Losing belly fat can significantly improve your health profile and decrease your chances of developing many chronic diseases.
What's The Problem With Belly Fat?
Belly fat is dangerous because it can lead to many serious conditions such as:
> heart disease
> heart attack
> colon cancer
> high blood pressure
Belly fat is different than subcutaneous fat (fat under the skin). Fat stored in the abdominal area shares space with your internal organs, such as your liver, kidneys, stomach, and intestines. It is metabolically active so it is constantly creating inflammatory substances and interfering with hormones that regulate cortisol (the stress hormone), weight, moods, appetite, and brain function.
In other words, lots of negative things can happen from carrying around excess belly fat.
What Can Be Done To Reduce Belly Fat?
It's not always easy to lose fat around the middle. It takes effort and persistence.
Luckily, there are many scientifically documented ways of reducing excess visceral fat. Some of the most common ways are listed below:
A main cause of belly fat is being overweight. However, many people of normal weight or those underweight suffer with excess visceral fat, as well.
Whether you are overweight or not, there are specific dietary and lifestyle behaviors that can reduce belly fat.
Stop eating sugary foods and drinks
Eating sugar is very harmful. Since sugar is half glucose and half fructose, the fructose can only be metabolized by the liver. When you indulge in too much sugar the liver becomes overloaded and stores the fructose as belly fat and as fat in the liver itself.
Drinking sugary drinks can be especially harmful since your brain doesn't register that full feeling and you end up consuming more calories.
You may need to reduce dramatically the amount of sugar you eat both from solid processed food such as candy, white bread, etc., and sugary drinks like sodas, sports drinks, and fruit juices.
Learn more about eating a healthy diet here.
Minimize or eliminate alcohol
Alcohol, especially in excess, can lead to what has come to be known as "beer belly." But it's not only beer that is the culprit. Any alcohol taken in excess can increase systemic inflammation, suppress fat burning, and lead to liver disease, as well as other chronic diseases.
Excess consumption leads to the extra calories being stored as belly fat. Having more than three drinks a day makes it more likely that you will experience an accumulation of belly fat.
It's best to stop drinking or to stay strictly within the guidelines of no more than two drinks a day.
Learn more about the negative effects of alcohol here.
Eat foods high in fiber
Eating fiber, especially soluble fiber, can lower your weight and help reduce belly fat. Soluble fiber is viscous. In other words, it binds with water and forms a gel like substance in the intestines. This process slows down digestion which leads to a feeling of fullness and satiety.
The end result is a reduction in appetite, the consumption of fewer calories, the loss of weight, and less belly fat.
A good strategy is to increase your consumption of soluble fiber by eating foods such as oatmeal and oat bran, apples, citrus fruits, berries, beans, lentils, avocados, sweet potatoes, broccoli, etc.
Shoot for at least 10 grams of soluble fiber a day.
Learn how fiber is essential to your health here.
Eat a little more protein
Eating sufficient protein is a perfect way of preventing weight gain. Protein in the diet gives you a full and satisfied feeling and increases the body's metabolic rate. Those who eat a sufficient protein tend to have less belly fat.
In contrast, a low protein diet may not produce feelings of satisfaction and may drive hunger and increased belly fat.
Most Americans eat sufficient protein so you don't need to overdo protein intake, however. A 25 percent level is sufficient.
Aim at eating high protein foods such as lentils, nuts, legumes, fish, eggs, some meat, and dairy. You can even try a protein supplement. There are great vegan options, as well as whey protein products available.
Learn about the positive benefits of a high protein diet here.
Reduce Stress and Cortisol Levels
Stress causes numerous physical problems. The culprit is a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is a necessary element in the body and helps us meet many challenges. This stress response is part of our survival mechanism.
When cortisol is produced chronically and in excess it can lead to weight gain and belly fat. When cortisol levels are high, the body tends to store fat in the abdominal area.
It's important to manage stress. Resolving conflicts, learning to relax, and maintaining a hopeful outlook can go a long way in reducing stress levels and the negative effects of cortisol.
Meditation, for many, is a very effective way of reducing stress. Others find being in nature a sure fix for anxiety and stress.
As society has become more sedentary. abdominal girth has increased. As our levels of inactivity have grown so has the size of our bellies. People who watch TV for more than three hours a day have twice the risk of extreme abdominal fat.
Exercise is an important behavior in any effort to reduce belly fat. Consistent exercise reduces inflammation, lowers glucose levels, reduces stress, and improves metabolic function.
Both aerobic (waking, running, swimming) and anaerobic (resistance training, calisthenics) exercise can aid in reducing abdominal fat and keeping it off once you have lost weight.
Don't aim at doing abdominal exercises. They are not effective in reducing belly fat. Strive for exercises that use the entire body, burn fat and build muscle. Muscle is very metabolically active and helps burn fat even when you are not exercising.
Try to work up to, at least, 30 minutes a day of exercise.
Learn more about healthy benefits of exercise here.
There are some things you can't do much about.
Your genes may play an important role in how you store fat. The tendency to store fat in the abdominal area may have a strong genetic component. More research is needed, however, to determine just how significant the role of genes is in the formation of belly fat.
Menopause for many women is a time when they experience an increase in fat deposition in the abdominal area. This is caused by a drop in estrogen levels which causes a shift from storing fat in the hips and thighs to the abdomen.
Learn more about menopause and weight gain here.
Since there isn't a lot you can do about your genetics and entering menopause, it is crucial that you take the actions recommended in this post very seriously. Taking responsibility for what you can change can make all the difference in maintaining a healthy and well-lived life.
Watching your diet by minimizing sugary foods, eating more protein and fiber, cutting out processed foods, controlling stress, and exercising are healthy choices in your power to make that can reduce harmful belly fat. Keep in mind, a diet that reduces belly fat is also good for your heart, brain, and overall bodily health.
It won't always be easy and there will be challenges. The food industry and its highly calculating and manipulative marketing of unhealthy foods coupled with a sedentary lifestyle can be daunting to combat and change. But the effort will be worth it when you are rewarded with radiant health.
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