For men, if your waist measures over 40 inches, or if you’re a woman, and your waist measures over 35 inches, you have what’s called abdominal obesity. And if so, you should take steps to eliminate it. The question is, what do you do if you want to lose belly fat?
First let’s understand a little about abdominal fat. The 2 types to be aware of include (1) the fat under the skin, or subcutaneous fat, that you can pinch with your fingers, and (2) visceral fat, also known as organ fat or intra-abdominal fat, which is in between internal organs and torso, in your peritoneal cavity.
The fat under the skin is not that big of a health problem, it’s more of a cosmetic issue. However, the fat in your abdominal cavity, the visceral or belly fat, is linked to cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and in women, it is also associated with breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery.
So what can you do about it? The good news is that there are several proven strategies that target visceral fat, or belly fat, more than other areas of the body.
It turns out that abdominal fat is particularly easy to reduce by engaging in regular moderate-intensity physical activity — at least 30 minutes per day. If this is applies to you, start right now. Start with 30 minutes per day, go for a walk, or if you can, go jogging. Once you that established as a habit, increase to 45 minutes, then an hour.
Aerobic exercise, like walking, running, swimming, etc., has been shown to cause major reductions in belly fat in numerous studies. And just as important, when adopted as a lifestyle, exercise prevents people from re-gaining abdominal fat after weight loss, which means that exercise is particularly important for weight maintenance. Exercise also has a number of other health benefits.
This is first on the list for a reason: experts all agree that lifestyle, especially exercise, is the very best way to reduce visceral fat.
2. Eliminate Sugar.
Not all calories are created equally. Sugar differs from other calories that come from protein, fat, and greens, in that sugar interrupts the normal sensation of getting full, so you consume more and more, driving your metabolism to convert it into lethal belly fat. Table sugar is 50/50 fructose & glucose, and fructose is the most metabolically damaging sugar. Fructose goes right to the liver. When fructose is derived from fruit, it’s delivered to your system with water and fiber, and gives you energy. Too much fructose – as in sugar containing sodas and fruit juices, is converted by the liver to fat, which triggers more insulin resistance, and causes chronically elevated blood insulin levels, driving your body to store everything you eat as – you guessed it – dangerous belly fat.
Again, fructose doesn’t trigger a message to your brain, signaling that a load of calories just hit the body. Nor does it reduce ghrelin, the appetite hormone that is usually reduced when you eat real food.
Numerous studies have shown that excess sugar leads to increased accumulation of fat in the belly. And liquid sugar is the worst. Studies show that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to a 60% increased risk of obesity in children… per each daily serving.
So what do you do? There’s only one rational thing to do, if you’re serious about losing belly fat. Minimize the amount of sugar in your diet, and consider completely eliminating sugary drinks, including sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices, sports drinks, as well as coffees and teas with sugar added to them.
Note that this doesn’t apply to whole fruit, which is extremely healthy and has fiber, which mitigates the negative effects of fructose.
3. Eat More Protein to Reduce Belly Fat
Protein plays several important roles in weight loss. First, protein helps fight hunger. Protein takes a long time to digest, which helps you feel satisfied, and reduces hunger cravings. Second, protein helps you burn more calories because of its high thermic effect, which is the amount of energy (in calories) you burn in order to break down, digest, and metabolize a food. With protein, 20 to 35% of the calories are burned through processing. That makes protein the most important macronutrient when it comes to losing weight.
One study showed that people who ate more and better protein had much less belly fat. Another study in Denmark showed that protein, especially animal protein, was linked to significantly reduced risk of belly fat gain over a period of 5 years. So it’s plain to see that increasing your intake of eggs, fish, seafood, meats, poultry and dairy products. These are the best protein sources in the diet.
If you struggle with getting enough protein in your diet, then a quality protein supplement (like whey protein) is a healthy and convenient way to boost your total intake. On the other hand, if you’re a vegetarian, there are plenty of great protein sources.
4. Cut Carbs From Your Diet
Low carb diets are repeatedly proven to be very effective way to lose fat. Especially when you increase your protein intake, your appetite goes down, and you lose weight. In fact, low-carb diets lead to 2-3 times more weight loss than low-fat diets. And the good news is that low-carb diets allow you to eat more, while low-fat diets often leave participants hungry. Low-carb diets also lead to quick reductions in water weight, which provides quick results, often seen within a few days.
There’s an easy rule of thumb to live by: avoid white carbohydrates. Think pasta, bread, rice, cereal, potatoes, all pastries containing flour, and any breaded fried food.
5. Eat High Fiber Foods
When you’re trying to lose weight, the sensation of feeling hungry is not helpful. Eating healthy high-fiber foods makes you feel full, so you can resist eating more food than you need. Fibrous foods also can take longer to chew, giving your brain time to get the signal that you have had enough to eat.
In a recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a group of researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School focused on fiber, since previous studies have shown it can help people feel more full, eat less and improve some metabolic markers like blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar. Simply by adding more fiber to their diet, the test subjects showed reduced cholesterol levels, blood pressure, blood sugar and inflammation.
The best way to increase your fiber intake is to eat more plant foods like vegetables and fruit. Cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, bok choy, cabbage, and others contain very specific nutrients that are particularly helpful with weight loss. Legumes are also a good source, as well as some cereals like oats.
6. Reduce Stress
Cortisol is your stress hormone. It’s an important hormone that’s essential for human survival. When your hormone levels are in balance, cortisol is protective and burns fat. However, when you experience mental or physical stress, your body secretes cortisol, your body thinks it needs to store belly fat in order to have easily accessible energy to deal with the stress.
High cortisol literally makes you unable to make rationale food choices, because it activates a part of your brain that makes you crave pleasurable foods, while the goal-oriented parts of your brain are reduced. So you wind up making bad food choices, like going for the cake or bread when you should be having the salmon and salad.
7. Get Enough Sleep
Among the other problems with stress related high cortisol levels, they also make it difficult to sleep, which can produce a vicious cycle, because poor sleeping is also stressful! To make things worse, stress related high cortisol also lowers testosterone and estrogen levels, inhibiting recovery from exercise and slowing your metabolism.
8. The Secret – Simplified
The real secret to losing belly fat is to lose weight on a balanced, calorie-controlled diet and exercise at least an hour a day. Eat fresh, whole foods, cut all processed foods, and quit the sugary sodas. And keep it off by adopting this as a permanent lifestyle.