We’ve embraced body positivity here at BodyRock, and we are committed to welcoming every body shape to our community of ‘BodyRockers’. To have fat on your body is to be human, and having access to fitness and health should be everyone's basic human right - no matter what shape or size you are. That said, when body fat threatens our health, or has reached a point where it can contribute to a lower quality of life or premature death, we need to take it seriously and move past acceptance into action.
Most of us that are trying to lose weight are primarily focused on making surface level, aesthetic improvements to our appearance. Yes, we say that we want to improve our overall health, but the main driver is often the desire to look more attractive. We want to look better on the outside so that we feel better emotionally and psychologically about ourselves on the inside. We want to be perceived by those around us in a positive and attractive way. We each have our own personal motivations and agendas when it comes to how we look, and those levers are what we pull and push when we want to find the motivation to make a change. That said, the benefits of fat loss are much more than skin deep when it comes to visceral fat. Visceral fat is a serious health issue that doesn’t get nearly enough attention in relation to the health risks it poses.
A body scan shows white visceral fat deposits (figure left) deep in the belly surrounding the vital organs. The figure on the right doesn’t have visceral fat.
Visceral fat is hidden from view, deep within your stomach. This fat snakes its way around your vital internal organs, wrapping them in choking layers of dense fat. Visceral fat has been linked to a number of potentially fatal health threats like type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, stroke, heart disease (a number one killer of Americans), and multiple types of cancers. Visceral fat can’t be seen, or touched - you can’t ‘pinch an inch’ of it like you can with regular belly fat or love handles. Visceral fat is caused by a bad diet (not eating the right foods), over eating too many calories, excessive drinking (both alcohol and high calorie drinks), and a lack of movement and exercise. Visceral fat is extremely dangerous, but almost completely preventable and largely reversible with the right prescription of diet and exercise. Let’s break down how we can prevent and eliminate visceral fat build up around your vital organs, before the damage is done.
Measuring visceral fat. Unfortunately, there is not a perfectly accurate or immediately accessible way to measure how much visceral fat is inside your body. Part of the measurement challenge is just how deeply embedded the fat is inside the body. Unlike regular body fat measurements that can be done with some measure of reliability with callipers and other methods, to get an accurate analysis of your visceral fat deposits requires technology that is only currently accessible through your doctor or medical professional. A dual-energy x-ray (DXA) can provide a picture of body composition by identifying body weight by fat, bone and lean muscle mass - separating the weight of each of these components to arrive at an accurate assessment of the whole (if you are obese and concerned about visceral fat, you should book a consultation to discuss treatment and risk factors with your doctor).
Apart from a DXA scan, you can get a sense of your risk level by gauging your overall body fat percentage. Healthy body fat percentages are largely dependent on your age and gender. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women between the ages of 20-39 should aim for a body fat percentage in the range of 21% - 32%, while men should aim to clock in between 8% - 19%. If you are well above those ranges, visceral fat buildup is likely underway.
The BodyRock Meal Plan Bundle - Cookbook, Nutrition Guide and Meal Plan.
Diet is key to both preventing and reducing deep visceral fat buildup. Your diet - what you choose to eat on a day by day, meal by meal basis - is the most important factor in weight management, and it’s by far the most powerful tool that you have in your arsenal to reverse the damage being caused by visceral fat. If you have arrived at a place where visceral fat is threatening your health, (or you want to ensure that it doesn't), the best prescription is to follow a common sense meal plan that is designed around eating the right balance of delicious whole foods. Our BodyRock Meal Plan has helped thousands of people take control of their diets and comes with a cookbook and recipe guide (easy to prepare meals, snacks and tasty dessert options), a nutrition book which will empower you to make better overall food choices, and of course the meal plan book itself which will organize your meals, snacks and desert options and set you up for fat loss success. Stop trying to wing it on your own - a meal plan provides the organizational structure and guidance to lose weight and reduce or eliminate visceral fat and get you back on the road to health and longevity. Following a meal plan is not going on a ‘diet’. Diets are short term and usually unsustainable because they are based on restriction. A meal plan is a lifestyle choice that is centered around balance and a healthy relationship with food - not restriction.
