Do you remember the fruity body shape descriptions of an “apple” or a “pear”?  The apple is more round around the middle and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.

Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases)?

The apple shape.

And it’s not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that you may refer to as a “muffin top”.  The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs. This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that’s where a lot of the problem actually is. It’s this “un-pinchable” fat. 

The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure. The apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.

So, the reality is, where your fat is stored is just as (if not more) important as how much you weigh.

Am I an apple or a pear?

It’s pretty simple to find out if you’re in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape. (You can do it right now).

Women, if your waist is 35” or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category.  Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.

For men the number is 40”.

Of course, this isn’t a diagnostic tool.  There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases; waist circumference is just one of them. (If you have concerns definitely see your doctor.)

Tips for helping reduce some belly fat:

●      Eat more fiber.  Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways: it helps you feel full and also helps to reduce the amount of calories you absorb from your food. We think you’ll give two thumbs up to the high-fiber side dish recipe at the end of this newsletter! Some examples of high-fiber foods are brussels sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, blackberries and …apples. 🙂

●      Add more protein to your day.  Protein reduces your appetite and makes you feel fuller longer.  It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food), meaning it burns more calories simply digesting than compared to fats and carbs, and ensures you have enough of the amino acid building blocks for your muscles. We typically recommend one palm-sized protein source for women and two for men each meal. Fish and lean meats like chicken, lean cuts of beef, turkey, lamb, and venison as well as plant-based sources like beans are great options for that palm-sized portion(s).

●      Nix added sugars. This means ditch the processed sweetened foods especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice). Try to limit snacks and focus on more high-quality, filling real-food meals instead.

●      Move more.  Go for a stroll.  Lift some weights (added benefit: it’s pretty empowering to lift heavy stuff).  Play.  It all adds up.

●      Stress less.  A big deal! Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat. Try this 4-7-8 breathing drill a few times a day as a way to decrease “fight or flight” and shift to “rest and digest”.

●      Get more sleep.  Try making this a priority and see how much better you feel (and look). In case you missed it, last week’s Tuesday / Tip contained some helpful info on more restorative sleep.

If internal belly fat is a problem for you, what’s one thing you’ll focus on for the next few weeks in order to move toward better health? We’re cheering you on! 


PS – we have a pretty cool tool in the gym used to measure body fat. The Inbody Machine is a unique bioelectrical impedance scale and is top-of-the-line in the industry when it comes to body composition analysis (aka: how much of your weight is comprised of muscle(good!) vs fat (not-so-good!). It’s not as scary as it sounds :), is totally non-invasive, and can be really informative (and even encouraging!).

Call or email today to set up an Inbody test ($40 for non-members) and we’ll walk you through your results + some options to improve them: (616) 990-5797 / [email protected].

Recipe (High fiber side dish):
Garlic Lemon Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4

  • 1 lb brussel sprouts (washed, ends removed, halved)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • dash salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a bowl toss sprouts with garlic, oil, and lemon juice.  Spread on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for about 15 minutes.  Toss.

Bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve and Enjoy!

Tip:  Brussel sprouts contain the fat-soluble bone-loving vitamin K.  Gobble ’em up!

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