The challenge with belly fat is that it’s not only limited to the extra layer of padding located below your skin’s surface. Belly flat also includes another layer of fat located deep within your abdomen that surrounds your internal organs. It may also be a surprise to you that having “belly fat” is considered “healthy” and that some people who have no outer belly fat, can actually be “unhealthy.”
If antioxidants are the good guys of gut health, trans fats are the supervillains. These sneaky fats actively contribute to your wobbly waist – not just by adding new fat, but by moving fat from other areas of your body to your belly. During a six-year study at Wake Forest University, monkeys that were fed an 8 per cent trans fat diet had 33 per cent more belly fat than monkeys that were fed an 8 per cent monounsaturated fat diet.
Routinely squeaking by on five hours or less per night increases visceral fat levels, according to a 2010 Wake Forest University study. What’s more, after analyzing 28 different studies, UK researchers found that people who slept 5.5 hours or less per night ate an extra 385 calories the day after compared to those who snoozed for at least 7 to 12 hours. On top of that, they preferred to munch on fatty foods full of empty calories, like chips.
There’s one thing to like about visceral fat: It yields fairly easily to aerobic exercise. Vaporizing calories via running, biking, swimming—anything that gets your heart rate up—is an effective way to whittle your middle. In fact, one 2011 study from Duke University Medical Center, published in the American Journal of Physiology, found the sweet spot: Jogging the equivalent of 12 miles a week was even more effective in reducing visceral fat than resistance training three times per week. However, both types of exercise were beneficial when it came to belly fat, the researchers say. (Don’t have time to hit the gym? Try these fun at-home cardio workouts if you’re in a pinch.)
Intermittent fasting has blown up in the past year, but scientists are just starting to figure out how it can help you lose weight. In one study from the University of Illinois at Chicago, researchers compared obese people in a traditional weight loss group and fasting group. For the experiment, the calorie-restricted group simply reduced the amount of calories they ate by 25 percent each day. The fasting group, however, alternated days: they ate 25 percent of the calories they needed one day between 12 and 2 p.m., and then had feast days the next, where they ate 125 percent of their required calories.
We're not talking about extra pounds of stomach fat here. We're talking about the temporary abdominal distention that plagues most everyone from time to time. Michael Jensen, MD, an endocrinologist and obesity researcher at Mayo Clinic, says unless your stomach bloating is caused by a medical condition such as liver or heart disease, the only real cause is intestinal gas - not "water weight."
Visceral fat is the hard body layer of fat that lies deep within our abdominal cavity and surrounds a number of internal organs such as the lungs, heart, intestines, liver, and pancreas. Visceral fat produces an inflammatory substance called cytokines that can damage these organs. Too much visceral fat can contribute to many health problems such as glucose intolerance, hypertension, coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes.
"America has been trying to follow a low-calorie, low-fat diet for 40 years, and where has that gotten us? To being one of the heaviest countries in the world," says David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., obesity expert and author of Always Hungry. Think about it: "The problem is when you cut back on calories like that, your body tries to fight back with increased hunger and a slower metabolism because it thinks it's going into starvation mode," he says. Meanwhile, you eventually eat again to satiate the hunger pangs, and likely eat more because, well, you're insanely hungry. But your metabolism is still operating on that low level, so calories don't get burned fast enough and they get stored as fat. Ludwig says this cycle continues until you feed your body regularly (he suggests at least three meals and two snacks in between) with real food made from real ingredients. That matters more than the calories it's made up of, so repeat after us: I will always choose an all-natural version of something over food that's labeled low-calorie or fat-free.
As said before, measuring your waist with the tape is the easiest way to check belly fat. Measure your torso at the level of your navel. As per the official guidelines, measure your abdomen from just above the hip bone or the iliac crest, just where it intersects the line dropping down from the middle of the right armpit. Breathe normally while taking the measurement, and don’t hold the measuring tape too tight against the skin. Those with a waist size more than 33 inches are at risk of developing chronic heart disease.
To banish stubborn belly fat, you have to ramp up your workouts. In a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, people who completed a high-intensity workout regimen lost more belly fat than those who followed a low-intensity plan. (In fact, the low-intensity exercises experienced no significant changes at all.) "You need to exercise at full intensity because the end goal is to burn more calories, and high intensity exercise does just that," says Natalie Jill, a San Diego, Calif.-based certified personal trainer. High intensity workouts mean you're going all out for as long as you can. If this sounds intimidating, think of it this way: you'll burn more calories in less time.
