Secretly most of us know when our waistlines have increased even if we wouldn’t like to admit it to the next person, let alone sometimes to our nearest and dearest. It’s a sore point issue for many of us, and we have all probably experienced our waistbands being just too tight when putting on our smart skirt or smart pair of trousers for that special dinner that comes around every blue moon. And holding in one’s waist for an entire evening or day, or even on a more regular basis, to look slimmer, is hardly the most enjoyable of pursuits I’m sure you would agree.
Belly fat is also known as abdominal fat or visceral fat. More than the fat on the more outer or “subcutaneous” layers, it’s the amount of fat that collects in, around, and between the organs on the deeper layers that’s the dangerous kind. The term “abdominal” in this context relates to the whole thoracic and abdominal region, or the whole torso. So the term visceral fat can be applied to fat around any organ, such as the heart, kidneys or liver for example. The accumulation of visceral fat is dangerous because it interferes with and disrupts the upkeep of the healthy function of our bodies and physiological processes, that all the organs, blood, chemicals, nerves, and cells (to name just a few components) work together at maintaining 24/7, without stopping for a moment. Consider that for a second.
A gradual and steady increase in body fat and namely waistline fat, as well as an increasing BMI or body mass index (which determines body fat percentage) would suggest the need for reviewing and perhaps entirely overhauling the types of food that are being regularly indulged in. Simply put, poor fuel leads to poor and sluggish performance, and before long, leaves evidence in the form of excess body fat, which could ultimately prove life-threatening. We’re all encouraged nowadays to eat less saturated fats and less refined carbohydrates (such as cakes and pastries) because of the consequences that high fat and high sugar have on our metabolism. In fact, “syndrome X” or metabolic syndrome which is a syndrome that is defined by a collection of physiological markers or criteria such as high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar for example, is a condition which more people on a high fat/high sugar diet are becoming prone to in all parts of the world. Syndrome X is seen as a “precursor” for the onset of damaging health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
A rise in fat in our bloodstream and in our tissues in general is bad news all round, as it literally “clogs up” the highways and complex communication networks of blood vessels, nerve fibers and intercellular transports that our life and survival depend on. Too much fat raises alarm bells in all our “circuitry” and not only slows down our physiological effectiveness, but also ends up damaging and destroying vital connections within the vast highly inter-dependent structural network of signals and chemical conduits that our bodies and minds are wired into. The analogy that comes to mind is just imagine digging down in the earth outside your house to the network of cables that supply your phone, internet and electricity, and then pouring a whole load of hot fat onto these on a regular basis. How that would cause the power lines to fray and melt, interconnections to become frazzled and unrecognizable and so on. Fat is literally a toxin or poison to our brains (via the bloodstream) and also to our organs, and the preponderance of high visceral fat is quite widely recognized nowadays to be connected with lower cognitive function and also seen by some as accelerating the onset of dementia.
Long term stress is also seen as a factor in the increasing visceral fat because of the continued regular release of the stress hormone cortisol into the bloodstream. Apparently this hormone encourages the storage of fat in the body instead of its release, a response which is thought to be linked with some deep survival mechanism. In short bursts and at crucial times of real threat, adrenal hormones are known to sharpen our senses and optimize our muscle performance in preparation for “fight or flight”, but long term cortisol release has been linked to fuzziness and cloudiness in thinking and memory recall. So basically it’s as if excess cortisol pumping in our blood damages the interconnectivity that determines the quality of our mental and physical performance and effectiveness.
Keeping an eye on our blood sugar intake and the quality of fats that we consume could therefore make all the difference, not only in our waistlines, but more importantly in our future health and longevity. It really would bode well for all of us to think about the fuel we’re packing into our bodies day in day out, and where possible to think twice or even three times about the dietary choices we make, as it could have a serious and devastating long term impact on our health. It can be difficult to change dietary practices and lifestyle habits overnight, especially when we’re used to them, but gradually substituting a few of our regular high sugar, high fat foods with alternatives that have lower sugar or higher fiber, would be a good start. If we really get it into our heads that our food choices are ultimately creating our quality of health, which really means our quality of life, we may feel motivated enough to approach our weekly grocery shop with a different attitude and perhaps a bit more willpower. Eating to stay healthy and trim on the inside is so much more important than most of us realize.