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How to Get Rid of Visceral Fat in Women

Doctor explains what causes visceral fat in women and how to lose it. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Visceral fat is hidden deep in your belly and it's wrapped around your vital organs, which can cause severe health issues like cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and more. Most people don't know they have visceral fat since you can't see or touch it, but more than likely it's there. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician who explains what causes visceral fat and how to get rid of it. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What Causes Visceral Fat in Women?

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Dr. Mitchell says, "The waistline doesn't always have to expand with age. Research has shown that women's bodies change in ways that affect their health after menopause – such as increasing belly fat and lowering hormones responsible for metabolism (hormones). The bad news? You're stuck here! Yet it is possible to reduce these risks by making some lifestyle changes like eating more fiber-rich whole grains combined with fruits/veggies at every meal and finding creative ways to incorporate physical activity in your life.

Also, stress is another contributing factor to visceral fat and lifestyle choices. A study at Yale noted that "We also found that women with greater abdominal fat had more negative moods and higher levels of life stress," said Elissa S. Epel, Ph.D., lead investigator on the study she conducted while atYale's psychology department. "Greater exposure to life stress or psychological vulnerability to stress may explain their enhanced cortisol reactivity. In turn, their cortisol exposure may have led them to accumulate greater abdominal fat." These comments underscore the importance of our mental hygiene and one of the reasons I believe that mental wellness is the foundation of our health."


What's Considered an Unhealthy Amount of Visceral Fat?


According to Dr. Mitchell, "The most accurate way to measure visceral fat is MRIs and CT, but this isn't very realistic to most people due to cost and access. The more straightforward guidelines would be using the body mass index or measuring the waist circumference, as mentioned previously."

Dr. Kim Harris, ND of Prescott Medical Aesthetics adds, "The best indicator of visceral fat is to measure your waistline. For women, having a waistline of 80 cm. or more is a sign of too much visceral fat."


Exercise 30 Minutes a Day

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"Ladies, we have to stay moving through the day and know that every step counts!, Dr. Mitchell  reminds us. "Whether you have to climb the steps in your house or walk circles in your living room, it all adds up! I like to use wearable fitness tracking devices to remind me to stay moving. Thirty minutes a day should be the minimum target, but this amount will vary depending on your age, calorie intake, and other factors."

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Shop Smarter

grocery store shopping

Dr. Mitchell  explains, "When I buy groceries, if I have trouble understanding the ingredient list, chances are, it's not a great choice. At the grocery store, I prefer to fill my cart with whole foods–as in foods where the ingredients are typically 1-3 in total. If you need to have the ingredient list translated, then the food item might not be the ideal choice."

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Be Mindful of Your Risk Factors

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"Be aware of your modifiable risk factors–things that you can change to have a better outcome," says Dr. Mitchell. "Plus, be aware of your family history as this might give you a clue into your possible risk factors. This is a critical discussion to have with your primary health provider."

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Get Stress Under Control

woman stressed at her desk

We all have stress and while there's no way to eliminate it completely, we do have to learn to get it under control Dr. Mitchell states.  "Manage your stress and make your mental health a priority. It is so important to have healthy boundaries with others so that you do not continuously pile up unnecessary responsibilities in your life." 

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