Limit alcohol. Aside from other serious health impacts, excessive alcohol is directly linked to increased belly fat and what is sometimes referred to as ‘central’ obesity (meaning the excess fat stores build up in the stomach region, and contribute to deep fat stores). Alcohol is loaded with sugars which also promote fat storage in the belly. Most meal plans unrealistically expect you to give up alcohol completely in a ‘cold turkey’ approach, but in the BodyRock Meal Plan, there are options that allow alcohol in moderation. Our plan even covers the best low sugar alcohol (wine & spirits) options. Any drinking (even low calorie, low sugar options as outlined in our meal plan) needs to be done responsibly and in moderation to minimize fat build up and damage to the liver and other organs.
Manage your stress levels - or else. The stress hormone cortisol actively triggers fat to accumulate on the belly and around the ‘love handles’. Stress can cause sleep disturbance, weight gain, muscle weakness, brain fog, mood swings, acute or heightened anxiety, depression and general fatigue. The bottom line is if your stress levels are out of control, you aren’t going to be in an optimal state to practice self-care, which means that you aren’t going to be capable of making the best decisions when it comes to your diet, limiting alcohol and getting enough sleep to power movement and exercise. When you are stressed out, self-care goes out the window, and things can spiral and get worse. If stress continues unchecked, the gravity of the stress can make you feel stuck in a pretty dark place. Thankfully, one of the most powerful ways to reverse stress and reset your self-care practice is also incredibly important when it comes to eliminating visceral fat, and that is…
Exercise. At least part of what allows visceral fat to worm its way around your organs is a lack of purposeful movement in the form of exercise. Any increased movement is a good start, but a specific type of exercise has been shown to be the most effective at burning fat, and those are workouts that combine HIIT (high intensity interval training) and Strength Training in the same workout. No other workout has been proven as efficient at burning excess fat.
The problem that almost everyone faces when signing up for exercise classes is that the classes are too advanced, with exercises and movements that are simply too difficult for a beginner. Nothing is more heartbreaking than to see someone that has finally mustered up the courage to make a lifestyle change only to be thwarted by a workout routine that is too hard for them. People often have this experience and then quit, often blaming themselves without realizing that it wasn’t their fault - the workout intensity level was just beyond them.
Here at BodyRock, we’ve been helping people get in the best shape of their lives since 2008, and we’ve seen how frustrating it can be when people with good intentions try and succeed at a workout program that is just too much too soon. It’s the reason that we created the Beginner Bootcamp - a 30 day program (now in season 2) that was designed to help people that haven’t exercised in years or even decades, get up and start moving again. The exercises and movements are challenging but achievable - which means that you will be able to actually complete your workouts and build up your sense of accomplishment and confidence as the program progresses. The best part of the Beginner Bootcamp program is that it combines HIIT with Strength Training, which as we’ve covered above, is the most efficient way to burn fat and lose weight. For a limited time, you can get a full year of access to the Beginner Bootcamp series (and all of our other beginner level workouts) on our fitness streaming platform BodyRockPlus.com for just $69 with code: NY22. Pairing the Meal Plan with the Beginner Bootcamp exercise program will seamlessly cover off all of the bases when it comes to reducing visceral fat and losing excess weight, giving you all of the support and guidance that you need to make a major lifestyle change and to start putting your health first.
We’d love to have you as part of our ‘BodyRocker’ community, but more than that, we want you to live a long, happy, and healthy life.
He guys great article . I have followed you and done your workout daily for years! I have been diagnosed with cushings disease which is a tumors that produces way too much cortisol in my body. With that said yes the fat tends to hamg out in the mid section which is very frustrating for me because i work out so hard and eat so well. Any advice on this topic would be appreciated! Thank you for a great platform on health and workouts! Erika :)