https://authoritynutrition.com/20-tips-to-lose-belly-fat/

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