There are two types of fat, subcutaneous and visceral, and they tend to hide out around your belly…especially after age 40. A shocking new study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that even if you’re at a normal weight, fat around the midsection is particularly dangerous, and people are calling this “skinny fat.”

The study found that normal-weight people who have fat around their middle have a greater risk of death than people who are overweight or obese with regular fat distribution. (Keep in mind that the findings don’t necessarily mean that people who are overweight are healthier than those who carry a normal weight. Obesity is a risk factor for multiple conditions…heart disease and diabetes being a few.)

Although the study didn’t officially determine the reason why, the scientists predict that the culprit is visceral fat…The more dangerous of the two types of fat.

Knowing the differences between the two types of fat is an important factor in understanding how to shed the pounds.

Subcutaneous is the soft, fleshy fat just beneath the surface of the skin. That’s the fat where you can “pinch an inch,” but it’s also that fat that we can lose most quickly through diet and exercise.

The more dangerous type of fat is called visceral fat. That’s the fat that’s underneath the abdominal wall, that’s marbled through muscles, organs and intestines. And if you’re wondering what that looks like, imagine the marbling in a ribeye steak. In humans, visceral fat doesn’t just give us a big belly – it can lead to several chronic illnesses, including dementia. And, it wreaks havoc, because it releases adipokines, which spike blood pressure, zap muscle quality, and diminish insulin sensitivity, which can set you up for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Here’s how you can tell, right here, right now, what type of fat you have:

  1. Lie down on your back, and with your index fingers, find your pelvic bones
  2. Tighten your abs
  3. Feel your abs from side to side
  4. If your abs stay fairly flat while you’re pushing down, then the fat you have is subcutaneous. But, if your abs stick out, it means you have visceral fat

The secret to banishing the belly fat is as simple as four little letters – HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Research shows that three shorter HIIT workouts each week is as effective as five longer moderate workouts. Interval training refers to the extra energy and intensity added to a workout, usually in quick spurts. Say you’re jogging along at a moderate, comfortable pace, but then for the next 30 seconds, you run at a full sprint before dropping back into a comfortable pace (called a recovery period). Then you repeat the pattern for several minutes. That short burst of extra effort is an interval, and while it doesn’t last very long, it creates amazing results – for your waistline, your health, and your hormones.