What I Learned About My Visceral Fat

This past weekend I attended the excellent Remedy Food Conference put on at the Sonesta Hotel in Hilton Head, South Carolina. It was a well attended event, and it was so wonderful to see a number of my readers at the event. We came together to hear some really great speakers on whole food, plant-based eating. Just a few of the many great speakers we heard from were Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Thomas M. Campbell, Dr. Doug Lisle, Dr. Ron Weiss, Dr. Steve Lawenda, Chef AJ, John Pierre, Matt Frazier, Lindsay Nixon (aka The Happy Herbivore), Kathy Hester and several more.

Not only was the conference really worthwhile, but I learned from other attendees as well. In particular, one person who I talked to during one of the meals had been to see Dr. Ron Weiss. At the time, she was overweight by more than 100 pounds and having a number of medical issues. Dr. Weiss immediately put her on a strict dietary regimen of eating at least a pound of powerhouse leafy greens every day and up to three starches of her choosing each day. She did this for the first thirty days and then he began adding other foods back into her diet. Needless to say, she did in fact lose over a hundred pounds and she regained her health back.

But one of the other things she told me was that Dr. Weiss had her order an Omron Body Composition Monitor and Scale. She did so on Amazon and by doing so was able to begin monitoring her BMI (not just her weight), her body fat percentage, her skeletal muscle percentage, her resting metabolism, her body age and her visceral fat level. I was interested in this because while I know that my body weight is in the Normal range, and by extension my BMI is in the normal range, for my height, I knew nothing about my visceral fat or my skeletal muscles. So, between talking to her and going into the next session, I ordered one of those Omron gadgets from Amazon.

And now I have it, and now I have my figures. There was a lot of good news in my initial measurements. For example, it determined my body age to be 62. While that's not as good as the 43 year old measurement I got from my telomeres measurement, it's still well below my calendar age of being just shy of 71. My skeletal muscle measurement was in the middle of the normal range, which I was happy with, and my overall body fat percentage was at the low end of the normal range, which I was really happy with.

Unfortunately, overall body fat is not as important as visceral fat. Sumo wrestlers have a lot of body fat but very little visceral fat. Consequently, even though they have that high body fat, they don't tend to get diabetes, heart disease and other ailments that many in the western cultures get. Visceral fat, on the other hand, is the fat that we don't see. It's the fat that is around our organs and can lead to failure of the organs. It's why we might sometimes see a thin person who appears healthy suddenly drop dead from a heart attack. The person was thin, but hidden within them was oftentimes a high level of visceral fat.

So, what did I learn from my initial measurements? Unfortunately, I learned that my visceral fat is outside the normal range. Not by much, but it's still high. The normal range is a level of 9% or lower. Mine was 10%. 10% to 14% is considered high and greater than 15% is considered very high.

So, even though, I have been eating whole food, plant-based for over four years now, and I've lost 150 pounds and gotten off of all prescription medicines and feel really great and healthy, I see that I have some work yet to do to bring my visceral fat level down. I consider that so important because of the dangers that visceral fat presents to us. And I don't really have very far to go to get into the normal range. I credit the fact that I have been eating whole food, plant-based for the last four years with the fact that I am that close to normal when it comes to visceral fat. But still, I do want to get down into the normal range and hopefully well below that 9% level.

So, how to do that given the fact that I'm already WFPB and already exercising quite a bit? Well, to start with, in checking online, I've learned that I may need to change my exercising. And in fact, I already had without realizing what I was doing. It seems that my brisk 3 mile walks every day weren't doing much for my visceral fat. But if I do interval training, I can do a lot for my visceral fat. Interval training is alternating intense levels of exercise with less intense levels. For example, instead of walking at the same pace all the time, I would get more benefit by walking at an intensely brisk pace for several minutes and then walking at a slow pace for several minutes and then back to a brisk pace and so on.

As luck would have it, I coincidentally started training for participating in 5K races about five weeks ago and the training program I follow alternates periods of more intense running with more restful periods of walking. In fact, that's a strategy for performing in the 5K itself, which I've learned and already witnessed myself, improves a runner's time over continuous running. So, I will keep that up and watch what happens with my visceral fat levels.

Aerobic exercise in general does not seem to help with visceral fat, but anaerobic exercise like weight training can. I've been doing yoga, but that's not considered an anaerobic exercise. So, I may need to find myself back in the gym working with weights to get in more anaerobic exercises.

When it comes to food choices, it appears that soluble fiber can also reduce visceral fat. And I'm in good shape there. My food choices are the right ones. Beans and oatmeal are two big foods that are high in soluble fiber. So, is grapefruit, which I eat a whole grapefruit every day. A couple of fats that surprised me as being high in soluble fiber are flaxseeds and chia seeds. It seems like the more I learn about flaxseeds and chia seeds, the more beneficial I find them to be. And eating them may be one case where the fat you eat is not the fat you wear. Instead, in their case, the fat you eat may be the fat you shed. I always put ground flaxseeds on my oatmeal in the morning, but now I've decided to also add it to my salads each day as well.

But overall, my diet is right on and it probably has brought my visceral fat levels down from what were likely higher levels in the past. I think, for me, I need to focus more on the exercise I'm getting at this point.

I'm really happy about running into that person, who for privacy purposes will remain anonymous here, at the Remedy Food Conference. Not only was she an inspiration, but her mention of the Omron Body Composition Monitor and Scale may have been one more lifesaver for me. I now know those numbers that I didn't know before. And I now know that I still have some work to do despite the marvelous results that I've already seen.

J. Lanning Smith
November 15, 2017