Fat on the body, like gas in a car, is stored energy. But when there is too much – especially around the middle – we tend to not like the way it looks. Unfortunately, it’s more than just tight pants; an expanding waistline can be seriously unhealthy. Excess belly (or visceral) fat is a major risk factor for insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Some people are predisposed to having an unhealthy apple shape due to genetics. Age and gender also play a role. As we get older, our lean body mass (muscle) tends to decrease while fat increases, especially in men whose testosterone levels start dropping around the age of 40. In aging women, hormonal changes are a contributing factor, but inactivity seems to be more instrumental in belly fat.
If you want to check your waist size, it’s easy; all you need is a tape measure. According to the American Heart Association, you have abdominal obesity and are at risk for chronic disease if your waist measures greater than 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men.
Although losing fat from this area of your body can be difficult, there are a few proven strategies effective in decreasing belly fat. Do it for the health of it!
USE THESE 5 TIPS TO HELP REDUCE YOUR BELLY FAT
- Exercise regularly. To help trim belly fat, get at least 30 minutes of moderate cardio exercise at least 5 days a week. Walking counts, as long as it’s brisk enough that you breathe harder and get your heart beating faster than usual. Strength training (weight lifting) is important as well. Based on research in people with prediabetes, type-2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease, it can support stomach fat loss. Furthermore, strength training helps to preserve as well as increase muscle mass. If you are new to it, check out this strength training video for beginners. It’s only 17 minutes and you don’t need any special equipment.
- Eat adequate fiber. Getting enough fiber can help you lose weight; and belly fat usually goes first. In one study, researchers found that people who ate 10 grams of soluble fiber per day – without any other diet changes – built up less belly fat over time than others. Amongst the best sources of dietary soluble fiber are oranges, black beans, and flax seeds.
- Cut back on sugar in processed foods and soft drinks. When consumed in excess, added sugar especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) can have a very negative impact on your health. Some sources of sugar are worse than others – sugary drinksappear to be the worst. They are loaded with liquid fructose which can increase belly fat. This primarily applies to sugary soda, but also to fruit juices, highly sweetened coffees, and other sources of liquid sugar like sports drinks. To quench your thirst and keep your body hydrated, drink water, unsweetened herbal teas, and sparkling water with a wedge of lemon or lime.
- Get adequate sleep. Sleep is important for many aspects of health, including your weight. Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to gain more weight including unhealthy belly fat. Aim for at least 7 hours per night and make sure you’re getting good quality sleep.
- Manage stress. Stress is a major culprit in the accumulation of belly fat. This happens because stress triggers the adrenal glands to produce cortisol – a stress hormone. Research shows that consistent high cortisol levels increase appetite and contributes to the accumulation of abdominal fat. To help combat this, look for ways other than eating to relieve stress such as meditation, yoga and mindfulness.
Please get in touch if you have any nutrition or diet-related questions. I’d love to hear from you.
Spring is the perfect time to get back on track with healthy eating. Let’s talk about how we can create the perfect plan for you. Give me a call today!