Belly Fat. Spare Tire. Muffin Top. Call it what you want, but it’s a major health hazard. Fat that’s stored around your midsection raises your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. That’s the bad news. The good news is that this kind of fat is very metabolically active and is easier to lose than the fat that’s stored in your derriere.
So, how did that belly fat get there in the first place? When you gain weight it’s simply a matter of math – you’ve consistently taken in more calories from food than you’ve burned off through activity. Let’s say that you eat pretty healthy, but you drink a 12 oz. regualr soda every day. That 140-calorie soda will cause you to gain 14.4 pounds a year. What if, instead of a soda, you enjoy a daily 350-calorie iced blended, flavored coffee drink (with whipped cream, of course) – that’s 36.5 pounds a year you’ll gain!
Simply put, if calories in are greater than calories out, you’ll gain weight, which will go straight to your middle. There are certain foods that increase your weight and body fat more than others – partly because of their hormonal effect in the body and partly because these foods are addictive, causing you to eat more of them and have an even higher calorie intake. These foods include:
- Saturated fat and trans fat: fried foods, “snack” foods, animal fat (marbled meats, poultry skin), high fat dairy foods, pastries (cookies, cakes, cupcakes, doughnuts, etc.)
- Sugar – table sugar, soda, candy, ice cream, cookies, brownies, etc.
- White flour products: cereal, crackers, bread, tortillas, bagels, pasta, rice.
Other (non-food) factors that influence weight gain and belly fat include lack of physical activity, inadequate sleep, stress, depression, hormones, and age.
How to Banish Belly Fat
Are you ready to banish the belly fat for good? It’s easier than you think. Check out these belly-fighting tips and get started right away. Your belly, bikini, and health will thank you.
- Fruit and vegetables: fresh (preferably organic) or frozen (without added sugar or salt). Dried is good, too, but watch those with added sugar and mind the portion size, as they are high in calories and can contribute to weight gain.
- Beans and lentils
- Soy foods: Real soy foods, like tofu, soy beans, soy milk, and soy nuts
- Omega-3 rich foods: wild Alaskan salmon, Pacific halibut, black cod/sable fish, barramundi, tuna, walnuts, ground flax seed
- Monounsaturated fats: avocado, olive oil, almonds, pistachios
- Lean protein: fish, skinless chicken and turkey breast, eggs, egg whites, nonfat or 1% dairy, bison.
- Green Tea
- Regular exercise: a combination of cardio and strength training are key for burning calories, improving your heart health, and increasing your lean muscle mass. The more active muscle tissue you have, the higher your metabolism will be. Yoga, pilates, and tai chi are great for balance, stability, and core strength.
- Sleep: Try to get at least 7 1/2 hours of sleep a night. Turn off the TV, computer, and cell phone an hour before bed so that your brain can produce enough melatonin so you can fall asleep quickly.
- Deep breathing and meditation: reduce your stress and stress hormones by quieting your mind a few times a day. Close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply, and focus on a mantra, such as “calm” or “peace.”