When it comes to losing belly fat, there are more fads and gimmicks out there than you can shake a measuring stick at. Famously known for being stubborn and hard to get rid of, belly fat is often seen as a glimpse into your overall health. Wading through the information out there to find what is for real and what isn’t when it comes to abdominal fat can be a daunting task. Fortunately, we’ve narrowed it down to you, so you can narrow down your waistline in a healthy, effective, and hopefully permanent way.
What Is Belly Fat?
Millions of people want to lose belly fat. But the visible fat you can feel is not necessarily the most significant problem when it comes to your overall wellbeing. As Defend Your Health explains, subcutaneous fat — the type of fat that lies directly underneath the skin — is what most commonly associate with belly fat. But there is a more dangerous type of fat — visceral fat or fat that surrounds our organs — that poses the highest health risks for heart disease and type II diabetes. Knowing the difference between these two fats can help you in your quest for understanding just what lies beneath your waistline; and how to better control it.
- Start early, end relatively early: Not only does getting up earlier mean more activity (thus, burning more calories) but exposing yourself to bright early-morning light has been linked to lowered body mass index (BMI). Also tied to weight loss is our bedtime. Studies have indicated that time we go to sleep (not too late) may be just as important as getting our recommended eight hours.
- Curb your sweet tooth: Foods sweetened with fructose have been linked to increased belly fat. When a lot of sugar is consumed, the liver gets overloaded with fructose, ultimately turning it into fat. Countless studies have shown that excess sugar can lead to increased abdominal fat, so curbing your sweet tooth should definitely be a priority.
- The skinny on the fats: Some fats are good for us. We need them in our diet in order to survive. But there are the good, the bad, and the ugly here. As a general rule, look to unsaturated fats and look away from trans fats. Trans fatty acids are a mostly synthetic, or “man-made” fat that hinders our body’s ability to regulate cholesterol and are linked to increased abdominal fat, so cut out some of the foods known for having trans fat.
- Limit carbs: Too many carbohydrates can lead to spiked insulin levels, which can add to your gut. Knowing which type of carbs are good for the belly (hint: complex), and which ones to limit, can greatly help your cause.
- Eat more protein: This is a biggie. Protein helps to increase energy, preserve and build lean muscle, increase calorie burning, and stave off hunger. Ensuring an adequate intake of protein-rich foods such as fish, nuts, meat, certain whole grains, and eggs can go a long way in your gut-management plan.
- More water, less alcohol: We need our eight glasses of water per day to replace the body fluids we lose, but drinking water also keeps our hunger at bay. Drinking water before meals can help to fill us up, so we consume less. And the sad-but-true fact about alcohol consumption is that it can cause digestive issues and is often full of sugar. So limiting it or cutting it out altogether is a good thing for your waistline.
- Increase exercise: Exercise reduces inflammation, lowers blood sugar levels, and has a positive effect on metabolic functioning overall. It is key to weight loss. Picking a cardio routine that works for you will put you well on your way to a smaller waistline. Also, a key to beating the pot belly is resistance training, which raises your metabolism and increases the rate at which you calorie-burn at rest. While it’s impossible to spot-train your belly away, doing ab exercises along with a good cardio/resistance training routine will go a long way in your battle of the bulge.
Employ Some Other Useful Belly Fat Hacks
There are, of course, more things you can do to improve your health by cutting out the extra visceral fat.
Eat in instead of out. When you’re making the food, you know what’s going in it. At home, we typically have better portion control, better ingredients, and best of all, leftovers.
Reduce your stress. Our hormone levels (ahem, cortisol) can be altered by chronic stress, leading to weight gain and belly fat. Look into some tried-and-true stress management techniques that are right for you.
So how big should your belly be?
To measure your waist, find the smallest section of your torso just above your belly button and apply a flexible tape measure against your bare skin. As a rule of thumb, if you’re a woman and above 35 inches, you’ll want to think about trimming. Likewise, for men, you don’t want to be over 39.
Millions are looking to lose the belly pooch, so you are most assuredly not alone. Muffin tops and love handles may make us uncomfortable in our own skin — but they can be powerful motivators. Now that you have this solid information under your belt, poke around online for some more good info so that you can put together an actionable plan that is right for you. The key is to stay focused and use your self-discipline to get yourself to your ultimate goal.