How to Lose Belly Fat

pHion Balance  |  0 Comment

One trait that sets an athlete apart from the rest of the herd is a ripped six-pack, that ladder-like array of abdominal muscles that bears witness to thousands of crunches, sit-ups and knee-raises. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the ignoble “spare tire,” an abdominal ornament that attests to too many trips through the take-out line and too many remote control-punching hours on the couch.

Having an apron of fat around your middle – what doctors call “visceral fat” – is more than just a cosmetic issue. Abdominal fat is one of the diagnostic criteria for metabolic syndrome, a condition that heightens your risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer. There’s something about visceral fat that sets off an inflammatory fire in your body, a slow conflagration that damages blood vessels, triggers insulin resistance and incites revolt within your immune system.

While any excess visceral fat poses a health risk, the odds for serious trouble really ratchet upward when your waist size reaches a critical limit: 35 inches (89 cm) if you’re a woman or 40 inches (102 cm) if you’re a man. Your waist-to-hip ratio and body mass index are also useful for determining health risks, but these clinical tools are confusing for some people. Nearly anyone can wrap a tape measure around his or her waist. (Place the tape against your bare skin just above your hipbone to get an accurate measurement.)

So what’s the best way to unload your beer belly or trim the overhang from your muffin top? Like excess fat anywhere on your body, visceral fat will disappear if you increase your activity level and reduce your caloric intake. Unfortunately, there’s no diet plan, supplement or specific exercise that will magically dissolve abdominal fat. Sit-ups will strengthen your abdominal muscles, but such “spot reduction” exercises aren’t any better than other types of exercise for getting rid of belly fat.

Increasing muscle mass in any area of your body will help burn visceral fat, because muscle tissue is metabolically active and demands lots of energy even between exercise sessions. So mix a little weightlifting into your workout routine. Strive for 15 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise – mixing aerobics with resistance training – every day. If you can’t fit a one-hour session into your schedule, break your daily exercise into several 10- to 15-minute workouts.

In addition to the empty calories it provides, alcohol elevates hormones that help visceral fat grow and make it harder to lose once it’s nestled around your waistline. If you drink more than two alcoholic beverages daily, cutting back will help you lose your belly roll. Cortisol, another hormone that contributes to the deposition of visceral fat, is higher in people who are chronically stressed or who are sleep-deprived. Get at least seven hours of restful sleep each night; if you’re under a lot of stress, seek ways to reduce it (counseling, delegating responsibility, exercise, etc.).

Belly fat can be stubborn, but it will disappear if you develop a routine and stick to it. And even if it takes you six months, a year or even more to slim down, you’ll start reaping health benefits long before that last obstinate bulge slides off your middle.  

Here's to your wellness,


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