Take slow, steady approach to beat stubborn belly fat – Tallahassee.com

Posted: September 25, 2019 at 8:46 am

Mark Mahoney(Photo: Mark Mahoney)

As we move toward the beginning of fall, the issue of understanding the importance of reducing belly fat through a healthier lifestyle can lead to an improved quality of life. Why is it important to address excess belly (or visceral) fat? And, what are some simple tips to consider for addressing this health problem? Taking proactive steps now can prove beneficial to your future longevity.

Visceral fat is stored in a person's abdominal cavity and is also known as 'active fat' as it influences how hormones function in the body. An excess of visceral fat can, therefore, have potentially dangerous consequences. Because visceral fat is in the abdominal cavity, it is close to many vital organs, such as the pancreas, liver, and intestines.

The higher the amount of visceral fat a person stores, the more at risk they are for certain health complications which may include many-varied negative health conditions such as heart attacks, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, heightened blood pressure, stroke, breast and colorectal cancer and Alzheimers disease.

Get more fiber:You dont have to consume a bag of prunes. Leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and beans are all good for keeping away the fat that stays deep in your belly. Thats called visceral fat, and its the most dangerous kind because it can wrap around major organs, including your liver, pancreas, and kidneys.

Forget these two things:There are no super foods that burn off visceral fat. And you cant tone it away with specific moves like crunches. Instead, look for ways to improve your eating habits and add activity every day. Think about your average week. Where might you be able to make some changes?

Limiting saturated fats:While anyone can have too much visceral fat, its more likely if youve got a lot of weight to lose. As you start to take those pounds off, it will help your whole body, including belly fat thats hidden out of your sight.

Limit the saturated kind thats in animal foods, coconut and palm oils, and full-fat dairy. Keep the portions of those foods smaller than you might normally do, for instance. And check nutrition labels to see how many calories and how much fat is in a serving. Look for fats that are better for you, too, like those from plant foods or fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel that are rich in omega-3s.

Sleep: An important formula:When it comes to weight gain, shut-eye is a bit like porridge: Too little less than 5 hours may mean more belly fat. But too much more than 8 hours can do that, too. Just right seems to be around 6-8 hours. If you dont sleep that much now, or if you tend to toss and turn, try to go to bed a little earlier, relax before bedtime, keep your bedroom cool, and try not to text and email right before you turn in.

Forget the quick fix:Sorry, but cosmetic surgery isnt the solution here. Liposuction doesnt reach inside the abdominal wall. So it cant get rid of visceral belly fat. Likewise, crash diets arent the solution, either. Youre too likely to go off them. The slower, steadier option lifestyle changes that you can commit to for a long time really is the best bet.

Keep calm:Are you stressed out? That can make you eat more fat and sugar, and unleash the stress hormone cortisol, which can boost belly fat. Stress also can make you sleep less, exercise less, and drink more alcohol which can add belly fat, too. Its a great reason to take up meditation, work out, listen to music you love, or find other healthy ways to unwind and relax.

Rethink your drink:Whether its a latte, a regular soda, a mug of beer, or a glass of wine, its got calories. And when youre trying to unwind the numbers on the scale, water (or a smaller glass of your favorite beverage) might be a better choice. If you drink alcohol, remember that it just might make you throw your willpower out the window when you order your meal, too.

Dont smoke:As if you need another reason to quit. Smoking makes you more likely to store fat in your belly, rather than your hips and thighs. And thats bad. Oh, and its also a cause of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. And you get the idea. If youve tried before, try again. Tell your doctor, so you can get pointers on what might help you quit for good.

Weight gain around the middle can have negative health affects. Recommendations include adopting a whole-foods diet cutting out processed, refined, stripped-of-fiber carbs and advocating healthy fats and lean proteins.(Photo: Martinina, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Importance of waist size:A good method is to measure your waist. If youre a woman, you want that number to be 35 inches or less. Men can go up to 40 inches. You may lower your chance of having a heart attack, a stroke, or possibly certain types of cancer. A tape measure cant check on visceral fat. But along with the scale, it can help you track your weight loss.

Dont try to outrun it:Research shows that a few quick bursts of high-intensity exercise such as a 30-second sprint or intense pull-up sets may be more effective, and easier to fit into your schedule than long runs. You can add bursts of higher intensity to any workout. Just speed up or work harder for a brief time, then drop back to a mellower pace, and repeat.

Weights:Think about hitting the gym instead of the trail. In one study, healthy middle-aged men who did 20 minutes of daily weight training gained less abdominal fat than men who spent the same time doing aerobic exercises, such as biking. Strength training is also good for women and it wont make you bulky. You still need to do some cardio, but make sure strength training is in the mix.

Visceral fat is fat that we cannot see, so it is not always easy to know whether a person has an excess of it. Because the associated health risks can be severe, it is essential for those who suspect their visceral fat levels are high to seek advice from a health professional.

Usually, it is possible to avoid high levels of visceral fat by leading a healthy and active lifestyle. Those who do store dangerous amounts of visceral fat can reduce their levels by making positive changes to their lifestyle. Three important changes include eating a nutritious, low-fat diet, undertaking appropriate types of exercise, and lowering stress levels.

Additional in-depth information on addressing visceral fat can be found at the following sites:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/abdominal-fat-and-what-to-do-about-it

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/mens-health/in-depth/belly-fat/art-20045685

Thanks to Medical News Today and the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Health for much of the content here.

Consult a qualified health professional before undertaking any specific type of high intensity exercise and if you have any questions related to increasing your physical activity level.

Mark A. Mahoney, Ph.D. has been a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RDN) for over 35 years and completed graduate studies in Nutrition & Public Health at Columbia University. He can be reached at marqos69@hotmail.com.

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Take slow, steady approach to beat stubborn belly fat - Tallahassee.com

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