Visceral fat refers to what we commonly call the “gut.” (Photo:, Flickr)

The most frequent and common health goal is, of course, losing excess fat, right? Nearly everyone has more than enough fat stored in their bodies, and combating obesity and lowering our body fat percentages are constant struggles. It’s one of those things we’re never done with. We’ve all had ups and downs, weight loss and weight gain—but in order to succeed at losing fat and continue succeeding, it’s important to stay on top of the latest health research on fat loss.

Here’s some info I found helpful recently, and I hope you do, too.

“Fat but fit” research

I’ve written before about why the debate about “fat but fit” is such a complicated issue. There can be clear answers for you or me personally, but our answers aren’t necessarily the same ones a doctor would give to any of our friends. It’s a struggle that is unique to each of us.

So a new article exploring the idea caught my attention because of its thoroughness. According to the article in Science Daily, “Carrying extra weight could raise your risk of heart attack by more than a quarter, even if you are otherwise healthy.”

This study is important because it is the largest study of its kind to date, involving half a million people in 10 European countries. It also involved a follow-up period of more than 12 years. The researchers noted that storing too much fat resulted in significant metabolic changes, including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar and altered cholesterol levels.

“Our findings suggest that if a patient is overweight or obese, all efforts should be made to help them get back to a healthy weight, regardless of other factors,” lead author Dr. Camille Lassale said. “Even if their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol appear within the normal range, excess weight is still a risk factor.”

How do we fight back?
As I said in my recent article discussing this issue, it’s theoretically possible to be overweight and in physical shape. That’s better than being overweight and out of shape, but it’s still not ideal. Complicated, I know. So let’s look at the specific kind of fat that is our No. 1 enemy: visceral fat.

What exactly is visceral fat? It’s usually called belly fat, or “gut.” It’s body fat that’s stored in our abdominal cavities, meaning it’s located in and around the gut. Part of what makes this kind of fat so dangerous is that it’s pushed up against our bodies’ organs. This can cause inflammation or disruption of our bodies’ normal processes, such as metabolic function and blood sugar. These changes can cause fluctuations in our blood sugar and negatively affect our sleep quality, moods, energy levels and food cravings. It’s not the sort of problem that goes away quickly or easily. In fact, regulating blood sugar properly may just be the most important aspect of maintaining our health.

Get your mind right
I know I’ve talked about this a lot, but something we all have to remember is the mental aspect of weight loss—especially since 90 percent of Americans forget to even consider it! We have to be in the right frame of mind if we want to lose weight, because doing so requires commitment. It requires us to feel good about ourselves, because if we’re consumed by stress and anxiety, we’re almost always going to turn to food to solve our problems. So before you set out to lose visceral fat, make sure you’ve set yourself up for success and not failure.

The most effective strategies for losing visceral fat
There are ongoing debates about how important diet is compared to exercise if you want to lose the most fat, but there’s no debating this: When done correctly, the best course of action is always going to be doing them together. Research suggests “aerobic training of moderate or high intensity has the highest potential to reduce visceral adipose tissues [fat] in overweight males and females.” That’s not to say there aren’t other effective options, but moderate or high intensity is your best option if you’re really interested in burning that visceral fat as quickly as possible.

Examples of moderate and high-intensity exercise
The recommended amount of exercise is at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of high-intensity exercise. Moderate exercise includes walking briskly, water aerobics, bicycling under 10 mph, ballroom dancing and general gardening. Vigorous exercise includes jogging, swimming laps, tennis, aerobic dancing, bicycling over 10 mph, jumping rope and uphill hiking.

These activities, mixed with a proper diet, will help you begin to lose visceral fat, as long as you remain committed to them.

New ways to measure
Since BMI isn’t the most effective way to measure body fat, I want to mention a Healthline article that explains a new, simpler way to help us know if we’re “overfat,” i.e., carrying too much visceral fat. Take your height in inches and measure your waist at navel level (around your belly button). If your waist measurement is more than half your height, you are overfat.

Is this method perfect? No, probably not, but it’s another tool you can use to reach your goals.

Jay McKenzie loves soccer, history and feeling great. He’s on a quest to eat better and exercise more, and he wants to share his experiences along the way. You can email him at [email protected] with comments or questions. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.