If you ask any obese person where would he like to lose fat first?, the most common answer would be stomach. And this is mostly for aesthetic purpose.
But this stomach fat has deeper hazards than just appearing out of shape. Intra-abdominal fat accounts for less than 20% of total body fat but it can give rise to a number of health problems.
Fat is stored in two compartments:
- Subcutaneous tissue- Beneath the skin
- Visceral tissue- Around the organs
Fat tissues’ primary function is to store fat. But interestingly it also secretes hormones that facilitate release of fat in the blood stream. These are free fatty acids and they constitute cholesterol and like groups found in the blood.
When your calorie intake increases beyond the adipose tissue’s capacity to store fat, it releases the fat as free fatty acids in the blood by the action of enzymes (lipases) and this process is known as lipolysis.
In order to store these fats secondary storage sites are activated and this fat gets stored as intra-abdominal or intra-thoracic fat. Also the free fatty acids transport them to different organs such as liver, pancreas and heart.
What happens in obesity is that when the energy consumed is in excess, the fat tissues tend to become insulin resistant. They are immune to anti-lipolytic action of insulin and lead to release of free fatty acids in the circulation.
This load is more than what an organ can utilise and therefore it gets deposited as fat around the organs.
Since this fat is getting stored in cells that are not programmed to store fat, the fat depots interfere in the functioning of organs thus leading to onset of metabolic and heart diseases and inflammation. That is how dangerous belly fat can be?!
In most individuals there is a disproportionate increase in abdominal fat compared to subcutaneous fat leading to varying waist hip ratio (circumference of waist divided by that of hip). A ratio of 0.9 for men and 0.85 for women indicates abdominal obesity.
Here are few causes which lead to abdominal obesity:
- Consumption of trans fat or unhealthy fat
- High carbohydrate diet
- Physical inactivity
- Alcohol consumption
- Medical conditions like diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome
Men are more likely to develop abdominal obesity than women and belly fat increases your risk of developing heart diseases, diabetes, atherosclerosis etc. So it is high time you geared up and got rid of that paunch!
11 tips on how to say good bye to the stubborn belly fat
Here are a list of our suggestions and solutions to help you banish your pot belly soon.
1.What should my diet be like?
First and foremost count your calories. Daily or intermittent calorie restriction where you reduce your energy intake by 15-60% can be practised. Calorie restriction with a target intake of 25kcal/kg is proven to reduce visceral fat.
Make it a point to include fibres in your diet in the form of whole grain products and beans. A high fibre diet is proven to be as effective as low carb diets when it comes to weight loss. In fact consuming more than 14 g of fibre a day can lead to a weight loss of 1.9 kg over a 4 month period.
Level up the protein content of your diet. Proteins help in increasing muscle mass and reducing appetite thereby causing weight loss. Research proves that protein intake is inversely associated with abdominal obesity. Not only does it make you lose belly fat immediately but also reduces the risk of developing belly fat in the next five years.
High protein diet can also help you maintain your weight loss. So start with lean portions of meat or salmon.
Vegetarians can start including dairy products, soyabean, sprouts and green leafy vegetables. Healthy fats such as healthy omega 3 fatty acids are permitted which promote satiety and weight loss and maintenance. Cut down on sugars and added sugars.
Few diets that are said to have led to a reduction in belly fat with time are Mediterranean diet, Baltic Sea diet etc. but before we get to that the basics mentioned above should be helpful. (Read Mediterranean Diet for weight loss )
Health tip: Cut down on carbs and sugar replacing it with protein and fibre in regular meals. Start having healthy fats like omega 3 fatty acids. And don’t forget to count the calories.
2. Can I walk about and lose belly fat?
Exercise increases insulin sensitivity, improves blood lipid profile and reduces abdominal obesity. So what exercise should you be doing? A study investigating effect of exercise on intra-abdominal fat demonstrated that regular exercise such as brisk walking can help reduce abdominal fat and total body fat.
This study listed a number of exercises that they prescribed to the participants and these were: treadmill walking, stationary bicycling, 10 repetitions of leg extension, leg curls, leg press, chest press, and seated dumbbell row, walking, aerobics, and bicycling. Overall it was a 45 minute exercise regimen 5 days a week.
You can start small though. But if you are considering walking then the average distance you have to cover is more than 8 miles per week. Daily walking reduces insulin resistance and increases loss of intra-abdominal fat.
90 minute exercise regime is proven to burn deep abdominal fat in women.
