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why belly fat is so bad



Faced with these risks, it’s no wonder that you want to know how much you should weigh. But this common and important question is actually the wrong question. For health, the issue is not how much you weigh, but how much abdominal fat you have.     The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide

A mirror or photograph is a far better gauge than a scale of whether or not you are at a healthy weight.    Doctor Russell Schierling

The picture above is a depiction of the various female body types as seen thru the eyes of Georges Hébert — an early pioneer in Physical Education.  The pictures come from a French book called L’éducation Physique Féminine, which was written almost a century ago.  My how things have changed.

It was not that long ago that women hardly ever had “CENTRAL OBESITY” (aka Abdominal Obesity).  Yes, we men have always tended to accumulate fat stores around our waists (the proverbial ‘spare tire’ —- apple shaped), but women have always tended to put weight on in the hip / butt area (pear shaped).  Now it is not only common to see women with Central Obesity, it is shockingly common — even in women of “normal” weight.  These women are often referred to today as “SKINNY FAT” — the topic of yesterday’s post.  The point of this post is not to issue an indictment against those of you who are struggling with this particular problem, but to help you understand why Abdominal Fat is so bad, and why it leads to so many other health problems.  The cool thing is that if you understand what is actually causing you to put weight on around your waist, you can formulate a plan to conquer it.

ABDOMINAL OBESITY means that you have too much “Viceral Fat”.  Don’t get me wrong; we all require some fat around our Vicera in order to be healthy.  But once you understand that the word “Vicera” means organs, and that Viceral Fat is the fat that surrounds (and potentially entombs) your organs, you will begin to understand why Central Obesity is such a serious problem — a killer. 

When a person has large amounts of fat engulfing their organs, that fat tends to create responses in the rest of the body (particularly the ENDOCRINE SYSTEM) that can never really keep up with what is being demanded of it.  Although the organs (pancreas, liver, ADRENAL GLANDS, etc) are scrambling to CONTROL BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS, they eventually FALL BEHIND.  As organs fail to keep up, weight gain can end up like a snowball rolling downhill — picking up momentum and feeding itself as it goes.  But be warned…. not all weight gain is equal.  Some is worse than others.


In the early 1980’s, researchers began noticing that there was an important distinction between abdominal fat and the subcutaneous fat that all of us have underneath our skin.  They realized that the more abdominal fat a person carried, the more likely they were to have DIABETES (decreased sensitivity to insulin), heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, HIGH CHOLESTEROL, and high triglycerides.  They began to realize that Abdominal Obesity was a different kind of animal than General Obesity.

As the American diet has gotten worse —– based more and more on processed grains, TRANS FATS, chemicals, and sugar —- rates of Central Obesity have skyrocketed.   Yesterday’s blog proved that at least 7 of 10 American adults are overweight, with about half of those being OBESE.  It gets worse.  For the over-50 crowd, 50% of the men and 70% of the women are not only obese, they meet the criteria for Central Obesity.  What are those criteria?  

In the picture on the left, we see a woman with normal sized hips and waist.  If we take the ratio of the waist to the hips (WHR — Waist Hip Ratio), we should see about a .6 or .7 for women, and about .9 for men.  Anything over .85 for women and .9 for men is considered to be Central Obesity. 


                                                           MEN                                  WOMEN
37 – 40

UNDER 31.5″
31.5″ to 35″
OVER 35″
A high WHR is associated with all of the risk factors / health problems I listed off earlier.  And If you were reading my blog last week, you could probably guess that a high WHR is heavily associated with INFERTILITY as well as SEXUAL DYSFUNCTION.  What is shocking, however, is that recent research is linking things like lower cognitive ability with a high WHR.  My best guess is that as time goes on, you will see more and more health problems associated with a high waist to hip ratio.  But the real question is what does it all mean?


If you are a male with Central Obesity — the proverbial pot belly — odds are that you simply need to get back on the wagon and lose some weight.  If you are a female with Abdominal Obesity, you need to make some serious changes to your life.  For one, it is important to realize that you are probably stressed out.  Adrenally stressed out that is.

Cortisol (aka Hydrocortisone) is your body’s chief stress hormone, and  is made by by your adrenal glands in response to stress.  Bear in mind that this stress can come in many forms; emotional, physical, dietary, etc.  According to a popular online encyclopedia, the chief functions of Cortisol are to, “increase blood sugar through gluconeogenesis; [and] suppress the immune system….”  Did you catch that?  Cortisol is an Immune System Suppressor that raises blood sugar via gluconeogenesis (creating sugar from muscle tissue or fat stores).  Although creating sugar from fat might sound like a wonderful thing, in many cases it is not.

