Body fat, the enemy of so many women, becomes an even more formidable opponent as the years pass. Understand why you need to fight its effects, be aware of its sneaky ways and be ready to fight proactively on a daily basis. It’s time for all out war!
First, know that body fat, or adipose tissue, isn’t inherently evil. Its primary function is to store fat derived from the food we eat as an energy reserve. It also acts as insulation, protecting our bodies from extreme temperatures. Thus, we all need some body fat. It’s when we accumulate too much adipose tissue that unhealthy side effects—not to mention unsightly bulges—begin to show up.
Genetics and hormones govern your body fat deposits. Genes help determine the number of total fat cells you have and where these cells are located. For most women in their childbearing years, estrogen directs the majority of body fat to show up on the hips, butt and thighs. This type of adipose tissue is known as “subcutaneous fat,” or fat that lies under the skin.
For cosmetic procedure fans, subcutaneous fat is also the kind of fat that can be banished with liposuction. The procedure actually removes the fat cells completely, which can be a very attractive notion if you have extra troublesome areas like saddlebags or fat inner knees.
According to experts at Harvard Medical School, as you approach menopause your estrogen levels decrease and the ratio of male hormones in your body increases. Studies have shown that this change influences the buildup of fat that’s a much greater risk to your health: visceral fat. Also called abdominal fat and belly fat, visceral fat lives inside the abdominal cavity, surrounding and even invading vital organs. Visceral fat can contribute to several life-threatening conditions including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and stroke.
Visceral fat is a dangerous foe in another way too: it’s not necessarily easy to spot. Those with the classic “beer belly,” a tummy that’s rounded and firm, almost certainly have significant visceral fat. Visceral fat can hide in your abdomen even if you’re at or near your normal weight and it can’t be liposuctioned away.