In fact exercise induced weight loss is as effective as diet induced weight loss. 700kcal energy was expended or restricted per day. As per this study average reduction was 1.3 kg greater in exercise group than diet group and similar reduction was seen in visceral fat and abdominal fat.
Yoga is also a good option. It ensures physical as well as mental well being. The effect is pretty slow but the results are long lasting. A study has shown that 6 month yoga practice brought about 3.1 cm decrease in waist circumference in breast cancer survivors.
However if you are looking for something faster, aerobics is what you should go for. Research reports a decrease of 12% of visceral fat and overall reduction in weight and central obesity with regular practice of aerobics.
Here is my personal favourite article. It lists a good number of exercises that can help you attain flat abs in no time.
Health tip: Start moving! Sedentary lifestyle can gift you a huge belly. Make it a point to exercise for at least 30 minutes 3 to 5 days a week.
3. Welcome Korea!
No, I am not asking you to shift to Korea. Chungkookjang and Doenjang are two Korean dishes that are proven to reduce abdominal fat.
Doenjang is a fermented soybean paste. Animal studies prove that doenjang is more effective than soybean itself when it comes to preventing visceral fat accumulation.
A 12 week clinical trial showed that supplementation with 9.9g dry doenjang per day reduced total fat and visceral fat in overweight individuals. In fact it is proven to reduce visceral fat in individuals who suffer from obesity due to mutations in their genes.
Chungkookjang is a traditional fermented soybean food. A 12 week clinical trial was conducted where overweight and obese individuals were given 26g of chungkookjang every day and as expected a decrease in visceral fat was seen at the end of the study. Chungkookjang also showed anti-atherosclerotic effect.
This anti-obesity effect is due to soybean compounds (isoflavones) which are higher in concentration in fermented food items. Soy protein is found to be more efficient than other protein sources, mainly meat, dairy and bread, in reducing insulin resistance- the main cause behind abdominal obesity.
Health tip: If accessible start having these Korean fermented soybean foods for at least 3 months for visible results. If not then at least make soy protein your best friend.
4.A cup of coffee or tea, may be?
What if a cup of coffee or tea on regular basis burns your belly fat? Clinical trials prove that green coffee and black coffee consumption for 2 weeks reduces BMI and waist circumference.
Habitual consumption of coffee is inversely associated with visceral fat accumulation. Chlorogenic acid and caffeine present in coffee prevent fat accumulation by increasing the level of enzymes which support fat metabolism.
Tea consumers have a lower BMI and waist circumference than non consumers. Green tea, black tea and oolong tea extracts demonstrate anti-obesity effects by reducing visceral fat. Green tea supplemented with catechins is proven to decrease waist circumference by 1.9 cm and a decrease of 5.6 cm2 in intra abdominal fat. Green tea can also improve your exercise outcomes on abdominal fat loss.
Purple tea, the tea of the future, is said to have the goodness of green tea along with additional bioactive components which facilitate weight loss.
Health tip: Limit your tea or coffee intake to 1-3 cups a day as caffeine if taken in high amounts can cause anxiety and insomnia. You also might want to avoid regular sugar in these beverages. Check out :Green tea for weight loss
5. How about oatmeal for breakfast?
Haven’t you seen the advertisements of celebrities suggesting oatmeals for breakfast or any other meal of the day to have a great waistline in no time? Well they are suggesting the right thing!
A study conducted on humans proves that regular oat consumption reduces obesity, abdominal fat and improves blood lipid profile.
This is attributed to beta-glucan, important fibre present in oats. Dietary fibre reduces appetite, improves digestion and facilitates excretion of fats. Addition of oat bran to biscuits and juice for breakfast is proven to increase satiety thus reducing subsequent energy intake.
Whole grain ready to eat oat cereal is proven to be better than other fibre sources in reducing cholesterol and waist circumference. Another added benefit as stated by a study is that consumption of instant oatmeal daily for 6 weeks reduces the risk of heart diseases.
Health tip: Start your day with a nice breakfast of oatmeal and some occasions replace your regular meals with oats. It is the perfect food item for a perfect waistline and is good for the heart too. Read more: Oats for weight loss
6.Did you say seaweeds?! Ughh!
Eating seaweeds does not seem an appetising idea to me but increased seaweed consumption is associated with reduced risk of metabolic syndrome in Asian population. Fucoxanthin is a bioactive compound found in brown seaweeds. It demonstrates anti-obesity action by:
- Stimulating oxidation of fatty acids
- Burning abdominal fat to generate heat
- Improving insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism
- Preventing onset of inflammation in abdominal fat tissue
Health tip: For those of you who do not want to experiment with their palate, fucoxanthin supplements are available.
