Our internal organs can be a temperamental beast, upset even by the slightest of provocations. In such cases, discerning the difference between fat and bloating can be the trickiest investigation you may have to undertake in your entire life. Add water retention, or oedema, into the mix and your mind is left completely boggled. Of course, none of this helps at all whenever you’re trying to get an accurate reading of your body fat percentage. Did you really regain fat you swore you only just managed to trim from your waistline? Or is it simply a symptom of your last meal? Read on to get a better grasp of your belly.
Get Into The Belly Of The Beast: Bloating vs Oedema vs Fat
Distinguishing among these three has to start right at the beginning — understanding what they are. There’s no way you can get even close to identifying the bulge around your waist without knowing anything. You need to know your enemy, just as an assassin would study a dossier with details on their target. Let’s get right down to it, beginning with good old bloating.
Bloating: The Gastrointestinal Distention
A common misconception behind bloating is its alleged interchangeability with water retention. Unless we’re talking about the abdominal distention that happens when you’ve had way too much water to drink, bloating can be summed up in two words: intestinal gas. This is basically your digestive system’s way of protesting whatever you’ve just put into it. Alternatively, it can also be whatever you’re not actually consuming enough of.
Oedema: Actual Water Retention
Also known as ascites, stomach oedema is the only kind of abdominal distention that you could describe as water retention. It happens whenever there’s an accumulation of fluid in the tissues found in your abdominal cavity. Where bloating is usually more manageable once you figure out your diet, oedema can mean that there’s something wrong with your major organs. Of course, this may not always be the case. Other causes behind oedema include hormonal shifts — the kind that is more prevalent among women suffering from premenstrual syndrome.
Belly Fat: The One You’re Looking For
Also known as visceral fat, this is the kind of distention that happens from consuming more calories than burning them. The most obvious identifier when it comes to belly fat: it will not cause your abdomen to expand throughout the day. Additionally, while bloating tends to dissipate as the day passes, belly fat sticks with you much longer.
Step 1: Feel And See The Difference
Now comes the actual detective work. First, you need to wait until you wake up in the morning for this to allow your body to return to a fasted state. That is, you need to wait until all the food you’ve consumed has fully exited your stomach. Look at yourself in the mirror when you wake up. If your abdomen looks much smaller than it did before you slept, it’s most likely bloating.
Step 2: Check Your Bowel Movements And Rule Out Your Diet
The next thing you should do is consider your bowel movements. Have you been neglecting your daily intake of fibre and water on top of slacking on exercise lately? Anything missing from this combination may lead to constipation, yet another common cause behind bloating. A healthy adult needs to eat plenty of fibre, easily found in food such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts. This needs to go hand in hand with plenty of water as well as sufficient exercise.
Your digestive system may also simply disagree with something you’ve been consuming. In other words, you’ve got at least one food allergy or intolerance you may not know about. These may cause intestinal gas and bloating that can feel quite uncomfortable. Do try to steer clear of self-diagnosis, though. Play it safe and talk to a doctor about sitting for an allergy test.
Step 3: Ladies, Check Your Calendars
Healthy women usually have regular menstrual cycles, making it easier to rule out if the increase in belly size is just abdominal distention from hormonal shifts. If your cycles are a little irregular, wait and check if the red wave comes along in the next few days just to be sure. Women sometimes have to deal with this inconvenience due to an increase in oestrogen and progesterone as their menstrual cycle progresses. This may lead to oedema, which usually spreads throughout the body, but can be more noticeable around your waist.
Step 4: Double Check With Your Doctor
When in doubt, never hesitate to consult your doctor. With the more obvious cases, you may be able to easily pinpoint the differences and react accordingly. But if the distention persists no matter what you do, it’s best to talk to a medical professional. They will be able to examine you personally and determine if your waistline is purely visceral fat, bloating, or oedema. Only then will you finally be able to track your weight-loss progress in peace.