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If you’re trying to shed some pounds, you probably think that fat is fat – that it’s all the same. But there are actually different types of body fat. Some are good for you… others aren’t. It’s important you know the differences so you can stay your healthiest.

Here’s some information on the six types of body fat, so you can make the best-informed weight management decisions possible:

1. Brown Fat

Brown fat is, in fact, brownish in color. It’s one of the “good” types of body fat, in that it burns energy rather than stores it, which can help in weight loss.1 Since this type of fat has only recently been researched, it’s not fully known how your body can take advantage of brown fat in order to promote weight loss. But it appears that this type of fat, which is typically located near the collarbone and neck area, is more prevalent in lean people than others.2

2. White Fat

Body Fat | LCR HealthUnlike brown fat, white fat stores energy but does not burn it. Of all the different types of body fat, white fat is the most plentiful. White fat cells are white because they lack fat-burning mechanisms known as mitochondria. On a side note, brown fat is packed with mitochondria, which is why it is brown in color.3

If you are struggling with unwanted weight gain, white fat is the biggest culprit. With that being said, it still has some beneficial properties. One of the most important is providing cushioning for our bones and organs.4

An overabundance of white fat can cause problems. For example, excess white fat can also lead to an excessive amount of a hormone known as leptin. This is the hormone that makes you feel full after you eat. But if your body has too much white fat, it’s less sensitive to leptin. As a result, you’ll feel hungrier more often and be more susceptible to overeating.5

3. Essential Fat

As the name implies, essential fat is a type of body fat you need in order to live. Essential fat is found throughout your body, including in the nerves and bone marrow. It also covers the membranes that keep your organs from rubbing up against one another.6

It’s extremely important that your weight loss program doesn’t cost you too much of your essential fat. However, many people go through extreme exercise and dieting regimens in an effort to cut their percentage of body fat. This can lead to several problems, including dangerous hormonal fluctuations.7

Your ideal fat percentage depends on your gender. For men, on average, it’s between 15-20 percent. For women, it’s 20-25 percent. If you fall below this level, you could be at the risk of developing health issues.8

4. Visceral Fat

Body Fat | LCR HealthVisceral fat is commonly referred to as “belly fat.” In a nutshell, it’s white fat that is located in the abdominal cavity as well as several organs. These include the heart, pancreas, intestines, and liver. This is one of the more harmful fats, and if you have too much of it, your health might be in jeopardy.

For example, visceral fat has been shown to secrete a protein that increases insulin resistance, increasing the chances of developing illnesses associated with high blood sugar levels.9 It has also been linked to cardiovascular issues and other problems.10

If you’re battling a weight problem, there’s a very good chance that visceral fat is the main reason.

There are a couple of measurements you can perform to see if you have too much visceral fat. The first is to take measurements of your hips and waist. Then divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. According to the World Health Organization, men should have a ratio of no more than 0.9, while women should have a measurement of no more than 0.85.11

The other way you can measure your amount of visceral fat is to simply find your waist circumference. If you’re a man and if it’s 40 inches or more, that’s too high, and you likely have visceral fat. For women, the number is 35 inches or more.12

How can you reduce visceral fat? Consuming a lot of unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, and whole grains could help reduce the amount of this dangerous form of fat.13 In addition, studies show that working out with weights may do a better job of reducing visceral fat than focusing on cardio exercises.14

Body Fat | LCR Health5. Beige Fat

Beige fat is a cross between brown fat and white fat. Some researchers believe that if you can turn white fat into beige fat, you can lose weight.15 Exercise is one way of doing this, thanks to proteins that your muscles secrete while you work out.16

6. Subcutaneous Fat

Subcutaneous fat is just a catch-all phrase that includes beige, brown, and white fat. It makes up about 90 percent of all the fat in your body. If you have too much subcutaneous fat, you’ll want to cut out empty calories and refined carbohydrates. And, of course, in addition to your diet, you’ll need to exercise regularly.17

Body Fat and BMI

When determining how much body fat you have, you’ll likely come across the term “BMI,” or body mass index. BMI is a way of finding out important information about your body composition. Essentially, it’s a measure of your weight with respect to your height. In order to get your BMI, first measure your height in inches and then square that number. Then, divide your weight by the squared number and multiply that by 703.18

Here’s an example to make it easier:

Height: 5 feet, 8 inches tall (68 inches)
Weight: 175 pounds

1. Multiply 68 by 68 = 4,624
2. Divide 175 by 4,624 = 0.037846
3. Multiply the result of Step 2 by 703 = 26.6

This person’s BMI is 26.6

Body Fat | LCR HealthThe ideal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. If it is between 25 and 29.9, that means the person is overweight. If the number is more than 30, that indicates obesity.19

But is BMI always accurate? It may not be. For example, someone who is muscular (like an athlete) could have a BMI that suggests they’re obese, even though they’re completely fit. It’s also possible that someone’s BMI will fall into the “normal” category, even though they have too much fat compared to muscle.20



Safely Starting a Weight Loss Program

You should never rely on BMI alone to get the whole picture of your health, or when you’re putting together a weight loss plan. Talk to your doctor first to make sure your program is as safe as possible.

Before starting your program, you should set a realistic goal. You and your doctor can determine the best weight for your body type. One of the safest and most reliable ways to shed pounds is to limit your intake of calories.

Cutting back just 500 calories a day could help you lose as much as two pounds per week.

After six months, that can lead to a weight loss of more than 50 pounds. Eating healthy foods such as grains, vegetables, and fruits can help keep you full and reduce the chances that you’ll overeat.21

Body Fat | LCR HealthYour doctor will more than likely recommend that you start some sort of exercise program as well. Again, keep your goals realistic. You’re not going to immediately start running three miles a day if you haven’t worked out in a long time. But you should be able to walk three days a week for about 15 minutes a day.

One of the most important things to remember as your program moves along is to not be discouraged if you run into setbacks. You might stray from your plan during the holidays, or if you’re experiencing some sort of major change in your life. If you do have a setback, commit yourself to get back to your program as soon as you can.22

The Bottom Line

As you can see, not all types of fat are the same, and not every weight loss plan is the same. It’s important that you take your time, talk to your doctor, and get all the information you can before you make any sort of changes to your dietary or workout routines. A great exercise plan, combined with a healthy diet, can help you ditch the “bad” fat and boost your overall health!

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