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How to "Drop" Visceral Fat, Say Physicians

Experts explain everything to know about visceral fat.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Visceral fat is a hidden health issue that isn't talked about enough! Visceral fat is located deep in your abdomen and it wraps around your vital organs causing severe problems like some cancers, stroke and type 2 diabetes. While it's nothing that you can see or touch, chances are it's there–even if you're thin. Several factors cause visceral fat like stress, poor diet and lack of sleep. Eat This, Not That! health spoke with experts who explain how to tell if you have visceral fat and how to lose it. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


How To Tell If You Have Visceral Fat

Female doctor measuring waist of overweight woman with measuring tape in clinic.

Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson, aka "The VibrantDoc", a recognized leader in functional medicine and author of the new self-care book Vibrant: A Groundbreaking Program to Get Energized, Reverse Aging, and Glow, reveals, "If your belly protrudes but is hard, not squishy, and it doesn't go up and down like it would with bloating but always protrudes, you probably have excess visceral fat. Visceral fat develops under the layer of muscle rather than on top of it, so you can't pinch it.  Another good way to tell if you have excess visceral fat is by calculating your waist-to-hip ratio. Measure your waist at the narrowest part, and measure your hips at the widest part. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. If your number is above .85 for women or .95 for men, you probably have excess visceral fat, even if you are not overweight. 

You could also get an MRI to determine the presence and amount of visceral fat, but this is expensive and would not be covered by insurance."


Watch Your Calorie Intake

woman choosing healthy apple instead of junk dessert as a food swap to cut calories

Michael Mathews is a fitness and nutrition expert and the author of the upcoming book Muscle for Life: Get Lean, Strong, and Healthy at Any Age, says, "The only way to lose a significant amount of visceral fat is to maintain a calorie deficit. That is, eat fewer calories than you burn. While it's possible to lose some visceral fat through exercise alone (see the next point), losing an inch of visceral fat isn't a cakewalk, and requires that you change your diet as well. For example, one study found that men and women who ate 800-to-1,000 calories per day for eight weeks reduced their visceral fat levels by about 30 percent on average. While I don't recommend you keep your calories this low (a good rule of thumb is to eat about 10-to-12 calories per pound of body weight to lose fat), it illustrates how important and powerful a calorie deficit is for shedding visceral fat quickly."


Get Moving!

older man running up stairs, outdoor workout

According to Mathews, "Exercise regularly, and try to do some high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Research shows that any kind of exercise will help you reduce visceral fat levels, and aerobic training tends to be the best at this. What's more, studies also show that high-intensity interval training seems to be particularly effective at breaking down visceral fat stored in the liver, which is associated with many health problems. In other words, a gram of fat stored in your liver is going to cause more damage than a few grams of visceral fat stored around your other organs, which is why it's wise to do some HIIT training to get rid of it as fast as possible."

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Do Resistance Training

fire hydrant workout to firm glutes

"Resistance training has a protective effect on your muscle mass when you're in a calorie deficit, meaning that your body is 'forced' to break down fat instead of muscle," Mathews shares. "It also burns quite a few calories, which helps increase the size of your calorie deficit."

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Why Losing Visceral Fat is Important


Mathews states, "Although having high levels of any kind of body fat is unhealthy, visceral fat is particularly pernicious. It's associated with many diseases and dysfunctions including diabetes, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and more. Scientists still aren't entirely sure why this is, but one theory is that visceral fat releases large amounts of inflammatory proteins into the bloodstream, which are particularly damaging to the liver." 

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How To Tell You're Losing Visceral Fat

woman consulting with female doctor

"The most reliable way to tell if you've lost visceral fat is to measure your waist circumference weekly," says Mathews. "This is useful because the size of your waist is a reliable indicator of visceral fat levels regardless of what's happening with your weight. To measure your waist properly, do the following in the morning, naked, after using the bathroom and before eating or drinking anything. Wrap a tape measure around your bare stomach, right at your navel, and make sure the tape is straight (parallel to the floor) and snug, but not so tight that it compresses your skin. Breathe in, exhale until your lungs are mostly empty, and with your stomach relaxed (no sucking it in), record the number somewhere handy (workout journal, notepad app, cloud document, etc.). It's best to take your waist measurement like this at least once per week. You can do it daily, too, but this is generally unnecessary because the weekly changes will be too small to matter." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather