Wellness Wednesday: Manage that muffin-top

November 27, 2013 | by

Despite its cute moniker, a muffin-top could be a legitimate concern for good reason. Hint: That reason isn’t about the size of your jeans.

Belly fat

Visceral fat surrounding the organs is associated with higher risk for disease. In fact, some research associates belly fat with a higher risk of premature death even in those with a BMI in the healthy range.

Belly fat, even in those who otherwise fall into a healthy weight range, is linked with health problems of more serious concern than cosmetics, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.

“Abdominal obesity is associated with high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, insulin resistance and other problems. These go hand-in-hand with type 2 diabetes and increased risk of heart disease and stroke,” said Raynald Samoa, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism. "Sometimes, the presence of belly fat could indicate a patient also has visceral fat, which is often invisible to the eye by surrounds the internal organs."

In his research and clinic, Samoa is committed to fighting fat and its associated diseases. He is particularly interested in studying how the body sends and maintains appetite signals that keep some people eating and gaining weight – even though they don’t need to.

Visceral fat poses greater health risks than overall weight, but don’t fall for diets that claim they can spot-reduce belly fat. Only a comprehensive approach to weight loss will do the trick: calorie restriction, exercise and adopting these healthy habits for the long-term.

That won’t lead to an immediate reduction in visceral fat, but over time, weight and its associated risks can be managed.

Manage that muffin-top by starting with a few simple changes:

  • Stop drinking your calories. Eliminate sodas, and embrace water.
  • If you bite it, write it. Study upon study shows that keeping food records is a consistent habit of those who lose weight and keep it off.
  • Plan ahead. Know what you’re going to eat before you get hungry.
  • Add some spice. Hot sauce, salsa and other spicy seasonings pack a lot of flavor without fat and with only a few calories.
  • Move more. Don’t feel you need to start training for a marathon, but 30 minutes of exercise a day – even broken up into smaller segments of time – is a good place to start.

“Make changes a few at a time,” Samoa said. “Be patient with yourself, and be aware that reducing your weight even by 10 percent is a good step toward better health and reducing the risk of disease.”