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The Myths and Truths About Belly Fat

by Dr. Epperly of Forum Health, Bloomingdale

Many are interested in losing weight, but turn to fad diets and quick fixes to achieve results in a short period of time which can do more harm than good. There are many myths and truths surrounding weight loss that are common in our culture. Read some of the top myths and truths about weight loss that we hear in our clinic below.

Myth #1: “I can reduce my gut by doing sit-ups.”

Truth: I don’t know how this myth ever got started because there is no logic in it. You cannot spot reduce by exercising. Fat in a certain zone of your body is not connected in any way to the underlying muscle. And a big gut is not just flabby muscle so toning it up is not going to make a huge difference, compared to just losing weight. And actually, if you exercise your abs hard enough, you can actually INCREASE the size of your waist, by way of the abdominal muscles getting bigger in response to the exercise.

Myth #2: “As long as I can still get into my 34 inch pants, I’m good.”

Truth: You can have a very sizable girth, and still get into your 34” pants, guys. That’s because your gut is mostly ABOVE your beltline. You could have “Dunlops Disease” where your gut “done lops over your belt”. Waistline measurements for health reasons are made about an inch above your belly button. The national recommended maximum waist measurement for men in the US is 40”. But in reality, a much better guideline is a waist to height ratio of 0.5. So if you are 5’ 10” tall, your waist should be < 35”. Studies show that above 0.5 is when risk of all kinds of disease begins to rise. That applies to both sexes.

Myth #3: “If I can just get to a certain weight, I’ll be healthy.”

Truth: Health is not as related to your weight, as much as it is to your WAIST. And the BMI (body mass index) is not that much better, partly because a very muscular man can have a high BMI, and a thin healthy waist. Waist circumference is more related to health because it represents how much fat is INSIDE your belly around your viscera or intestines (“visceral fat”). Now here’s the thing. The most important thing to know: visceral fat is not just a dormant storage depot of stored energy that makes you look bad. Rather, it is a very metabolically active tissue that causes MANY problems by cranking out chemicals called cytokines which cause inflammation and insulin resistance.

So, I recommend to almost everyone in my practice that if you want to maximize your chances for optimal health, pay very close attention to your waist management!