Belly fat may be a better indicator of overall health and potential death from all causes. You’re in danger if there’s more than 35 inches for women around the abdomen or 40 inches for men. So the big question is, how to get rid of it?
Unfortunately just adding crunches won’t work. Don’t get me wrong, they are a great addition to any exercise program but they will only tone your abs, not decrease abdominal fat. For visceral fat- that hormonally active fat around organs- unlike subcutaneous fat found everywhere else, both diet and exercise are required. To make it go away more calories have to be worked off than calories taken in daily. That can be only achieved by limiting caloric intake, eating healthy and exercising regularly.
Here are some ideas:
Increase soluble fiber
Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel that helps slow down food as it passes through your digestive system. It promotes weight loss by increasing feelings of satiety, so we eat less, and decreases the calories absorbed from food. One study of over 1,100 adults found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber intake, belly fat gain decreased by 3.7% over a 5-year period.
Eat more protein
Protein is an extremely important nutrient for weight management. High protein intake increases the release of the fullness hormone PYY, which decreases appetite and promotes fullness. Protein also raises your metabolic rate and helps you to retain muscle mass during weight loss. As demonstrated through new studies about intermittent fasting, not all weight loss is equal.
Stop eating sugar
Sugar contains fructose, which has been linked to several chronic diseases when consumed in excess, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver changes. Studies show a relationship between high sugar intake and increased abdominal fat. It’s important to realize that more than just refined sugar can lead to belly fat gain. Even healthier sugars, such as real honey, should be used sparingly.
Cut back on refined carbohydrates
Reducing your carb intake can be a powerful way to lose fat, especially that hard to lose abdominal fat. Studies have shown those who are overweight, at risk for type 2 diabetes, and women with poly cystic ovarian disease lost belly fat when they adhered to a diet taking in less than 50 grams of carbs a day. And we aren’t talking about a strict, hard to follow low carb diet. Research suggests that simply replacing refined with unprocessed starchy carbs may improve metabolic health and reduce belly fat.
Eat whole grains
Eat only whole grains -not processed cereals, breads, muffins and the like. In the famous Framingham Heart Study, people with the highest consumption of whole grains were 17% less likely to have excess abdominal fat than those who consumed diets high in refined grains.
Eat a plant based diet
You can’t go wrong with a plant based diet full of fresh or frozen veggies and fruits. They will fill you up, provide important nutrients, and allow you to eat all you want while significantly lowering caloric intake compared with a meat based diet.
Research suggests that alcohol can cause deposition of belly fat. Observational studies link alcohol consumption to a significantly increased risk of developing excess fat storage around the waist. One study on alcohol use involved more than 2,000 people. Results showed those who drank alcohol daily but averaged less than one drink per day had less belly fat than those who drank less frequently but consumed more alcohol on the days they drank.
Don’t eat trans fats
Trans fats are created by pumping hydrogen into unsaturated fats, such as soybean oil. They’re found in some margarines and spreads and are often added to packaged foods, so check labels carefully. These fats have been linked to inflammation, heart disease, insulin resistance, and abdominal fat gain in observational and animal studies. A 6-year study found that monkeys who ate a high trans fat diet gained 33% more abdominal fat than those eating a diet high in monounsaturated fat.
Change to a salad plate for all your meals. When filled, you’ll feel like you’re getting all the food you crave but it’ll be a much smaller portion than a dinner plate. Make it a red plate and the brain will be encouraged to stop when full as well. Add to that the practice of never finishing all the food presented and you’ll have decreased your intake without feeling deprived.
Read labels carefully
To help reduce belly fat and protect your health, read ingredient labels carefully and stay away from products that contain trans fats (these are often listed as partially hydrogenated fats), sugars, refined carbohydrates, and other unhealthy ingredients. Prepared foods may be quick, easy and available but too often they exact a harsh price by containing ingredients that can cause harm and ruin all the hard work put into weight loss programs.
Fatty fish are incredibly healthy, rich in high quality proteins as well as omega-3 fats. Some evidence suggests that these omega-3 fats may help reduce visceral fat. Studies in adults and children with fatty liver disease show that fish oil supplements can significantly reduce liver and abdominal fat. Aim to get 2–3 servings of fatty fish per week. Good choices include: salmon, herring , sardines, mackerel, and anchovies.
Add green tea
Green tea has tremendous properties that can help overall health and weight loss programs. It contains caffeine and the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), both of which appear to boost metabolism. EGCG is a catechin, which several studies suggest may help belly fat loss. The effect may be strengthened when green tea consumption is combined with exercise.
Stress can make you gain belly fat by triggering the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, which is also known as the stress hormone. Research shows that high cortisol levels increase appetite and drive abdominal fat storage.
What’s more, women who already have a large waist tend to produce more cortisol in response to stress. Increased cortisol further adds to fat gain around the middle. Stop this from happening by eating healthy, exercising and practicing stress reducing methods such as meditation, hypnosis, and exercise.
Exercise, exercise, exercise
And let me add- Exercise! Aerobic exercise (cardio) is an effective way to improve health and burn calories,. Studies also show that it’s one of the most effective forms of exercise for reducing belly fat. Frequency and duration is more important than its intensity. One study found that postmenopausal women lost more fat from all areas when they did aerobic exercise for 300 minutes per week, compared with those who exercised 150 minutes per week.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using the talk test to define the intensity of your workout. Can you talk but not sing? Then you’re exercising at a moderate level. Can’t say more than a few words without stopping to take a breath? You’re doing a vigorous exercise. Always clear with your healthcare provider first.
Add resistance training
Resistance training, also known as weight lifting or strength training, is important for preserving and gaining muscle mass. Based on studies involving people with pre- diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease, resistance training helped belly fat loss. One study showed that a combination of strength training and aerobic exercise led to the greatest decrease in visceral fat.
If you decide to start lifting weights, it’s a good idea to get advice from a certified personal trainer. I recommend Body Basics.
Get plenty of sleep
A good night sleep is an imperative addition to any weight loss program. Sleeping 7-9 hours every night, sleeping the same 7-9 hours every night, and maintaining sleep hygiene can shed pounds. Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to gain significantly more weight.
The condition known as sleep apnea, where breathing stops intermittently during the night, has also been linked to excess visceral fat. If this is a possible concern talk to your provider.
Add apple vinegar to your diet
The acetic acid in apple vinegar has been shown to lower blood sugar levels and reduce abdominal fat storage. In a 12-week controlled study those who took 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of apple cider vinegar per day lost half an inch (1.4 cm) from their waists. Taking 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 mL) of apple cider vinegar diluted in water- to prevent enamel erosion- per day may lead to moderate fat loss.
Just doing one of these items won’t have a big effect on its own. If you want results, you need to combine different methods that have been shown to be effective. Changing your lifestyle for the long term is the key to losing fat, especially belly fat, and keeping it off.
When you have healthy habits, eat well and keep active, weight loss follows.