7.An orange a day keeps belly fat away
Vitamin C intake is negatively associated with abdominal obesity in women. Satsuma mandarin is a type of orange native to China. It is rich in a caratenoid-β-cryptoxanthin which is also found in human blood. Levels of this compound are low in obese individuals.
Another fruit belonging to the citrus family that helps with weight loss is grapefruit. It is a hybrid fruit that is famous for health benefits and its tart juicy flavour. Nootkatone a bioactive compound present in grapefruit that stimulates energy metabolism and prevents diet induced obesity.
A nutraceutical prepared from extracts of orange, grapefruit and red orange has shown the potential of reducing abdominal fat and waist and hip circumference.
Health tip: Citrus fruits are a good source of vitamin C that can curb belly fat. Grapefruit and mandarin oranges are a good option as they have proven anti-obesity effect. Read more : Grapefruit for weight loss
8.Vinegar to your rescue!
Vinegar is one multipurpose product found in every household and guess what!? It helps in weight loss.
In a 12 week study conducted on obese Japanese individuals, the participants were asked to consume a 500 ml beverage containing either 15 ml or 30 ml vinegar. Reduction in body weight and BMI was observed along with loss of visceral fat and decrease in waist circumference.
Health tip: 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar daily should do the trick. Also it is good for heart and digestion.
9.There is gotta be something herbal for this!
Yes, absolutely there are herbal remedies available for belly fat. Check these out:
- Cinnamaldehyde, present in cinnamon, exerts anti-obesity effect and is proven to reduce waist circumference in obese individuals.
- The spice of Life- Turmeric! A study proves that curcuminoid (its bioactive ingredient) extract reduces visceral fat.
- Yerba mate, a beverage originating from South America, reduces intra-abdominal fat.
- Licorice flavonoid oil consumed for 8 weeks significantly reduces visceral fat.
- Salacia reticulate, a herb used in Ayurveda, reduces body weight, visceral fat and cholesterol.
Health tip: Before you plan on using herbal remedies make sure you follow a low calorie diet. Our website has a number of scientifically proven herbal remedies for weight loss to help you out.
10.Break old habits!
Here are a few things we would suggest to make your belly fat loss regime even more effective:
- Quit alcohol. Alcohol consumption is positively associated with accumulation of abdominal fat.
- Cut down sugars. Stop consuming carbonated beverages and artificial juices as they contain a high proportion of artificial sweeteners. Try a low calorie herbal sweetener like Stevia.
- Lower the stress levels. Take some time to pamper yourself and breathe easy.
- Make it a point to have fresh fruits and vegetables. They are rich in antioxidants and fibre.
- Start a new habit- have probiotics. This one elixir that improves digestion, reduces abdominal fat and boosts overall health and immunity.
- Stop overeating and learn to say no to extra helpings.
Health tip: Losing weight is not just a physical effort, it requires mental effort too. Pump up your will power, break old habits and cultivate healthy ones.
11. Can I still have desserts?
Sure, why not? But watch the serving size. It is a pretty arduous task to give up on things you love for the sake of a diet but it reaps great health benefits.
A study was conducted to evaluate the effect of including a sweet snack daily with a calorie restricted diet. 26 overweight and obese women were asked to consume either dark chocolate or non chocolate snack with calorie restricted diet for 18 weeks.
These were the results for chocolate and non-chocolate group respectively:
- Loss of body weight: 5.1 kg and 5.1kg
- Decrease in hip circumference: 5.8 and 5.4 cm
- Decrease in waist circumference:5.7 and 3.5cm
- Decrease in body fat percentage: 3.4% and 3.1%
Deliciously surprising right!? In fact dark chocolate has a beneficial effect on cholesterol and waist circumference. (Read Chocolate for weight loss) You can also add fruits and berries to your dessert.
Animal study shows that blueberry intake reduces fat accumulation in metabolic syndrome and obesity. Tart cherry is rich in anthocyanins and animal studies prove that tart cherry intake reduces fat accumulation, prevents increase in body weight, reduces abdominal fat and lowers cholesterol levels.
Health tip: Even if you are on a diet that does not mean you have to completely eliminate certain items. Choose healthier alternatives for dessert such as fruits, dry fruits, berries and dark chocolate. Avoid sugar laden items.
Start taking abdominal obesity seriously. It can cause a number of health risks. Getting into your old pair of jeans should not be your only aim to reduce belly fat.
However it is good to have some aim for starters. This article will surely guide you to get rid of belly fat and also reduce risk of developing it in future.