If a person already has high blood sugar levels and gets a subsequent boost in blood sugar, they are going right back into storage mode unless they burn it for energy.  This is unlikely.  Since these folks are already fighting Central Obesity, the new sugar they create from metabolizing fat is simply re-stored as fat.  Only this time it will be stored as belly fat.  If occurring on a regular basis, this process will literally exhaust your body.  This is why it is called Adrenal Fatigue and is intimately related to Fibromyalgia (ADRENAL FATIGUE OR FIBROMYALGIA?).  Also be aware that HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP —- the sweetener most commonly used for practically all modern processed foods —– is more associated with Belly Fat than other sugars — far more associated.


Of course there are the health problems I listed earlier in the post.  However, it don’t stop there.  There are a host of physical ailments that are being directly tied to Central Obesity.  Some of them include……

  • ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE:  Although a number of studies have linked Abdominal Obesity to Alzheimer’s, a study from Dr. George Razzy’s team of Launceston General Hospital, University of Tasmania, Australia showed that older people with Central Obesity had a 10 times greater chance of developing ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE than the general population.


  • LOW / HIGH TESTOSTERONE:  If you are a male (or FEMALE) who is struggling to hit home runs in the bedroom (HERE), odds are that you have some degree of Central Obesity.  Clear back in 1990, a Dutch study showed that men with Abdominal Obesity were much more likely to have high insulin and blood sugar levels, while having low testosterone.  However, if you are a female, listen to what Drs. Rasa Kazlauskaite (Endocrinologist) and Sheila Dugan (Physical Medicine Specialist) of Rush University Medical Center have to say about testosterone. “When that delicate balance of estrogen to testosterone shifts toward testosterone during the menopausal transition, the distribution of fat also shifts and women tend to accumulate more belly fat.  In men, we know that when their testosterone decreases naturally as they age, they tend to accumulate belly fat, but in women it isn’t really about having more testosterone, it’s about upsetting the estrogen-testosterone balance. We used to think estrogen protected premenopausal women against cardiovascular disease and that the increased cardiovascular risk after menopause was related only to the loss of estrogen’s protective effect. But now we know that it’s actually the change in hormonal balance that’s largely responsible for visceral fat. So if you’re a woman in your 30s or early 40s and you aren’t already eating healthy and exercising regularly, you should get started now and work hard to maintain these healthy behaviors throughout the menopausal transition.


  • PCOS:  Strongly related to the above, if you have PCOS, you are much more likely not only to be INFERTILE, but to have Central Obesity as well.  Women with Central Obesity are more likely to deal with a wide range of hormonal issues (see the first link in the bullet point above).


  • INFLAMMATION:  People with Central Obesity are much more likely to have high systemic levels of INFLAMMATION in their bodies.  Inflammation is strongly associated with nearly every health problem you can mention.


  • LOW BACK PROBLEMS / ARTHRITIS:  Do you think it might be hard on your joints carrying 50, 100, or 150 extra pounds of weight around for years, or even decades?  It’s a no-brainer (HERE). 


  • GALLBLADDER DISEASE:  Who is likely to get GB Disease?  People with Central Obesity.  The moniker we learned in school was “fat, fertile, female, and forty“.


  • METABOLIC SYNDROME:   What is METABOLIC SYNDROME?  It is essentially a pre-diabetic condition that is in play if a person has at least three of the following —– a blood pressure of 130/85 or higher, a triglyceride level above 150, a fasting blood sugar level of 100 or greater, low HDL levels, or high LDL levels. By the way, if you were paying attention to yesterday’s post, you realize that large numbers of people of “normal” weight have at least one of these. 


  • FATTY LIVER:  Although a Fatty Liver is usually thought of as being a problem of alcoholism, the largest class of people who develop this problem are those with Central Obesity.


  • CERTAIN KINDS OF CANCER:  The truth is that many kinds of CANCER — particularly the ones that originate in the abdominal area such as colon cancer, are heavily associated in the peer-reviewed literature with Central Obesity.


  • SLEEP APNEA / BREATHING DIFFICULTIES: Show me a person with Central Obesity who breathes just fine, and I will show you 100 that do not (HERE).  And if it is bad enough to affect sleep, I promise it will affect your health in other ways.


  • BLOOD CLOTS:  Enough said.


  • OSTEOPOROSIS:  Even though OSTEOPOROSIS is often associated with tiny little women, the truth is, if you have an oversized belly you are at risk (HERE).

Although Obesity is bad, Central Obesity is doubly bad.  If you want to live a long, enjoyable, life, and be there for your children and grandchildren, you need to do what it takes to get this problem under control.  Fortunately I have created a plan for you.  All you have to do is follow the information on THESE POSTS.  Granted, it’s a ton of information.  But there is no way to effectively lose weight, get healthy, and stay that way for life unless you know what made you fat in the first place.  Knowledge is power, and if you will follow the advice on my blog, virtually everyone reading this post will know what it takes to get a handle on your Central Obesity.  Just remember; the choice is yours.


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