For many of us, it seems the older we get, the more tummy circumference we acquire. Belly fat is one of those things we’d love to do without — not merely for reasons of vanity, but also for optimal health and longevity. Too much visceral fat around the middle can be a precursor to some serious diseases. Type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, dementia, and even premature death are all linked to excessive visceral belly fat. It’s worth your while to take the proper steps to lose belly fat — not only to look your best, but also for disease prevention and better health for the rest of your life.
The dangerous kind of belly fat
The kind of belly fat we’re talking about is called visceral fat. Excess visceral fat in the belly area is linked to the serious health issues listed above. This kind of fat is more dangerous than simply being overweight. It’s also more dangerous than subcutaneous belly fat, which is found just below the skin.
Simply being overweight, with subcutaneous fat spread throughout the body, is far less menacing for your health. But visceral fat actually envelops the internal organs, making it a super serious problem. It’s the kind of fat that triggers systemic inflammation, and this is where chronic disease processes begin. Your liver, pancreas, and kidneys bear the brunt of this inflammatory response. Fortunately for us, there are many proven ways to eliminate this scary kind of belly fat!
Why can’t I lose belly fat?
Losing dangerous belly fat is no easy task, but it can be done. Let’s take a look at the mechanisms behind this kind of fat retention, as well as some various ways to let go of it.
If you can’t seem to lose belly fat, you’re probably not aware of the steps you need to take and the questions you should be asking yourself. For starters, how’s your nutrition? Poor nutrition is a common cause of visceral belly fat. If your diet consists of lots of sugar and refined carbohydrates, chances are, you need to lose belly fat.
If your lifestyle lacks a regular exercise routine and you spend a lot of time sitting, you’re going to have a hard time losing belly fat as well. People who are more sedentary are more likely to have trouble losing belly fat than their more active peers. In fact, studies show that those who limit their TV watching to one hour per day have half the chance of holding too much belly fat when compared to those who watch three or more hours of TV daily.
Are you eating too many carbs?
Another reason you’re having belly fat issues has to do with carb intake. If you’re eating a lot of refined carbohydrates, you’re going to gain the bad kind of belly fat. Instead of eating loads of refined carbs such as white pasta, white breads, white rice, and pastries, try eating the good kind of carbs, also known as complex carbohydrates.
Complex carbs include greens, veggies, sweet potatoes, fruits, quinoa, beans, and lentils.
Beverages can add to your carb intake, too. Instead of drinking soda and fruit juices, or adding sugary mix-ins to your water, opt for coconut water, sparkling water, kombucha, herbal teas, and good old-fashioned plain drinking water. If you must drink something with flavor, add a squeeze of lemon, lime, or grapefruit to water. Infuse it with cucumbers or herbs. Get creative. Drinking water is really, really good for you if you want to lose belly fat.
Are you getting enough sleep?
Seven to eight hours of sleep every night is ideal to stay healthy. If you’re getting less, you’re at risk of storing visceral fat around your belly. Studies show just how essential good sleep is for maintaining a healthy weight.
External factors affecting your sleep might include smoking, drinking alcohol, taking sedatives, lack of exercise, and overall stress. Take an inventory and pinpoint what’s impacting your sleep. We all deserve good rest. And so does your midline!
Do you have sleep apnea?
If you’re carrying excessive fat around your midsection, and you also feel constantly fatigued, there’s a good chance you have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is associated with too much visceral belly fat. This is a problem because you might be completely unaware that you even have sleep apnea. If you have a sneaking suspicion your growing belly could be caused by sleep apnea, seek treatment.
Now, that we’ve looked at some of the hidden causes and implications behind this belly fat predicament, let’s take a look at 8 proven ways to lose belly fat. You’ll feel empowered and motivated to lose it once you have the tools and know-how to do so!
Things you can do to improve belly fat
Thankfully, there are many lifestyle changes you can make to lose belly fat, and keep it off for good. They aren’t drastic — they’re just smart and effective. The following are some actionable steps you can take to trim your tummy and ward off disastrous diseases.
Fill up on fiber
Fiber is contained in many foods, but it’s higher in some than others. If you can start eating high-fiber foods, you’ll be doing your belly a world of good. Fiber helps because it’s good for your digestion. It makes bowel movements easier and more frequent. Studies have shown that soluble fiber is intimately linked to having less visceral belly fat. So, eat foods extremely high in soluble fiber. These include Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kidney beans, lima beans, black beans, turnips, sweet potatoes, avocados, pears, apples, figs, carrots, flax seeds, and oats. Drink plenty of water as you incorporate these foods into your diet to better aid the digestive process and lose belly fat more efficiently.