With potatoes, leave the skin on (with baked or mashed potatoes) or if you peel them, make snacks of them. For example, drizzle olive oil, rosemary, salt, and garlic on the peels and bake at 400 F (205 C) for fifteen minutes for baked Parmesan garlic peels. Keeping the skin on potatoes when cooking them helps keep more vitamins/minerals in the flesh (just don't eat any parts of skin that are green).
While probiotics encourage the growth of good bacteria, prebiotics feed the ones you already have. When you eat prebiotic foods like onions and leeks, they produce butyrate, a metabolic wonder drug that improves insulin sensitivity and increases the amount of fat you burn, says Rafael Kellman, M.D., author of The Microbiome Diet. Now that it's summer, pop either on the grill to bring out their sweetness. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper and cook until golden.
Carrying too much belly fat is a big problem for many people nowadays, especially once they hit middle age. Aside from being unsightly, belly fat is the most dangerous type of body fat to carry, as it indicates a higher level of visceral fat around the internal organs. Therefore, in order to lead a healthy lifestyle and feel happy in your body, it's necessary to take serious action to eliminate body fat.
And maybe a new mattress, because it’s not just the amount of time you spend sleeping that keeps you lean, it’s also the quality of your sleep. Fat cells in your body produce a hormone called leptin that helps the body keep track of how much potential energy (i.e. fat) it has stored. But leptin is only produced during certain stages of sleep. Miss out on those stages because you’re not resting soundly enough, and you’ll disturb levels of the hormone, leaving your body with no real idea of its energy reserves. Consequently, you’ll end up storing calories rather than burning them.
The popular "flat belly diets"embrace much of the wisdom found in eating a Mediterranean diet, which helps everything from brain health to hearth health. The basic premise for both diets is eat foods rich in monosaturated fatty acids (MUFA) that may help reduce your belly fat storage. MUFA-rich foods include olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocodos, and fish. Eating yogurt regularly has also been found to be helpful in reducing belly fat.
There’s a reason people are obsessed with apple cider vinegar for weight loss. Some research shows that it may have very modest weight loss benefits. For instance, in one 2009 study, researchers had 144 obese adults drink a placebo or 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (ACV) daily for 3 months. They found that people who downed 2 tablespoons lost nearly 4 pounds, while those who sipped on 1 tablespoon dropped 2.5 pounds. The placebo drinkers? They actually experienced a small weight gain.
Belly fat is a major concern for many. Not only does it make your figure unattractive, but also increases the risk of developing hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Recently, Public Health England stated for the first time that belly fat is the clearest sign of type 2 diabetes. Another significant study, published in the Journal Heart, states that having a big belly significantly increases the risk for sudden cardiac death. The most common causes include genetics, hormonal imbalance, physical inactivity and an unhealthy diet.
Instead, build up to at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity cardio, such as swimming, jogging or hiking. A duration of 250 minutes per week will lead to more significant weight loss, explains the American College of Sports Medicine. This means 250 minutes a week for several weeks or months, though; you're unlikely to see dramatic results after one week.
Stress wreaks havoc on every part of your body, and can lead to breakouts, joint pain, headaches, and yes, even excess belly fat. That’s because when you’re stressed, your body pumps out extra cortisol, that not-so-great hormone you keep hearing about. Studies show that cortisol not only spikes your appetite, but may also redistribute body fat to your belly area, according to a review published in the journal Obesity.
Yes, that is the sound of you drinking water. A lot of it. "People confuse thirst for hunger," says Pamela Salzman, a certified holistic health expert and cooking instructor. "Instead of automatically reaching for another snack, have a glass of water first. Most of the time that'll do the trick, but if not, then you're in the clear to grab something more filling." But not all waters are created equal. Mineral waters, while great for helping you hit your daily calcium and magnesium needs, are often high in sodium — a common culprit of bloat. And coconut water gives you some potassium…but for 45 calories per cup (and there's usually more than one cup in a container). It's a better bet to reach for standard purified water — and eat a banana if you want the nutrient boost — or grab alkaline water, which can help prevent your bones from getting weaker.