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It’s true that having excess fat anywhere on the body is considered to be undesirable by most people, and excess fat can actually threaten your health. When fat exists around the abdomen, it presents a host of health risks. Let’s explore common types of fat, what diseases they can cause, and how to reduce belly fat.

Subcutaneous Fat vs. Visceral Fat

female measuring her abdomen with a measuring tape

There are two kinds of fat that build up in the abdominal area. Subcutaneous fat, or that which exists under the skin, is the kind that sits on top of your abdominal muscles and hides your six-pack. Not only do all of us have subcutaneous fat, but our body needs a certain amount of fat in order to store fuel.

The fat that wraps around internal organs is referred to as visceral fat. Visceral fat is the kind that causes “beer belly” in men. Both subcutaneous fat and visceral fat are dangerous to your health, but the latter carries particular risks. Because it goes deeper into the abdomen, visceral fat tends to crowd our organs, leading to a host of serious health issues.

Measuring Visceral Fat

How do you know if you have excess belly fat? to get a general idea is you can measure it at home. To do this, take a deep breath, exhale, and hold as you wrap and pull a tape measure snugly around your stomach above your hip bones. More than 35 inches for women and more than 40 inches for men means you’re carrying excessive visceral fat.

Causes of Belly Fat

Believe it or not, there’s more to excess belly fat than diet. Age, genetics, and family history can all play a role in what type of fat we end up with, as well as how much of each fat type we’re likely to gain.  Additionally, what we eat and drink can also cause us to gain weight around our abdomens, as well as in the buttocks and thighs.

Alcohol consumption can also lead to excess belly fat, as can added stress. Finally, our level of activity or lack of it can cause that belly fat to grow, leading to an even higher risk of developing health problems like cardiovascular disease.

Age, Genetics, and Family History

As you age, the rate of your body’s processes will change. Metabolism is one of these. You may think that a beer belly is a family trait that you have to live with. While you can’t change your genetics, your health care practitioner can help to devise an individualized diet for your genetic and health profile.

What We Eat and Drink

collection of junk food

Sugar is a ubiquitous and dangerous ingredient in many foods these days. Consuming large amounts of sugar builds excess fat. The body will use the fat it needs for energy, and it will store the rest as fat.

If you are consuming more calories in a day than you can burn, you’ll continue to gain more and more weight around your midsection and other areas. The solution is to swap unhealthy foods for healthy alternatives, as well as reduce portion sizes. Where excess weight impacts health, it may be necessary to consider weight loss surgery options.


It’s true that some forms of alcohol carry more calories than others. Beer is a good example of an alcoholic beverage that can cause weight gain. However, alcohol doesn’t always work alone.

Your body metabolizes alcohol differently than it metabolizes other substances. The body processes alcohol as a toxin, so it isn’t digested. Instead, the body moves the alcohol to your liver quickly. When alcohol reaches the liver, the organ will burn it instead of fat.

In addition to this, alcohol suppresses a primary metabolic hormone, testosterone, for up to 24 hours after you’ve consumed it. Why is this important? Because testosterone helps the body to break down fat.

When you ingest food at the same time as consuming alcohol, the calories in the food are also not able to be metabolized in the body. Instead, these calories are converted to fat, and that fat gets stored.

Stress and Activity

Whenever we feel stressed, our bodies respond by releasing the hormone cortisol, which raises blood sugar and reduces inflammation. This ancient “fight or flight” response prepares your body for either fighting or running away from a perceived threat.

While this is ideal in times of emergency, a continual release of this hormone in the bloodstream can have many negative health consequences. Along with a poor diet, lack of activity is at the top of the list of causes for weight gain.

Lowering stress via meditation has shown to be very effective. Adopting healthy habits such as standing while at your work desk, parking farther away from your destination, and taking the stairs can all help you lose unwanted belly fat.

Another Cause of Belly Fat

There are some who find it impossible to lose weight, even though they are paying attention to their diet, managing their stress, and getting regular exercise. Often, this has to do with the relationship between stomach size and ghrelin, which is known as the “hunger hormone.”

When we feel hunger, it’s because ghrelin has been released in our bodies to stimulate us to eat. Ghrelin, released from stomach cells, travels to the brain and stimulates the hypothalamus and other pleasure centers. A smaller stomach releases less ghrelin, thereby reducing hunger.

What Is Bariatric Surgery, and Who Can Qualify?

Bariatric surgery, gastric sleeve is a safe and effective option which reduces the size of the stomach by over 70%. This limits the amount of food able to be consumed in each sitting. If you are someone who is trying to lose weight but are finding it difficult due to obesity-related conditions, and your BMI is over 35, this type of surgery can significantly lower or eliminate your visceral fat.

In addition, gastric bypass surgery can dramatically decrease the risk of developing these diseases. You may also be a candidate if your BMI is over 40 and you don’t have obesity-related conditions. Of course, surgery is just one aspect of overcoming obesity. In addition to weight loss surgery, you also need the education and skills to maintain your weight loss. A commitment to lifelong health is also essential in order for any weight loss surgery to be effective over the long term.

The kind and scope of changes required in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle will be different for everyone. However, the challenge of changing one’s lifestyle can be a daunting consideration regardless of our individual differences. Obesity is a disease with many complexities, and the help and advice of a professional can go a long way in helping you to lose excess belly fat.

The Right Professionals Are Key

doctor discussing reports with patient

Choosing the right professionals for you is key. Those who understand the importance of not only committing to a healthy lifestyle but providing you with all of the tools you need to overcome obesity are the ones you want.

They should offer you a solid support network so that you never have to make your weight loss journey alone. As well, you should receive education about obesity, as well as how the body can work both with and against you as you are maintaining your new lifestyle.

It’s always a good idea to choose professionals who can help you adopt a healthy mindset for weight loss, as well as assist you with overcoming those cravings and temptations which can throw you off track.

Bariatric Care Centers is dedicated to the lifelong health of our sleeve surgery clients. Our programs provide you with the support and education you’ll need over the course of your journey, and we also help you overcome those day-to-day challenges which can present weight loss obstacles.

Your weight loss journey will be full of ups and downs, but, with gentle encouragement and a positive outlook, you can achieve and maintain a healthy weight for life. If you’re ready to explore the benefits of bariatric surgery and weight loss education, Bariatric Care Centers is ready to help; claim your free consultation by calling us at (713) 339-1353 today.

Disclaimer: This is only for general information. All patients should consult their doctors prior to following any of the recommendations in any articles, posts, infographics, or videos. All patients have individual needs and limitations that only their treating physicians can be fully aware of.