Belly Fat, Be Gone!
Belly fat, we all have it. Fat is an essential part of our human makeup. Until recent centuries, obesity was monopolized by royalty. Few people enjoyed the luxury of rich foods and limited exercise until the industrialization of the world. Obesity is now an epidemic. Comfort—once a luxury—is now an expectation. As our species enjoys the comforts of modern living, they also are ganging the mid-section bulge only the kings possessed in the golden years of the past.
Belly fat has grown out of style. It is not a sign of prosperity. Americans spend billions of dollars a year to reduce the size of their midsections. Is a flat tummy just a cosmetic fad or is there more substance to all the hype over burning the belly fat? The fat around mid-section has a biological purpose. It is referred to as a visceral fat. Visceral fat forms around the organs providing the organs with protection. I suppose that for much of human history calories were not readily available and exercise was. It was a luxury to have extra calories to store as fat. Because of the importance of protecting the organs, we biologically divert much of those extra calories to visceral fat first.
Evolution takes thousands of years to catch up to environmental changes. We live in a calorie rich environment. Fast food is available in minutes. A small meal can pack more calories than our ancestors consumed in two or three days. Calorie rich, nutrient poor is the common make-up of an ordinary dinner eaten from a sack.
Scientific studies have repeatedly shown that excessive visceral fat has many damaging effects on health. Excessive visceral fat that gathers around the organs interferes with healthy functioning. Excess visceral fat is associated with hypertension, cardiovascular heart disease, type two diabetes, and even cancer.
There is no magic pill or exercise to reducing belly fat—although many proclaim to have the cure. There are, however, several positive steps we can to lose the inches, and restore healthier functioning to our vital organs. These cures to visceral fat are not glamorous but they are effective.
1. Exercise. Vigorous exercise burns fat including visceral fat. It increases muscle mass, which increases the body’s ability to burn fat.
Your current fitness level will determine what is or is not vigorous exercise. A brisk walk, circuit training, or interval training all can burn the calories essential for losing weight. If you have been inactive for a significant amount of time, see your doctor before implementing an exercise routine.
2. Improve your diet. Make your calories count. Nutrition is the foundation of health. Whole body health is not simply a calorie restricted diet. Calorie restriction when employed haphazardly can be as damaging as over indulging. Eliminate trans-fats (often listed as hydrogenated oils) and saturated fats, processed foods and simple carbohydrates (sugars and refined flours) while simultaneously increasing whole foods. Increased fiber intake has been shown to reduce visceral fat. Healthy fats from nuts, fish and avocado also have been associated with visceral fat loss. Dr. Oz suggests adding low fat dairy products and green tea to your diet to help fight visceral fat.
3. Proper Sleep. Sleep is essential for a well-functioning body. Multiple studies have shown that inadequate and poor quality sleep lead to food cravings, weigh gain and higher susceptibility to disease. Most people require 6-8 hours of sleep a night to function properly. Too much or too little sleep can affect healthy processing of calories and lead to visceral fat gain.
4. Reduce Stress. An overabundance of stress interferes with health. Sleep, diet and exercise all lower stress. Life is stressful by nature. Relationships, finances, and uncertainty all induce stress. We will never eliminate stress entirely but we effectively manage it. We can improve relationships, finances and plan for the future. We can also integrate other stress reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, and nature into our busy day.