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If truth be known, everyone has belly fat and that goes for people who have flat tummies as well. However, like everything else in life, too much belly fat can affect you negatively in terms of self-confidence and your health too.
Generally, there is fat under your skin (also known as subcutaneous fat) and also fat that is called ‘visceral fat’ that is located deeper around your lungs, heart, liver and other internal organs. This ‘visceral fat’ is important because it provides cushioning for the organs.
To accurately measure the amount of belly fat you have, one would need to go for Computerised Tomography (CT) scan or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). There is a simpler way to measure belly fat though, that is, surprise surprise, by using a measuring tape on your waist (to measure circumference).
It is recommended for women to have a waist size that’s less than 35 inches and for men, less than 40 inches would be optimal – anything more than these numbers, we are looking at ‘abdominal obesity‘.
1. Inactive Lifestyle – sedentary lifestyle i.e. too little or no exercise makes it even more difficult a person to get rid of the increasing excessfat, particularly around the abdomen.
2. Poor Diet Choices – consumption of highly sugary, trans-fat, high-carb food translate to slower metabolism, lower fat burning ability leading to the ‘spare tyre’ around one’s waist.
3. Stress – when in stress, the body releases copious amount of cortisol which causes excess calories being inadvertently stored as fat especially in your belly.
4. Genetics – according to Director of the Tulane University, Obesity Research Center (US), Dr. Lu Qi, that it is possible to inherit genes from your mother, father or both, that can increase your risk of having a bulging belly.
5. Not Enough Quality Sleep – according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, short sleep duration can cause weight gain, leading to excess of belly fat.
6. Alcohol – how could we fail to notice those well rounded ‘Beer Bellies’? These ‘Beer Bellies’ are a result of excess calories from alcohol (like beer) that are partly stored as belly fat as alcohol suppresses fat burning.
7. Menopause – gaining belly fat during menopause is actually quite common as estrogen levels would drop substantially, causing fat to be stored in the abdomen as opposed to on the hips and thighs.
As we can see, there are quite a number of factors that increases the circumference of one’s belly.
And although we may not be able to do much with genes or hormone changes, there is a research published in the International Journal of Obesity that studied twins for 30 years and what this research discovered is that the physically active twin (exercised 30 minutes a day) had a waist circumference that was 3.3 inches smaller! Which basically proves that with exercise, one could indeed trump over genetics and reduce belly fat.
As for the other factors, we can control the outcome if we choose to put our minds to it, like deciding to make healthy choices about what to eat (and what to avoid), to start exercising(routinely) and properly addressing and managing stress, we can reduce our belly fat.
In spite of the various fads, commercial products and programmes, there is no magical formula that get rid of your belly fat instantly and easily. But with the proper diet, nutrition and exercise, belly fat is usually the first to go. According to research by assistant professor of endocrinology and metabolism at Wake Forest School of Medicine (US), Dr. Kristen Hairston, subjects who ate 10 grams of soluble fibre per day without any other changes to their diet built up less visceral fat over time compared to people who didn’t incorporate this amount of fibre into their diet.
We should therefore consume a variety of plant food which are not only low in calories but naturally infused with high nutritional value and contain phytochemicals, antitoxidants and polysaccharides. Other than helping us to maintain a healthy weight, dietary fibre which is primarily found in plant food, also prevents constipation and lower the risk or diabetes and heart diseases.
Increasing intake of protein and significantly reducing (or even cutting out carbs completely) carbohydrate i.e. following low-carb diet such as Keto Diet or Paleo Diet, could also lead to weight loss if done correctly. In fact, one study showed that the amount and quality of protein consumed was inversely related to fat in the belly – people who consume more and better protein had much less belly fat.
And obviously, avoid sugar! Various scientific studies have already demonstrated the correlation between high sugar intake and excess belly fat.
An important part in the battle against the bulge is leading an active lifestyle which literally means going for exercises. But first, it is a fallacy to believe that there are specific exercises to burn fat off certain parts of the body, like, the belly in this case. Our body just does not work that way and the only way to lose weight (and belly fat) is to create a calorie deficit and exercise allows us to do that by getting us to burn more calories (by increasing metabolic rate) than what we eat.
Types exercises for some fat burning goodness :
Walking – the most basic of all forms of exercise and probably the easiest and effective too! When you are walking, swing your arms back and forth, and contract your abdominal muscles while you walk. Maintain a brisk pace, enough to get you out of breath. Walk at least thirty minutes each time to increase your heart and breathing rate. Commit yourself to doing this five times a week and watch the result!
Yoga – a great form of exercise to strengthen your back and abs and also a great way to improve your posture which instantly helps you look leaner and taller. Note : it is important to make sure your posture is correct to prevent any serious injury.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) – a form of cardiovascular exercise which alternates short periods of intense exercise with less intense recovery periods. Helps improve athletic capacity and condition along with glucose metabolism. An additional benefit is that it doesn’t require any equipment besides your own bodyweight.