There is a reason we celebrate non-scale victories and sometimes ditch the scale altogether.

You may have this weird kind of relationship with your “weight”. I know I used to. I would get on the scale EVERY day and then overanalyze what those small fluctuations meant about my habits, but more significantly about me as a person.

But, my weight doesn’t define me. And yours doesn’t define you. I’ve learned that those 2-4 pound fluctuations throughout the day, or day-to-day, are completely normal depending on how much I’d eaten that day, the amount of salt in my diet, where I am in my cycle, the amount of muscle in my body, the phases of the moon, etc.

What you weigh can matter but only to a certain extent.

So let’s look at waist circumference.

Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”)

Do you remember the fruity body shape descriptions, being like an “apple” or a “pear”?  The apple is kinda round around the middle (you know – belly fat-ish, kinda beer belly-ish) and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.

THAT is what we’re talking about here.

Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases).

Yup – that apple!

And it’s not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that you may refer to as a “muffin top”.  The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs.

This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that’s where a lot of the problem actually is.  It’s this “un-pinchable” fat.

The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.

And apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than pear-shaped people do.

So as you can see, where your fat is stored is more important that how much you weigh.

Am I an apple or a pear?

It’s pretty simple to find out if you’re in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape.  You can do it right now.

Women, if your waist is 35” or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category.  Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.

For men the number is 40”.

Of course this isn’t a diagnostic tool.  There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases.  Waist circumference is just one of them.

If you have concerns, definitely consult your doctor.

Tips for reducing belly fat

  • Eat more fiber. Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways.  First of all, it helps you feel full and helps to reduce the amount of calories you absorb from your food.  Some examples of high-fiber foods are brussel sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries.
  • Add more protein to your day. Protein helps you feel fuller longer.  It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs and ensures you have enough of the amino acid building blocks for your muscles.
  • Nix added sugars. This means ditch the processed sweetened foods, especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice).
  • Move more. Get some aerobic exercise.  Lift some weights.  Walk and take the stairs.  It all adds up.  If you want some help finding a routine that you LOVE, fill out this questionnaire for some personalized recommendations.
  • Stress less. Seriously!  Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat.  I love using breathing exercises for this.
  • Get more sleep. Try making this a priority and seeing how much better you feel (and look).