Cut out the trans-fats
Trans-fats are really detrimental to your health. If you need to lose belly fat, you’ll need to eliminate these unhealthy fats from your diet. Trans-fat-laden foods are the ones containing partially hydrogenated oils. If you check the labels of your favorite packaged goodies, you’ll see these oils listed in the ingredients. Margarine, baked goods from the store, packaged foods in general, donuts, coffee creamers, fried foods, pre-made dough — these are all foods to avoid because they contain trans-fats.
You can still enjoy cakes and muffins; you’ll just need to make the goodies yourself, with healthy oils like coconut oil, for instance. If you have canola oil, margarine, shortening, peanut oil, cottonseed oil, or corn oil in your pantry, throw them out. Cook with healthy fats like olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil instead.
Sad, but true — stress is no good for your midsection. Stress isn’t good for anything, really. Finding ways to reduce stress will benefit your health on so many levels. When you’re chronically stressed, your hormones create imbalances in the body, including accumulation of visceral belly fat.
If you suspect stress to be a belly fat culprit, consider ways to alleviate stress throughout your day. Using aromatherapy, practicing yoga, doing aerobic exercise, walking in nature, listening to music, journaling, and venting to friends and family are all positive ways to decrease day-to-day stress. Getting proper sleep at night is also a prerequisite for a stress-free life.
Drink green tea
Not only is sitting down for a mindful cup of tea relaxing and yet another way to alleviate stress, it’s also a good way to lose belly fat. Many studies show green tea works magic on fat cells. The high quantity of antioxidants in green tea helps the body make a fat-burning hormone, while also giving metabolism a healthy boost. For optimum belly-fat results, enjoy 2-4 cups of organic green tea each day. Bonus: this will also help you stay hydrated!
Eat more protein
Eating adequate amounts of protein is essential to weight loss as well as the reduction of visceral belly fat. Protein is really great because it’s been proven to boost metabolism, while also reducing appetite. As we get older, our body becomes more resistant to insulin, which can result in more stored fat. Eating protein helps fight insulin resistance, making you less likely to store belly fat. In fact, eating healthy sources of protein with each meal can actually help you burn off that belly fat.
If you suspect you don’t eat enough protein, consider how you can incorporate high-quality sources of it into each meal. Think grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, free-range chicken, and eggs. Eating more beans and lentils are a great way to lose belly fat because not only are they an excellent source of protein, they’re also high in fiber.
Increase intake of healthy fats
Your belly needs fat to stay healthy. While this might sound counterintuitive, it’s true. But it needs to be the right kind of fat. Healthy fats are unsaturated, rather than saturated. Nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, avocados, nut butters, olives, olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter and ghee, omega-3 fatty acids from cold water fish like sardines and salmon, eggs, MCT oil, dark chocolate — these are all good forms of fat. They should be included in your diet and eaten daily. Trans-fats, on the other hand, should be avoided, and saturated fats like red meat should be enjoyed in moderation.
Cut back on the alcohol
Who doesn’t love a drink in the evening after work? Drinking alcohol in moderation is fine. But excessive drinking, which is defined by more than 8 drinks per week for women and more than 15 drinks per week for men, impacts belly fat — and not in a good way.
If you’re struggling to lose belly fat, consider cutting back on alcoholic beverages, or eliminate them completely from your diet until you’ve reached your optimal weight. You might also notice how much better you sleep when you cut back on those nightly beers or glasses of wine. Because alcoholic drinks dehydrate you, you’ll also notice more supple skin and brighter eyes when you cut back! Alcohol is fun, but, it does have a negative impact on your health when you over-do it. During the holiday season, or other festive times, make sure you’re drinking a glass of water in between drinks. This will help immensely while also preventing a massive hangover.
Keep a food and drink journal
There’s nothing like keeping a dietary journal if you want to become more mindful of what you’re putting into your body. Everything affects your body and mind. Every sip, every bite — it all has some kind of impact on your system. By keeping track of what you eat and drink on a daily basis, you’ll be gaining more awareness around your dietary habits. You’ll be able to see your habits and choices more clearly, and then decide what does or doesn’t need to be changed.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss because everyone is different. Some people gain belly fat by eating certain foods while others don’t. Having a conscious look at what works and what doesn’t work for you will help both you and your doctor come up with a plan together.
When keeping a food journal, don’t leave anything out. Everything you consume should be recorded — even vitamins and supplements. Have fun with your journal. Buy yourself something you’ll actually want to write in. This can be a creative process that motivates and inspires you to improve your health and enhance your life.
At Elite Physique, we believe an equal balance of nutrition, activity, rest, and confidence is the foundation for achieving a healthier you. Our personalized weight-loss programs identify and address anything that might be sabotaging weight loss and contributing to an increase in belly fat. Contact us today to schedule your free weight-loss consultation.