By Akin Ojumu

Everybody fears something. For some, it’s the fear of height (i.e., acrophobia). Others are petrified of flying (i.e., aerophobia). There are those who would crouch under the bed whenever they hear lightning and thunder (i.e., astraphobia). I have seen people faint at the mere sight of blood (i.e., hemophobia). Some of my friends, I won’t mention their names, shiver and sweat when they see roaches squirreling into hiding (i.e., katsaridaphobia). And there are also some people who cant stand being left alone (i.e., monophobia).

Potbelly. Beer belly. Spare tire. Love handles. Muffin top. Call it what you want, but excessive fat around the waistline is one of the things that send cold shivers down my spine. Yours truly has a phobia for protruded tummies. An inch of gain in my abdominal girth sends me into an apoplectic fit. I’m terrified whenever I see my tummy bulging from underneath my shirt. For me, it’s an ugly sight that I cannot tolerate. In response, I beat myself up to flatten it down.

Now, that’s me and it’s the way I see it. Notwithstanding, I do understand that some of you all reading this may not share that view. In fact, among my Nigerian kinsfolk, excessive belly fat is viewed rather favorably. Within the milieu of the culture in which I was raised, a man with excessive belly fat is a man living the dream. A pot-bellied man is regarded as someone who knows how to “chop life.”

Unfortunately, my people’s beliefs about potbellies and sound health dont mesh well. Contrary to the cultural paradigm of my kinsfolk, belly fat is everything but a sign of good living. Its not “chopping life” to lug around the excess load of protruded tummies. In actual fact, potbellies may cut down life by as much as half.

As we age and mature in years, our waistline becomes a lifeline. Whereas one could potentially afford to accumulate fat in the arm, butt, and hip, and still remain perfectly healthy, not so much with excess visceral fat. Potbelly is harmful to ones health. It’s associated with all kinds of chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cancer, dementia, kidney disease, sleep apnea and other respiratory disorders, etc.

If you are a woman and your waistline is more than 35 inches (89 centimeters) or you are a man and yours is more than 40 inches (102 centimeters), your waistline is flashing the health-in-danger signal. A mere 12.5 cm increase in waist circumference is associated with more than 1.5‐fold increased risk of coronary heart disease. In healthy, nonsmoking women, every 2 inches of additional waist size raises the risk for cardiovascular disease by 10%.

And guess what? Even if your overall body weight is in the normal range, carrying excess fat in your belly brings a greater risk for developing heart disease, according to the American Heart Association (AHA) in a statement published online April 22, 2021, by Circulation.

So, what’s the solution?

Well, while I won’t recommend that everyone shares in my potbelly phobia. Nonetheless, if you have beer belly, you’ve got to do something about it, and quickly. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme or melodramatic. Even a small weight loss (between 5 and 10 percent of your current weight) will help melt the fat around your waistline and will lower your risk of developing the aforementioned diseases.

For starters, cut down on the bokoto, shaki, and ogufe. Tell your wife, or housegirl, to reduce the size of the eba and amala she serves you. Levelling the pounded yam mountain to a more manageable size will do you a lot of good. Second helpings must be a no no. From this day forward, no more Trophy, Star Lager, Gulder, Goldberg, and Heineken. The late-night munching and snacks have got to go. Next time you are at the joint, make sure to ask Mama Put to put some veggies in your order.

Regular exercise is a must. Taking at least 5,000 steps on a daily basis goes a long way to burning up the fat accumulated in your tummy. For folks who are up to the task, 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking, swimming, jogging, or high-energy workouts, on a consistent basis will increase the ratio of your lean body mass (like muscle) to fatty body mass.

Do all of these things and you shall prolong your days. A long and good quality life await those who abide by these recommendations.

See you on the walking trail!


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