Many people struggle with an overhanging flap of skin down the stomach that resembles the appearance of an apron. This is known as an apron belly, and it can develop as a result of significant weight fluctuations or following childbirth.
While it may be possible to lose fat through diet and exercise, there is no way to get rid of the excess skin except for going under the knife. However, knowing what causes the apron belly is essential in determining the best course of action.
What Is An Apron Belly?
An apron belly is a mass of tissue that hangs down from the stomach like an apron. It can extend from the pubic area to as far as the knees and beyond and cause significant life disruption. It can weigh more than 50 pounds and can develop following significant weight gain or loss (excess skin) and pregnancy. Both men and women can develop apron bellies, and it can cause:
- Skin infections
- Redness and swelling
- Limited mobility
- Difficulty maintaining personal hygiene
According to Harvard Health, 90% of body fat is found in the layer underneath the skin. This is the subcutaneous fat. The other 10% fat is found wrapped around the internal organs and behind the abdominal wall. This is known as visceral fat, which produces chemicals and hormones that are dangerous for the body.
Unfortunately, the fat that forms the apron belly is the visceral fat. It is present in what’s known as an omentum – a tissue present beneath the abdominal muscles and in front of the intestines. As a person gains weight, the omentum swells up with the storage of extra calories. However, according to a study published in PloS One, that can vary depending on the genetics, intrauterine (inside the uterus) environment, or other environmental factors.
Can Abdominal Fat Be Dangerous?
As mentioned above, visceral fat can produce substances that are toxic to the body. It can also cause the following health risks:
According to a study published in Nature Medicine, omentum can provide nutrients to the cells that cause ovarian cancer. Additionally, research has shown an association of visceral fat with colorectal and breast cancer.
Visceral fat in the abdomen is metabolically active. Research has shown that it secretes proteins that can cause inflammation. This, in turn, can cause heart diseases. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), excess fat around the abdomen and organs increases the risk of heart disease, even if the body mass index (BMI) of the patient is in the ideal range.
The metabolism of glucose is not normal in individuals who are overweight. The presence of visceral fat can also cause insulin resistance which is what happens in Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a health risk in obesity. However, one study published in the BMJ suggests that losing weight can result in the reversal of Type 2 diabetes.
How To Hide Apron Belly?
Because the apron belly can cause loss of self-esteem and confidence in many people, they want to hide it by different means. One of the most common ways to hide an apron belly is to wear compression garments. These can give the appearance of a flat stomach and also provide support to your back. Keeping an upright posture can also be helpful.
You can also consider wearing clothes that are loose and flowy like skirts as they can better hide your belly. However, keep in mind that these are usually seen as temporary measures for the management of the apron belly. Eventually, the person has to make some lifestyle changes or undergo surgical or non-surgical procedures to improve the appearance of the hanging belly.
That’s because other than causing aesthetic problems, it can also cause functional problems, as mentioned above. Many people use anti-chafe sticks, powders, and creams to minimise discomfort. And although it can be hard to maintain cleanliness in the area because of the accumulation of sweat and grime, try your best to do so. It can prevent some skin problems.
How To Get Rid of Apron Belly?
There are different things that you can do to get rid of the apron belly. These are as follows:
Exercise & Diet
Here, it is important to remember that spot reduction exercises do not work. So, you shouldn’t specifically perform exercises that only target the abdomen. Also, some kinds of exercises only help in the toning of the abdominal muscles and won’t help you lose fat. So, you need to try out exercises that are for the whole body. This includes:
- Brisk walking
- Stair climbing
Other than that, you can also try doing crunches, twists, squats, lunges, planks, and squats. Also, you need to make sure that you’re moving throughout the day. That means walking while you’re talking to someone on the phone, taking the stairs, taking a walk during lunch break, playing with your pet, etc.
As far as dieting is concerned, you need to cut down on sugary foods and those containing the “bad” fats. It’s important that you make your diet rich in fruits and vegetables as they’re healthier and filling. If the apron belly is resulting from excess calories, dieting and exercise should help you get rid of the visceral fat.
In one study published in the BMJ Open, the waist circumference of 148,731 smokers, non-smokers and former smokers of European ancestry were analysed. The study found that increased smoking resulted in the accumulation of fat in the abdominal region. It was likely to give smokers the “pot belly.” Other researches have also shown that smoking can increase visceral fat in the body. Therefore, when you’re trying to lose weight, it’s best to quit smoking.
Maintain Hormonal Balance
Different hormones affect the body in different ways. Diet and exercise are two ways to maintain hormonal balance. Other than that, it is also important to manage stress as that can make you crave more sugary foods. It’s because the brain’s using more energy, and sugar is the quickest way to provide energy to the body.
One very important thing that you need in order to maintain hormonal balance is adequate sleep. Research published in Sleep shows that people under 40 who sleep less than five hours a night are more likely to accumulate visceral fat. You need to sleep for at least 7 hours every night.
It is a surgery in which changes are made to the digestive system that helps obese people lose weight. It affects the appetite and feeling of fullness. For some people, it might not be easy to perform exercises, especially if the apron belly is limiting their mobility. In that case, the surgeon may recommend this. Together, bariatric surgery and exercise can help in the reduction of visceral fat.
Panniculectomy is an invasive surgery that’s performed to get rid of the abdominal panniculus. In an incision that looks like that of a C-section, the removal of excess fat and skin takes place. Unlike a tummy tuck, there’s no tightening of the underlying muscles in a panniculectomy. Tummy tuck surgery may be needed if the patient also has diastasis recti, which is common in women during or following pregnancy. It’s the only surgery that can repair the two separated muscles that can add to the stomach pouch.
However, if you’re only getting a panniculectomy, your surgeon will require you to be at your ideal weight. Many people get this surgery years or months after bariatric surgery as the hanging skin can cause a lot of problems. Keep in mind that surgery specifically addresses the lower half of the abdomen and not the upper region. It’s usually performed in a couple of hours, and the patient needs stitches afterwards.
Can Liposuction or CoolSculpting Get Rid of Apron Belly?
Liposuction and CoolSculpting are not weight-loss surgeries. They only target subcutaneous fat and help in the removal of stubborn fat pockets from the body. They are usually the ones that you can’t get rid of even with diet or exercise. These fat pockets can prevent you from achieving your desired silhouette, and that’s when liposuction or CoolSculpting can help, although you cannot achieve more dramatic or quick results with the latter.
Keep in mind that the apron belly results either from the deposition of visceral fat in the omentum or the excess skin that’s left behind after significant weight loss. Bariatric surgery or lifestyle changes can help in the reduction of visceral fat. And once you’ve achieved your ideal weight, a panniculectomy can help remove the excess skin that’s forming the apron belly.
The apron belly is the hanging tissue of excess skin and fat that looks like an apron. It can cause both cosmetic and functional issues. People can end up with it as a result of weight gain/loss or pregnancy. If it results from an accumulation of visceral fat, it can cause different health risks. That’s why it’s important to manage this problem through exercise, diet, and lifestyle changes. You may also need surgical interventions to help with that and improve the overall patient outcome.