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You Need To Know The Difference Between ‘Visceral’ Fat And ‘Regular’ Fat

Plus: how long does it take to lose visceral fat?

At this point, you can point to plenty of science that clearly shows that excess body fat is detrimental to your health. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing negative conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. 

For someone overweight, losing excess body fat can be the most powerful thing they can do to improve their health. Now, how they achieve that weight loss healthily and sustainably is still up for debate, but at least we can all agree that losing excess body fat is a good thing. 

That said, there is some important nuance in how body fat is distributed in the body. When we think of someone being overweight or obese, we are usually thinking about excess subcutaneous fat. This is the fat stored just beneath our skin that you can pinch, see, and feel. 

But there is another type of fat that many people are unaware of, despite its serious correlation with overall health. Visceral fat is a type of body fat that lies deep within your abdominal walls and surrounds your organs. It is sometimes referred to as “active fat” because it plays an active role in how your body functions. 

Having some visceral fat surrounding your stomach, liver, and intestines is important since it provides cushioning and protects important blood vessels that supply blood to the abdominal organs. However, too much visceral fat can lead to serious health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. 

Having too much visceral fat will actually raise your risk of developing a serious health condition more than having too much subcutaneous fat, which brings us back to the skinny fat oxymoron we opened up with. 

How long does it take to lose visceral fat? Try not to think in terms of timeframes

There are cases where people will be “skinny” in terms of their subcutaneous fat but will still have enough accumulated visceral fat that will give them the same or a worse risk profile as someone that may look overweight or even obese to the naked eye. Studies like this have clearly shown that low subcutaneous fat (the fat you can see and pinch) combined with high visceral fat (the fat you can’t see that surrounds your organs)  is just as dangerous as being obese or overweight. 

So how can you measure your visceral fat to ensure you are headed in the right direction? Unfortunately, a scale or a mirror will not be able to give you a clear assessment of your visceral fat. Waist circumference is probably the best readily accessible measurement someone could use to provide them with a better picture of what their visceral fat might look like, but even that can be deceiving. 

The key takeaway? When looking to optimize your health, skinny fat can be just as dangerous as being overweight. So what can you do about it? The same things we always recommend: a whole-foods-based diet, regular exercise, consistent sleep, and adequate hydration. 

More specifically, it can be a powerful mindset shift to stop obsessing over the number on the scale or the parts of your body that jiggle. Health is so much more complicated than what size jeans you wear. Things are going on inside your body that you will never be able to see in the mirror.

If you focus on the daily process of being healthy and less on the visible end goals, you might just start seeing the progress you want to see.

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