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Understanding Male Fat Patterns 

In last month's column, I discussed the classic and reverse female fat patterns and what can be done to address the health implications of each. In this column, I will do likewise with classic male fat patterns.

In my new book, The Fat-Burning Bible: 28 Days of Foods, Supplements and Workouts that Help You Lose Weight, I discuss these conditions in depth. Next month, in wrapping up this three-part series, I will offer some helpful advice from the book, which is scheduled for publication in January 2005.

The classic male fat pattern is an android or apple shape: a concentration of excess body fat in the abdominal region. This condition often occurs in middle age when the body's metabolic rate begins to slow down, but it can occur even sooner than that. Often referred to as a "beer belly" or "love handles," excess abdominal fat may accumulate as a result of two primary factors -- overindulging in the consumption of excess calories and a lack of sufficient exercise.

Several years ago, I devoted an entire book to this subject. It was titled Lose Your Love Handles: A 3-Step Program to Streamline Your Waist in 30 Days (Perigee Books: 2001). This is a serious problem worthy of being the subject of an entire book. Excessive abdominal fat in men is a potentially dangerous condition that, if not corrected, predisposes men to such health risks as type 2 diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiovascular (heart) disease and erectile dysfunction.

Waist measurement in a man is one of the most accurate indicators of how much at risk he is for any or all of the ailments mentioned above. A waist measurement of 40 inches or more in circumference may certainly put a man in that high-risk category. Men with waistlines of more than 40 inches may also be at risk for a condition known as Metabolic Syndrome X. This is a cluster of symptoms that may include elevated levels of triglycerides and fasting blood glucose, a low level of HDL (good) cholesterol, and elevated blood pressure measurements.

Many men rationalize that their "beer belly" is a genetic condition that "runs in the family" and they feel certain there is nothing they can do about it. However, despite scientific findings that tend to confirm a genetic connection in some cases, this predisposition doesn't automatically spell problems. Men in this situation may have a propensity to develop excess abdominal fat but, if they eat the right type and balance of foods and exercise regularly, they can reduce their waist measurements and their scale weights to acceptable levels.

In the male reverse fat pattern, excess fat may accumulate in the hips and buttocks. By the time this begins happening, the waistline may measure 50 inches or more. At that point, the man is considered to be "morbidly obese." It is much more difficult for him to mobilize fat from these parts of the body than from the abdominal region. If not corrected, this excess fat can result in decreased strength, sleep disorders and chronic exhaustion, as well as the potential for hormonal changes.

In my comprehensive weight management program at Elmwood Fitness Center, a division of the Ochsner Clinic Foundation, we have worked with a number of men who have both the classic and reverse male fat patterns. Through a regimen of proper eating, regular exercise and motivation training, we have helped them to lose both excess weight and inches.

Many of these overweight men were consuming far too many high-calorie foods while adopting a sedentary lifestyle. These clients are placed on my Metabolic Fitness and Nutrition Program, which effectively increases their metabolic rate (calories burned at rest and during exercise) and helps to normalize their respective fat pattern.

Few of us -- men or women -- are foreordained to be overweight because of genetic or other factors. Armed with an awareness of the various fat patterns and their inherent consequences, we can take back ownership of our health.

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