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Three Myths and Truths About Belly Fat

By Dr. William Epperly of Forum Health Bloomingdale

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. Belly fat is more than an appearance, there is an actual correlation between the size of your waist and the risk for disease.


For this reason, it is important to dispel the myths about belly fat and shed light on what really makes a difference when it comes to your midsection.

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 large belly is not just flabby muscle, so toning it up is not going to make a huge difference when compared to losing weight. In fact, if you work 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 inch pants. That’s because your belly is mostly above your beltline. 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 inches. 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, also known as visceral fat. 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.

Learning about what will truly make a difference in your health is the key to feeling and looking your best. Find a Forum Health location near you.