Visceral fat is belly fat that wraps around the abdominal organs inside your body. Unlike subcutaneous fat, you cannot feel or see visceral fat.
Body fat consists of two broad types, namely, subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. The one that you can grasp in your hand on your abdomen, buttocks, legs, arms, and neck represents subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat, also known as abdominal fat, is fat stored in your abdominal cavity that acts as a protective pad around the organs (also called viscera).
Excess visceral belly fat puts you at an increased risk of health problems, such as:
- Increased cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type II diabetes
- Breast cancer
- Insulin resistance
How do you measure your visceral fat?
Visceral fat is not easy to measure. Imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography scans are the only way that can give an exact measurement of belly fat. However, these are expensive and generally ordered for other medical conditions. Doctors typically use the below measurements to determine if you have a higher proportion of visceral fat.
Body mass index (BMI)
BMI is a number that tells you what your weight should be in relation to your height. Your BMI is your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in meters. Therefore, if you weigh 60 kilograms and your height is 1.7 meters, your BMI is 20.76. You can also find online calculators to calculate your BMI for you.
Your waist-to-hip ratio is another good parameter to check if you are of a healthy weight. This can give some idea about visceral fat. To calculate this ratio, you should first measure your waist circumference at its smallest part and your hip circumference at its widest part.
According to the World Health Organization, women should not have a waist measurement ratio greater than 0.85, whereas men should be no greater than 0.9. A higher waist-to-hip ratio increases the risk of diseases, such as type II diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer.
Your body shape can also tell you whether you have more visceral fat. Look at yourself in the mirror. If you find that your trunk is bigger and your legs are slimmer, you have an apple-shaped body, which applies to most men. If your hips and thighs are bigger but your trunk is smaller, you have a pear-shaped body, such as most women. Apple-shaped bodies generally indicate more visceral fat than pear-shaped ones.
How do you lose weight and get rid of excess visceral fat?
If you aim to get rid of visceral body fat and lose weight, you need to incorporate the following lifestyle habits into your daily routine:
- Substituting high-calorie, low-nutrient foods (such as sugary and fried foods) with low-calorie, high-nutrient foods (such as vegetables and fruits)
- Replacing processed, packaged foods with whole cereals, fruits, and vegetables
- Choosing low-fat products instead of high-fat items (low-fat skimmed milk instead of high-fat milk)
- Including more proteins and fiber and less proportion of carbohydrates and fats in the diet
- Staying physically active
- Getting adequate sleep and managing stress
The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week or 150 minutes of physical activities spread over a week. Try including high-intensity exercises, also known as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), along with moderate ones in between. HIIT is an effective form of exercise to lose one to two pounds per week.
Any aerobic activities such as jogging, cycling, swimming, or Zumba dancing offer added benefits of supporting your weight loss journey. You can consider performing weight-bearing exercises and muscle-strengthening exercises that help increase your muscle mass, which in turn helps in weight loss by enhancing your metabolism.