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What is Truncal Obesity?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Truncal obesity refers to a condition in which one has a body mass index of 30 or more and in which the fat is primarily stored around the trunk of the body. It is also sometimes called abdominal obesity. Those who have this type of obesity are more likely to suffer from serious health conditions than those who carry most of their weight in the hips, thighs, or arms.

Although any amount of excess weight can lead to health problems, those with truncal obesity are at a much higher risk than others. Fat which accumulates around the midsection is within close proximity to the body’s internal organs and can cause fat to build up around them. It also increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, and the extra weight in the stomach can cause back strain.

Some people are more prone to gain weight around the middle than others. Women are often more likely to be overweight in general because hormonal factors play a part in weight gain and appetite. Anyone can suffer from truncal obesity, however the location in which one primarily gains weight is often a product of genetics. Some individuals are more likely to gain weight in the hips or thighs than in the stomach.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not possible to burn fat from one location at a time. Doing sit-ups or crunches will help build muscle in the abdomen, but will not target fat loss to that area. In order to lose weight from the stomach it is important to do cardiovascular exercises combined with strength training. The added muscle mass from doing crunches will help burn fat faster, but this fat will be burned from all over the body rather than in the stomach alone.

The most common cause of truncal obesity is eating too many heavily processed or high fat foods and a lack of physical activity. Occasionally hormonal disorders can lead to weight gain, but this is an uncommon cause of obesity. Eating fewer calories than one expends is the best way of combating truncal obesity, although diet aids and medications can be used in severe situations. Surgery, such as gastric bypass, is also used to help those who are morbidly obese lose weight.

Truncal obesity is highly preventable. Eating fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, and avoiding processed foods are the best ways of maintaining a healthy weight. Those who need help with planning and sticking to a healthy eating plan should speak with a registered dietitian or nutritionist.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1001066 — On Feb 26, 2019

I have always enjoyed a concave abdomen, never having any belly fat until being diagnosed three years ago with hyperthyroid. I noticed very soon after being put on methimazole that I was developing a small but noticeable gain in my abdomen. This has steadily grown, with doctors only telling me to just lose weight - what?

By Moldova — On Aug 13, 2011

@Oasis11 -Wow what an inspirational story. I have lost weight off my midsection but I think that you really have to do high impact exercises in order to lose weight all over. I jump rope in sets. I do about six sets of 250 jumps and after that I am beat.

I am noticing a difference in my body and have also noticed that my midsection is shrinking. I also changed my diet considerably which helps. I think that if I continued to eat like I used to and exercised, I don’t think that I would have had such a dramatic change in my midsection as I see now.

I started jumping rope for five minutes a day and gradually built up my time. If I can do it, I think that anybody can.

By oasis11 — On Aug 13, 2011

@SauteePan - I think that exercising everyday is important. I had a friend that was 5’5” and weighed 248 pounds. She never worked out a day in her life, but one day she decided that she could not take the back pain as well as fatigue that she felt as a result of her weight.

She started walking around her apartment for five minutes and then built up her time to walk outside. Eventually she progressed to the point that she started jogging and then running. She lost 85 pounds and is now doing 10K races.

I think that you have to make small goals that are achievable for you at the time and not worry about the total pounds that you have to lose because it could be overwhelming. Every time I don’t feel like working out, I think of her and realize the impact that a little exercise can have on your life.

Having a lot of abdominal fat also raises your risk of developing cancer. I read that a woman that has truncal obesity is eight times more likely to develop uterine cancer than a woman that is not overweight. This is what motivated my friend to get in shape because cancer ran in her family.

By SauteePan — On Aug 12, 2011

@Comfyshoes - Good for you. I am also overweight and I find that people that are overweight like me are usually heavy because they eat for every reason other than hunger. Some people eat when they are stressed and anxious and other people eat because they are lonely or sad and want to fill a void.

I think that a great way for a person that has truncal obesity to lose weight is to receive therapy. A therapist can address the problems of why the person overeats and can tailor a cognitive behavioral therapy program that will address the negative behaviors and replace them with positive ones.

I think that this is why overweight people go on diets all of the time and are not successful because until they address the reason why they overeat no diet in the world will help. I realized this when I saw a documentary on people with food addictions.

Many of these people were morbidly obese and some were anorexic. Although they were on opposite extremes in terms of weight they all shared painful secrets that caused them to make food their chosen addiction. It really opened my eyes and made me more aware of why I eat when I do.

By comfyshoes — On Aug 12, 2011

I wanted to say that I do have some fat around my middle and probably have truncal obesity. For me it really developed as a result of staying home with my kids. After having children, I gained some weight and I think that staying home also caused me to eat more because sometimes I would eat when I was bored.

I think that a lot of mindless eating can lead to a condition like this if you are not careful. That is what happened to me. I am now working out daily and eating fruits and vegetables with every meal. I also am aware of my hunger and if I am going to reach for a snack, I always ask myself if I am really hungry.

My doctor told me that I needed to lose weight because I was at risk of becoming diabetic. That really scared me and whipped me into shape.

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