Most of us commonly refer to belly fat with one plural term – fats. Though we often say ‘fats’, we don’t discern between different types of fats in our belly. However, it is important to distinguish between subcutaneous and visceral fat, as each have specific effects on one’s well-being.
So, what is the difference between subcutaneous and visceral fat?
When you lament about needing to lose weight and grab at the extra belly roll or loves handles, that’s subcutaneous fat. It sits just beneath the skin, on top of the abdominal muscles, hence can be pinched and seen by the naked eyes.
Visceral fat on the other hand, is a hidden fat that can’t be seen. It is a type of belly fat that lies deep inside the belly, on the bottom-side of the abdominal muscles, surrounding vital abdominal organs – liver, intestines and kidneys.
Hormones and inflammation-causing substances secreted by visceral fat affects the body’s functioning. This can lead to increases in cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic diseases. Visceral fat also secretes a protein that makes it harder for the body to effectively use insulin, thereby increases the risk of diabetes. And since visceral fat sits so closely to the liver, it may cause the liver to produce too much cholesterol, which raises the risk of developing high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. This makes visceral fat the more problematic fat of the two types, as it has serious effects on one’s health and well-being.
Do we all have both types of fat in our body?
In short, yes, all of us have varying amounts of both subcutaneous and visceral fat in our body.
Subcutaneous fat is used by our body to :
- store energy
- pad and protect our muscles and organs from external impact
- help regulate body temperature
- connect skin to the muscle and tissue
Like subcutaneous fat, visceral fat is used by our body for storing energy, as well as padding and protection for our muscles and organs.
So, we do need a little bit of both types of fat in our body. However, more often than not, we tend to carry more subcutaneous and visceral fat than is really needed.
Why does the amount of subcutaneous and visceral fat vary in individuals?
Well, as individuals we live a lifestyle that is unique to ourselves. Some of us live a more sedentary lifestyle than others. Some of us exercise more regularly than others. Some of us eat more calories than our body burns. And, for some of us, it can partly be attributed to genetics.
So, how do we find out how much subcutaneous and/or visceral fat is in our body?
One way to determine whether you are carrying excessive subcutaneous fat in your body is by measuring your body mass index (BMI). BMI provides the ratio to of your weight to your height, and observes the following:
- normal weight = BMI of 18.5 to 24.9
- overweight = BMI of 25 to 29.9
- obesity = BMI of 30 or higher
Since visceral fat is ‘hidden fat’, it is difficult to get a definitive measurement of it, without using expensive radiological imaging techniques, such as MRI or CT scans. That said, these scans are expensive and involves exposure to radiation.
There are a few other (less definitive) ways we can gauge how much visceral fat we have in our body:
- Check your waist size : It has been observed that men with a waist size over 40 inches and women with a waist size over 35 inches have a higher risk of developing obesity-related health issues.
- Know your body mass index (BMI) : This helps with estimating our visceral at levels. On average, the ideal visceral fat percentage hovers around 10% of our body’s total fat content. A higher total body fat percentage suggests excessive visceral fat.
- Consult your doctor : During your consultation, your doctor is likely to ask you questions about your diet and lifestyle. He/she will also take measurements of your overall body fat, to gauge what percentage is likely to be visceral fat.
Now that we know how much excessive fats we have, how do we get rid of it?
When excess visceral fat is burned, the body can then begin to tackle excess subcutaneous fat. This is a good thing since visceral fat is more detrimental to one’s health.
The good news is, we can decrease the excessive visceral fat build-up in our body, by modifying our lifestyle and food choices. You can start with the following:
- Exercise regularly – We’re talking cardio workouts here. Try a 60-minute power walk, 20-minute high intensity interval training (HIIT) session or jog around the block. The goal is to get your heart pumping.
- Eat the right foods – Exercise is just one component of a fat (weight) loss routine. We need to also be mindful about what we eat. Generally, it’s best if you can cut out processed foods from your diet, and instead eat more lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Here’s a bonus, reduce your consumption of alcohol, as it’s pretty much empty calories.
- Get enough sleep – Try and get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Our body repairs and recovers during sleep. It needs this rest time to prepare the body to better burn calories.
Does it sound like a fair bit of work needs to be put into getting rid of visceral fat? Well, we may encounter some challenges at the beginning, but with a bit of hard work, good eating habits and regular workout routine, one can reduce belly fat. Should you need some help in figuring out what are the right foods to eat for your body, check out CuraMaker’s app.
Perhaps we can heed Jillian Michaels wise words for motivation – “It’s not about perfect. It’s about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation happens.”
“It’s not about perfect. It’s about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation happens.”
– Jillian Michaels