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Mar 15, 2021

Fat: A Breakdown and A Breakup

‘Summer body’ is more than a rallying cry in our pursuit of battling the (belly) bulge. It is a catalyst to getting and being healthier. And, as runners, most of us have heard (or discovered for ourselves) that you cannot outrun a bad diet, no matter how fast you run or how much hope you have. But, a better understanding of how fat is created, the types of fat and how it gets stored in your abdominal cavity can help you get rid of it, once and for all. Calories, or energy, are essential for our health, and our bodies need a certain number of calories to perform its daily functions, such as breathing, thinking, working, walking, digesting food, etc.

The amount each person’s body requires depend on your age, sex, size and activity level. But for everyone, what happens when you take in more calories than your body burns? Your body stores those extra calories—from carbs, proteins and fats—as fat. Of course, having some body fat is healthy for you, but not all fat is created equal. There are two kinds: subcutaneous fat, which is stored under your skin, and visceral fat (aka belly fat), which is stored around your vital organs and increases your risk of developing chronic diseases. Think of visceral fat as creating a toxic work environment within your body.

For your best health, the recommended waist circumference is less than 35 inches for women (and less than 40 inches for men). According to licensed dietician and certified personal trainer Joy Diggs, we develop most of the fat cells that we have as adults in late childhood/early adolescence. Therefore, as an adult, as you gain weight, your fat cells increase in size, but can also increase in number. When you decrease your food intake and begin to lose weight, your fat cells will start to decrease in size, but not in number, making it harder for you to lose weight overtime. Because, again, although you can increase your number of fat cells, you cannot decrease that number. Yikes! We all face environmental factors contributing to our belly fat. The good news is that we also have control over these factors.

“Being overstressed and not getting enough sleep are two of the biggest factors that are contributing to your body fat. But that’s most people, right? We live in this culture where we are working all the time. People are stressed all the time. People are on team no sleep. I’ll sleep when I’m dead. And these things are killing us in the process,” says Diggs. Can you relate to this, is this you? When you’re over stressed and your body has not rested enough, a hormonal imbalance begins to fester and creates the perfect storm for storing more fat in your belly. Hormone imbalances can raise your blood sugar, decrease your appetite control and cause you to feel hungry more often.

Thus, resulting in overeating and even more fat being stored in your belly.

But, we all can break up with harmful belly fat. How?

By following Diggs’ eight (8) tips to better health: 1. Reduce meal portion sizes (sometimes it’s not what you eat, but how much) 2. Reduce sugar intake (no more than 24 grams of added sugar per day) 3. Reduce carbohydrate intake (especially, refined carbs such as white bread, rice and sugar; yes, sugar is worth mentioning twice) 4. Increase protein intake (track your foods and macronutrient percentages on a fitness app) 5. Reduce alcohol intake (stick to no more than 2 per week) 6. Increase the amount of sleep you get per night (7-9 hours is recommended) 7. Reduce stress (find what works for you: yoga, journaling, reading, running) 8. Limit processed foods (focus on eating real foods, not food-like products) Remember, when we minimize our belly fat, we can increase the quality and quantity of our lives. 

By: Joy Harrell  @joyrunsrealestate

Joy Harrell is a licensed real estate agent and co-owner of The Sift Sisters bakery based in Houston, Texas. She is a native Houstonian and graduate of the University of Houston—go Coogs! When she is not helping people buy, sell or invest in real estate, she can be found hanging or traveling with her hubby, running or biking the streets and trails in and around Houston, mentoring girls or testing new food and cocktail recipes.