It’s the news that no one wants to hear. Having too much fat in your belly has been linked to an increased risk of early death.
Weight in the belly area has long been considered a potential cause of an increased risk for metabolic resistance. Often this is a precursor to many diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.
What happens with excess belly fat?
So why exactly is belly fat so unhealthy? When you gain too much belly fat, a buildup of visceral fat can happen. This unique type of fat can build up around different internal organs, such as the intestines, liver, and pancreas.
This build up can affect the hormone function of an individual and maylead to a higher resistance to insulin. This in turn, may lead to a higher risk of developing certain disorders like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and some types of cancers.
Interestingly, “love handles” on your thighs, legs, and arms, known in the medical world as subcutaneous fat do not typically affect hormones.
Everyone knows that not getting enough exercise and eating too much can cause belly fat to build up. But what else causes it happen? Some scientists believe that the stress hormone cortisol plays an active role in the build-up of belly fat. More cortisol can lead to insulin resistance, leading to more fat deposits.
How can you tell if you have excess belly fat?
Of course, you should always consult with your physician if you have concerns but there is a relatively easy way to get an idea of where you are by taking a measure of your own belly fat. To do this stand straight and relax your stomach. Without sucking in, use a soft tape measure to measure across your belly just a few inches from your hips.
If you are a woman, a reading of 89 centimeters, or 35 inches, is a key figure that could suggest you have excess belly fat. For men, it is about 102 centimeters, or 40 inches.
What should I do next?
The best way to target your belly fat is through diet and exercise. It’s a simple equation- you must burn more of your daily calories than the calories you consume. There are two ways to do this- by exercising more or eating less. And remember, always talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise or diet routines.
Eating better for less belly fat:
• Put together a menu full of plant-based foods. Choose as much fresh fruit and vegetables as possible. When it comes to vegetables, look for the greenest you can find- spinach, kale, and broccoli are three excellent choices. If you don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s okay to substitute frozen choices.
• Cut back or eliminate any sugary products. Avoid soda, processed cakes, cookies, and anything else full of sugar.
• Look for lean protein- lean chicken without the skin is a great choice.
• Choose low-fat dairy products.
• Look for whole grains and avoid processed foods.
One of the best tips is to carefully watch your portion sizes. Many Americans may eat healthy, but their portions are often too large. One helpful tip is to use a smaller salad plate for dinners. You might also try measuring out your meals on a food scale to make sure you are not going overboard.
Exercising for less belly fat:
• Remember, muscle will burn more calories than fat, so weight training and muscle strengthening can be an important part of your workout.
• If you can do moderate exercises, such as taking a brisk walk, do so for at least 150 minutes per week. If you are able to perform vigorous aerobic activity, such as swimming, running, or fast biking, do so for at least 75 minutes per week.
If you aren’t sure what level of intensity you are at, take the “talk test” to find out. If you can talk but you can’t sing, then you are at a moderate level of exercise. If you have to take a breath after a few words, then you are working at a vigorous level of exercise.
Always take your waist measurement before you begin your diet and exercise regimen, as not everyone sees results on the scale. Measure your belly periodically to make sure you are reaching your goal. If you see inches coming off of your waist before your hips, stay on track! You’re doing great.