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Belly Fat: Is It Harmful to Your Health?

By Elisa - Jenny Craig

It’s the subject of many magazine articles on how to blast it away, but what is “belly fat” and why is having too much of it bad for you? Find out why holding extra weight in your mid-section can be detrimental to your health, and some simple ways you can reduce it.

What is “Belly Fat” and How Does It Impact Your Health?

While the term “fat” can seem to have a negative connotation, fat cells are an essential part of life. Your body needs fat to sustain its normal activities and stores two different kinds of fat. Subcutaneous fat is stored right beneath the skin and isn’t considered dangerous to one’s health. However, the other type of fat, called visceral fat, and sometimes referred to as “belly fat,” is stored in your abdominal area and surrounds your organs, like the pancreas, kidneys and liver. Unlike subcutaneous fat, which you can pinch, visceral fat lies deep within the body. You need some of it to protect your organs, but too much of it can be dangerous by putting pressure on your organs.1


Visceral fat also secretes chemicals called cortisol and cytokines. Cytokines can lead to inflammation, which can lead to heart disease, fatty liver, arthritis, hypertension and cognitive decline.2 Cortisol, otherwise known as the “stress hormone,” increases visceral fat and insulin resistance, which makes it more difficult to lose weight and may lead to diabetes over time.3


Because we can’t choose where our body stores extra pounds (wouldn’t that be nice!), it’s important to notice where you may be prone to holding extra weight and if it does happen to be in your mid-section, finding safe and healthy ways to reduce it


Luckily, there are simple steps you can incorporate into your daily routine to help reduce visceral fat. Here are six ideas that you can easily try:


1. Consume more calories when your metabolism is working its hardest.

BellyFat_EatEarly.jpgThe body is primed to digest and process food more efficiently during the day, but not as well at night. As a result, our bodies metabolize at a higher rate in the morning and afternoon, and slower at nighttime. Try to balance your days so that you are consuming a higher amount of calories in the morning and afternoon and fewer calories in the evening.


Another tip: try keeping your meals within a 12-hour time frame so your body can use the fuel you’ve provided it as efficiently as possible during the day and have a 12-hour rest period at night. A remarkable impact of the 12-hour rest period is that body fat, especially belly fat, decreases. Jenny Craig’s newest program, Rapid Results, includes a menu plan so can take maximum advantage of your body’s natural fat-burning ability, so you can lose weight faster.


2. Allow your body to rest.

Studies have shown that the body burns fat, especially visceral or “belly” fat, when you abstain from eating for at least 12 hours.4 By finishing up your last meal of the day at a decent hour and getting a full night’s rest, you let your body’s cells take a break from digestion and repair from all of their hard work during the day. By following your body’s natural circadian rhythm and eating when your metabolism is revved, followed by taking that 12-hour “rest” from eating, you can reap health benefits beyond just weight loss, such as better mood, improved immune function, preservation of muscle mass, as well as decreased risk for dementia.5 Jenny Craig’s newest program, Rapid Results, was based on this innovative science and includes a 12-hour “rejuvenation” period to allow your metabolism to burn the most calories.

3. Get enough sleep.

Consistently getting enough sleep produces many health benefits, including improved weight loss, less fat storage and better hunger and craving control.6 Try aiming for 7-9 hours per night.


4. Cut back on added sugar.BellyFat_CheckforAddedSugar.jpg

When you consume sugar, your body transforms it into glucose, which helps fuel your activities. When there is an excess amount of sugar consumed, the body turns the glucose into fat that can potentially be stored in your mid-section.7 While everything in moderation is always a great guideline, make sure to keep your portions in check and avoid adding additional sugars to your food or beverages.   

5. Pay attention to portion sizes.

Consider your portion sizes at each meal and snack. Reducing the number of calories you’re digesting at every meal, even if it’s just by a small amount, can add up quickly and aid in weight loss and an overall reduction in fat.8


6. Get moving.BellyFat_Workout.jpg

Movement is important for so many things—it helps with building stronger joints, supporting blood flow and encouraging weight loss. Aerobic exercises, like walking, have been especially linked to losing visceral fat.9


Are you ready to take the next step? Jenny Craig’s newest program, Rapid Results™, can help you reach your health and wellness goals. With the support of a Jenny Craig personal consultant and a menu plan that takes into account not only what you eat, but when, we’ll set you on the right path so your body is working optimally with your natural circadian rhythm to lose weight10 more efficiently. Contact us to make your free appointment today.





[1] https://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/features/the-risks-of-belly-fat#1

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4013623/

[3] https://www.nature.com/articles/srep18495

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3511220/

[5] Longo, Valter D., and Satchidananda Panda. “Fasting, Circadian Rhythms, and Time-Restricted Feeding in Healthy Lifespan.” Cell Metabolism, vol. 23, no. 6, 14 June 2016, pp. 1048–1059.,

[6] http://time.com/4757521/sleep-yourself-slim/

[7] https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/04/20/so-this-is-exactly-how-sugar-makes-us-fat_a_22046969/

[8] https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/belly-fat/art-20045809?pg=2

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0024250/

[10] Longo, Valter D., and Satchidananda Panda. “Fasting, Circadian Rhythms, and Time-Restricted Feeding in Healthy Lifespan.” Cell Metabolism, vol. 23, no. 6, 14 June 2016, pp. 1048–1059., doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2016.06.001.


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