All about viseral fat – what it is & how to combat it

While I was in a very fancy gym recently I took advantage of their full body scan machines and decided to get myself checked out – just what is my metabolic age and bone density (things which until then I wasn’t sure I wanted to know)? But along with that it also told me what my visceral fat levels are and that got me thinking about what visceral fat. I know it’s bad and I am very glad that my levels were low but what exactly is it? And why is it so bad?

After some googling and talking to an actual Doctor (thanks Sister) this is what I have discovered. Visceral fat is fat which is stored much deeper in the body than fat which is just underneath the skin (that is called subcutaneous fat) and it actually wraps itself around major organs. While it is obvious when a person has a lot of subcutaneous fat – you can see it – visceral fat is almost impossible to spot. You can assume that someone with a lot of subcutaneous fat also has visceral fat but the two don’t always go hand in hand. It actually turns out that so many people have visceral fat without even knowing it or being obese.

I think before I started running I was one of these people. In university I ate whatever I wanted and just hoped that walking would keep me in healthy – my definition of healthy back then wasn’t all that good either. When I came back to London I was unhealthier then ever before in my life and my family were shocked at my daily diet and the sheer amount of unhealthy food I would eat during one meal. As my diet hadn’t become so bad instantly it took a while for me to get it back on track (I would eat one large tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream every two days) but I eventually did. And now having done some research there are only two things which can reduce the amount of visceral fat a person has: diet and exercise.

Doctor Sister (and the internet) advises that the only way to decrease amounts of visceral fat is by moving a little more and eating a little less unhealthy food. But that is so much easier said than done – I remember when I came home from University and really had no idea where to begin and it took me a long time to get into the swing of things.

  • Work out at home. This is how I started – stepper and aerobics in my front room until I stopped feeling like an idiot. I would jump around in my sitting room in old jogging bottoms and slippers without a care in the world and a massive smile on my face.
  • I had to go cold turkey on the ice cream. For one thing The Mothership refused to buy it any more and for another there was no way I could steadily decrease the amount I ate – if anything it would have just increased.
  • Try to understand why you started eating so much. For me food became associated with comfort – by the end of my three years in University I was so, so unhappy that food was literally the only thing which used to make me smile.

It took me a long time to have a healthy, balanced diet. I can no eat ice cream without devouring it and finishing the whole tub. I also made the conscious decision to associate sport and fitness with fun otherwise it is this massive daily chore which you always find excuses to not do. The stepper video cassette (no joke, video cassette) was such an old one that seeing the clothes the instructors wore never ceased to make me giggle. I would throw myself into it having the best time because it was fun. Now I understand the happiness power of fitness as well as it’s ability to make you a much healthier person.

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