If exercise is not your thing and yet you have excess belly fat that doesn’t want to budge, is it possible to lose your muffin top without resorting to breaking a sweat? It’s possible but only with a lot of dedication and diligence by adopting a healthy eating pattern along with other habits. It’s always best to combine exercise with a healthy diet to get the best results but for those who won’t or can’t exercise, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Belly fat, that excess weight around our midsection also known as visceral fat, accumulates around our internal organs and raises our risk of developing diabetes, heart disease or stroke. Once this extra fat is gained, it can be difficult to lose but not impossible. If you’ve tried increasing exercise to lose this weight but to no avail a few changes in your diet and lifestyle can be the answer to mobilizing this hard to move fat.
1. Cut out certain carbs – This is your first step to getting rid of belly fat. Carbohydrates are important but take a hard look at what you are eating and get rid of any processed and refined foods that are loaded with sugar and white flour. Once you do this, you’ll notice a dramatic difference in decreased belly bloat and weight gain in general. Think of it like eating a quality, clean carbohydrate diet – you say “no” to foods such as sugary breakfast cereals, donuts, white rice, white bread, cookies, cake, pie, bagels, pizza, soft drinks, etc. You say “yes” to good-for-you carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, whole wheat bread, whole grain breakfast cereals, brown rice, whole grains like oatmeal and quinoa, beans, nuts and seeds. When put into practice, the results are remarkable.
2. Fiber - The average American consumes only 15 grams of fiber a day when we really need between 25-30 grams of fiber a day. A high fiber diet builds up less visceral fat in addition to creating a fuller feeling since fiber takes longer to digest causing you to eat less. Plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, beans, nuts and seeds, all contain fiber. In addition to fiber, foods such as berries contain phytochemicals called anthocyanins which may help burn abdominal fat. Whole grains are good sources of magnesium and chromium which reduce hormones associated with weight gain.
3. Sleep – Sleep is so important and yet so many of us don’t get enough. Individuals getting in between 6-8 hours of sleep a night will gain less visceral fat than those sleeping 5 hours or less each night. Have a bedtime routine where you go to bed and wake up at the same time. This gets your body into a rhythm helping it to adjust to this pattern.
4. Eat frequently throughout the day and don’t skip breakfast – Try to eat something about every 3-4 hours during the day beginning with eating breakfast within about one hour after getting up. Eating breakfast helps to increase metabolism by putting fuel into the body and prevents mid-morning hunger. Going too long without eating or skipping meals only sets you up to get overly hungry and to seek out high-calorie food. Eating nutritious food throughout the day not only helps lose belly fat but also can aid in gaining more lean muscle mass. Examples of healthy snacks could be vegetables slices with hummus, apple slices with peanut butter or a trail mix.
5. Release stress – We all know stress affects us mentally but who knew that stress can also lead to belly fat? A randomized control study demonstrated that when under stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol which increases fat buildup around the organs in the abdominal area. Another study showed that the combination of chronic stress and a high sugar/fat diet leads to the likelihood of accumulating abdominal visceral fat. Each day all of us experience stress in some manner therefore we need to learn to take time to decompress our stress. There are numerous ways to do this - some examples are to practice meditation, do yoga, pilates or basic stretching, go for a walk, take a bubble bath, watch a sunrise or sunset, listen to music, play with your dog or any other activity that helps to relax you.
6. Don’t smoke and reduce alcohol – Smoking is just a bad idea to begin with but studies have shown that smokers do indeed have higher amounts of belly fat than nonsmokers. Smoking tends to increase the deposition of fat in the abdominal area in addition to other harmful things it does to the body. Alcohol, if consumed responsibly at no more than 2 to 3 drinks a week can be part of a healthy lifestyle. But if consumed in excess, it can cause more fat from food to be stored and decrease hormones that can help the body burn more fat.
7. Other substances that may reduce belly fat – There is no one specific food or herb that will magically make belly fat disappear but they might help target belly fat by slightly increasing metabolic rate, boosting the release of fats from body-fat stores and reduce hunger thus reducing calorie intake. Some examples are:
- Green tea – This contains caffeine and EGCG or epigallocatechin gallate a polyphenol that boosts metabolism helping to burn more calories. Drinking green tea may help to increase your response to fat burners.
- Cayenne – It contains a chemical compound known as capsaicin which can speed up metabolism temporarily and reduces hunger.
- Caffeine – This can be a potent fat burner but only if you don’t drink hardly any coffee to begin with. It has the mechanism to increase metabolic rate and fat loss but if you down several cups of coffee each day, you will be desensitized to it and probably won’t notice any effect.
- Psyllium husk – Psyllium is a form of fiber made from the Plantaga ovato plant and is commonly used as a laxative. Metamucil is the best way to get in psyllium husk. This increase in fiber can reduce both food intake and hunger pangs. In addition, it helps with fecal formation and reduces gastrointestinal distress.
Don’t count on these substances to make a huge reduction in belly fat – they can technically help burn a tab bit more fat but the effect is usually small.
Bottom line on belly fat
There are no easy solutions but if you consistently follow the above suggestions on reducing belly fat, you should notice an improvement. Ideally exercise must be part of the equation to eliminating belly fat once and for all. A good diet, adequate exercise, sleep, stress release, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation if at all can all be utilized as part of your fight in getting rid of belly fat.
ABOUT CHERYL MUSSATTO, REGISTERED DIETITIAN
Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian and an adjunct professor at Allen Community College, Burlingame, Kansas and Butler County Community College, Council Grove, Kansas; she teaches Basic Nutrition and Therapeutic Nutrition. She is also a certified health and wellness coach, and a clinical dietitian for the Cotton O’Neil Medical Clinic in Osage City, Kansas where she does individualized nutrition counseling. She writes Eat Well to Be well, a column about health and nutrition forwww.osagecountyonline.com and is a blog contributor for Dr. David B. Samadi at www.samadimd.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit her website www.eatwell2bewellrd.com, or like “eat well 2 be well” on Facebook.