We now know that this type of fat, called visceral fat, is metabolically active and churns out stress hormones like cortisol and inflammatory substances called cytokines that affect you body’s production of insulin. The result is worse than just being generally overweight; you’re looking at increased risks of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, some cancers, and even dementia.
“Most people who have been lean their whole lives have a much better understanding of proper portion size than people who are overweight,” says Deborah Riebe, Ph.D., a professor in the department of kinesiology at the University of Rhode Island. “If they go out to eat, they’re much more likely to ask for a doggie bag right away or to leave food on their plate rather than cleaning it up.”
Luckily, exercise can help spur things along when it comes to that pesky stomach fat. “Visceral fat responds well when… [you] start exercising and watching your calories and what you eat,” Harris-Pincus says. And while endless crunches aren’t your ticket to a flat stomach, it is still important to train your ab muscles. “Everything radiates from the center of your body – your balance, your posture, your functional movement,” says Joe Ardito, founder of Fit Crush NYC. “You can perform better when you have a strong core.”
In a 2012 study in the journal Obesity, subjects who increased their soluble fiber intake by 10 grams a day—the equivalent of two small apples, one cup of green peas, and one half-cup of pinto beans—reduced visceral fat by 3.7 percent after five years. Even more, participants who also engaged in moderate physical activity (exercising vigorously two to four times a week) experienced a 7.4 decrease in visceral fat over the same period of time.
A trim midsection is good for many things, like fitting into your favorite jeans or walking the beach in a swimsuit with confidence. But there are even better reasons to work off extra baggage around your stomach. That baggage, known as visceral fat, isn’t just the most annoying kind — it’s also the most dangerous. As it forms between your organs, deep within your abdominal cavity, it secretes proteins that can trigger chronic inflammation, putting you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
Your diet should contain an absurd number of veggies if you’re looking to melt fat away—broccoli being one of them. “When it comes to vegetables, which are very important, I would definitely throw broccoli as No.1,” says White. Broccoli is low in calories and high in fiber, which means it’s going to fill you up, keep you full, and stop any unnecessary craving-driven eating later. One cup of the green stuff contains close to 3g of fiber for a measly 30 calories. It’s also an excellent source of iron, calcium, and vitamin C, which will encourage greater blood flow to the muscles, support healthy bones, and increase immunity.
Here’s another drink filled with antioxidants that will help flush the toxins and bad fat from your body. Combine cucumber, a cup of cilantro (or fresh parsley), lemon, and half a glass of water in a blender. Sprinkle the drink with grated ginger and a tablespoon of Aloe Vera juice. Let this combination sit for a few minutes before drinking it all the way down.
1. The side plank exercise is the best way to reduce belly fat. There are only two points of contact with the floor which helps the core muscles to contract even harder. Lie on your side with your legs top of each other, rest on your lower forearm that is bent on the elbow. Force your upper body off the floor by using your forearm and place other hand on your hips. You should resemble a diagonal line from head to toe. After you lift your bodies just hold it for 30-60 seconds.
You don’t have to take a three-month sabbatical in Bali or enrol on a ‘breathing class’ in a Scandi Yogi retreat to find inner calm. You don’t even have to meditate (though it’ll almost certainly help). If a few minutes of deep-belly breathing in a quiet spot doesn’t chill you out, try a bodyweight workout or taking a walk around the block. Exercise boosts your circulation, transporting cortisol to your kidneys, which flush it out.
We also love yoga, hula-hooping (yep, great for the abs) and the good standby “Abs of Steel” videos, and trust me the outfits in the 1990’s video will increase the cardio aspect just from laughter alone! There are also a slew of videos online, find one you love and can stick to every few days and you’ll be toning as you shed the unwanted belly fat.
Go ahead. Pop up a bowl. Sans the butter and salt, popcorn is a real gut whittler. Why? Because popcorn is a whole grain—and a study revealed that people who ate lots of whole grains had smaller middles compared with folks who ate mostly refined grains. So while you're waiting for yours to pop, clear all the white rice, pasta, and bread out of your cupboards. (Related: Give your popcorn some low-guilt flavor with these tips.)
If you’ve got weight to lose and you want it gone fast, try swapping out your usual proteins in favor of fish. Not only is fish lower in calories than an equivalent amount of beef or chicken, a study published in Obesity reveals study subjects who added omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish, to their diets shed more weight and had an easier time keeping it off than those who skipped them.
We all have an Achilles heel: the one food or meal that we can't seem to help digging into. But Mark Mincolla, Ph.D., nutrition expert and author of The Whole Health Diet, recommends taking the time to visualize that food multiple times throughout the day, as research shows doing so makes you actually want it less. When that theory was put to the test, scientists found that those who repeatedly imagined their guilty-pleasure foods reduced their calorie consumption of that food by as much as 50 percent. And it wasn't because they found it to be less desirable — if you love pizza, you love pizza — but rather because they just didn't feel like eating it when given the option because they had already thought about it so much. Reverse psychology, much?
One easy way to find out if you’re carrying too much abdominal fat is to wrap a measuring tape around your body at the top of your hipbones. If your number is more than 35 inches, it may be time to take action. The good news: Getting rid of belly fat is simpler than you might think. With the right plan, it’s actually easier to lose than stubborn lower-body fat or the seemingly impossible to tone back-of-the-arm flab. Stick to these diet and exercise guidelines, and you’ll be slimmer — and healthier — by summer.
"This is where it's called visceral fat, which is in and around our organs -- whereas the fat present all over our body under our skin is subcutaneous fat. When there's high amounts of visceral fat, it increases the risk of developing those diseases like metabolic syndrome and heart disease. Being aware of, and managing, this is incredibly important."
Unfortunately, some women are just more prone to carrying weight in their middle instead of their hips and thighs. Sometimes, it’s genetics—maybe your mother was more apple-shaped. Belly fat can also increase around menopause, or for women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Even certain lifestyle habits, from lack of sleep to stress, can make your belly grow. To lose belly fat, talking with a doctor about what other factors may be affecting your weight gain can be a good place to start. From there, you can craft a belly fat busting routine.
Forget the workouts you’ve tried time and time again – crunches and sit-ups are often ineffective when it comes to trimming away the midlife belly. Consider alternatives, like holding your body in the plank position, or try another yoga-inspired exercise, the cat pose. Directions: Get on all fours. Arch your back like a cat, and work the deep abdominal muscles by inhaling and pulling the stomach back toward the spine. Inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 4 seconds. For Dr. Oz’s 7-Minute workout, click here.
“Include lots of nutrient-rich vegetables, a source of protein and some healthy, unprocessed carbs,” says Belalij. “Start with leafy greens such as spinach, kale and collard greens, then add carrots, broccoli and peas. Lean meats, including turkey and chicken, are ideal as they are lower in fat and therefore calories, or, if you are vegetarian/vegan, add in tofu or a handful of nuts such as pine, cashew or almonds and a sprinkling of seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin). When it comes to carbohydrates, rice, quinoa and potatoes are perfect.”