Body Composition and the Dangers of Visceral Fat


Body Composition Basics

This week, let’s dig a little deeper into the weight loss topic and learn about the importance of understanding body composition and losing visceral fat! When I talk about losing weight and getting healthy, it comes down to burning off toxic body fat and increasing muscle mass. 
Before you start any new weight loss program or diet plan, I suggest having a body composition analysis to track your body fat percentage, muscle mass, BMI, bone mass and other metrics. That way, once you’ve completed your program, you can reassess and quantify your results beyond just the number on the scale.
At Cornerstone Wellness Center, we use a professional Tanita Scale to analyze body composition. If you’re located nearby, come on in for a free body composition analysis and consultation! During all of our weight loss programs, we use the Tanita to scan weekly to make sure each client is headed in the right direction.

Understanding The Dangers of Visceral Fat

According to Harvard Health, approximately 10% of body fat is visceral fat. While that may not sound like a lot, visceral fat is one of the most dangerous types of fat. Visceral fat resides in your abdomen and surrounds many of your organs, such as your heart, liver and intestines. Ever hear of fatty liver? Yup, that’s dangerously high amounts of visceral fat surrounding your liver. The other 90% of your body fat is considered subcutaneous which means that it lies just under the skin. 
Visceral fat is measured on a scale between 1 and 59. Ideally, I like to see visceral fat levels under 13 and closer to 5. It’s staggering to see how many people are walking around with dangerously high visceral fat in the upper 20’s and 30’s. 
To be deeply healthy, it’s very important to decrease your visceral fat. Ways to do this include decreasing your stress levels, exercise, getting enough quality sleep, and modifying your diet.

Reducing Your Stress to Decrease Your Visceral Fat

Did you know that stress can greatly impact your visceral fat levels? With stress, comes an increase in the fight or flight hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is helpful when we need to act quickly in an emergency situation, however, when our stress levels remain high for an extended amount of time, cortisol blocks fat burning and we store fat. Keeping our cortisol and stress levels down will help to maximize our weight loss efforts.
A simple way to decrease stress is through meditation. There are many techniques to meditation but a great way to get started is by using a guided meditation using an app like Calm or Insight Timer.
A few other ways to relieve stress include exercise, using essential oils, journaling, reducing your caffeine intake, spending time with your family (if that’s not stressful for you!), or going to a comedy show with your friends.
Spending time with loved ones also releases the stress-relieving hormone, oxytocin. 
You can even mix up the different techniques. Laughter yoga has been found to decrease stress on the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale as well as decrease blood pressure and cortisol levels.

(Source: Laughter Yoga University)

Using Exercise to Reduce Your Visceral Fat

When it comes to exercise, it has been found that High-Intensity Exercise Training is the best at reducing abdominal fat (Source). That means you don’t have to spend 2 hours at the gym! Yeah!  A simple, quick, high-intensity workout can do the trick. 
Here’s an example of a 12 minute AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible) workout:

  • 30 Air squats
  • 10 Pull ups
  • 30 Side lunges
  • 10 Push ups
  • 10 Knee raises
  • 30 Medicine ball twists

You can get 11 more here:
I don’t recommend doing extended cardio if you are wanting to lose visceral fat, as it increases your cortisol which will increase your weight loss resistance. When I go to spin class in the morning, I work hard for 30 minutes and then cut out early. Doing cardio for longer than 30 minutes raises my cortisol too much and I tend to store more belly fat. If you are in the same boat, try shortening your cardio sessions or do some High Intensity Training and see how your body responds.

Getting Good Sleep to Accelerate Your Weight Loss

Sleep is a HUGE topic!  Poor sleep is also another reason that your body will store fat. Sleeping less than 5 hours a night can cause an increase in your visceral fat, according to a recent study of adults over 40.
Sleep is also heavily connected with your cortisol levels. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day will create a healthy circadian rhythm which helps to balance your hormones naturally.
Having trouble falling asleep? Turn your devices off!  Electronics and the blue light that they display, can disrupt that circadian rhythm we are trying to balance. This disrupts your body’s ability to secrete melatonin and you won’t have a good night’s sleep. Lack of good sleep stresses out your adrenals even more during the day and we end up in a high cortisol loop, and therefore, more fat storage!
The bottom line is we need to get more, high quality sleep if we are going to shift our bodies into fat burning mode.

Changing Your Diet to Shift Excess Visceral Fat

Adjusting your diet plays an important role in becoming healthy and decreasing body fat.
Eating more fiber-rich foods, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can help prevent visceral fat. Avoiding toxic fast foods and beverages or those with added sugar/fructose is also very important for reducing fat storage. The role of fat in your body it to PROTECT you from toxins. Fat encapsulates toxins to help keep you safe and basically save your life. So be sure to eat clean. Eating fresh, organic foods will not only help you to store less fat but you will feel more vibrant too!
In our weight loss programs, it’s really important that we “surround the dragon” and look at ALL the things that could be keeping you stuck in weight loss resistance. We work together to address the root cause(s) of your weight gain while we eliminate body fat and increase muscle mass. 
By following this approach, DJ Jim who recently completed one of our programs, was able to reduce his visceral fat from 24 to 11 in just 3 months!  In that same time period, he lost 60 pounds of body fat and increased his muscle mass by18 pounds. WOWZA!
If you aren’t already tracking your visceral and body fat percentages, you might be missing the progress you are making by only seeing the overall “body weight number” on the scale. That’s why it’s so important to monitor your body composition. When we coach clients in our weight loss program, we are constantly monitoring their body composition so we can make tweaks in their program, which will optimize fat burning and increase health and vitality.
If you are finally ready to take the bull by the horns and make a change in your health, we are here for you! Click here to get started by scheduling your free 15-minute consultation with us. If you are local, we can also do a complete body composition analysis. If you aren’t local, we can still talk a little bit about your goals and obstacles, and see if our program might be a good fit for you!