You may be familiar with either a muffin top, beer belly, or a flat tire. If you're not, these are terms for different stomach shapes. Their names come from either their uncanny resemblances to actual objects (muffin top and flat tire) or from a popular drink that many who enjoy tend to share a similar look in the midsection (beer bellies). The stomach takes on these shapes due to, well, body fat that has accumulated and been stored in this area over time. Lets be honest, if you’re overweight you probably can identify with one of these shapes and have also said, “I just want to lose this stomach”, or something in that neighborhood. If you have, pay up (that means pay attention lol), this is for you!
Our bodies store several types of fat. However, subcutaneous and visceral fats are responsible for extra weight in the stomach. Subcutaneous fat is just below the skin and is squishy. You can see this fat and it can be pinched. This is where cellulite comes from. Picture love handles, flat tires, pouches, and muffin tops. Visceral fat is stored in the abdomen cavity. Visceral fat isn’t pinchable and is hard when pressed. Think of a beer or pot belly. It surrounds the liver, stomach (the actual organ, not what WE consider the stomach. Its actually the abdomen, y’all.), and intestines. Too much of this type of fat in the area can affect the function of these organs. Belly fat is usually a combination of both fats. Subcutaneous fat is more so a cosmetic issue than detrimental to your health. Visceral fat is an issue!
Visceral fat surrounds major organs, as well as it builds up in your arteries. This fat can increase insulin resistance. Visceral fat in the abdomen and diabetes usually go hand in hand. A large amount of visceral fat increases your risk for heart attacks and heart disease. It is associated with high blood pressure, strokes, and higher total cholesterol. Visceral fat increases your risk of colorectal cancer. Several reasons to consider telling it good bye for good.
Are you wondering if you are at risk for health issues due to fat in the abdomen area? The easiest way to determine this is the measure your waist. For women, if your waist is more than 35 inches you’re at risk. 40 inches for men.
Ok, you’ve measured yourself, now lets talk about getting rid of this belly fat. It’s a bit easier to do than stubborn subcutaneous fat. Let me clarify that, its easier if you are consistent. Your diet is the most important factor to look at when considering making healthy changes. Sugar. S.U.G.A.R. Sugar is the biggest culprit when it comes to belly fat. Not natural sugars, like that found in milk and fruit. I’m talking about table sugar and sugar added during the processing of food. Also known as simple sugars, simple carbs, or added sugars.
Not only is consuming sugary drinks and processed foods the easiest way to consume a high number of calories, but it increases your hunger. Sugary foods aren’t filling, so satiety doesn’t last long. You’re left hungry with a bunch of empty calories.
Sugar makes you want more sugar. Science says eating sugar causes your brain to release dopamine (a chemical that gives you a happy feeling). Your brain craves this feeling and starts to need more to get the same feeling of pleasure. Kinda sounds similar to what they say about hard drugs, right? That is one way to look at it, as a hard drug. Added sugar is addictive. But wait, there’s more.
Sugar can cause inflammation in the body. Inflammation is your body’s way of protecting you by fighting off harmful bacteria. When you cut yourself the wound becomes red, warm, and puffy. There may be pain and some loss of the ability to move that area. This is natural. However, I’ll repeat that added sugar does this in the body, which is not natural. This can lead to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, as well as allergies.
Added sugar comes hidden in foods like protein bars, tomato sauce, pasta, smoothies, and bread. It’s hidden under some of these names: agave nectar (can’t add that to homemade margaritas anymore), corn syrup, palm sugar, cane juice, brown sugar, and turbinado. Smoothie King adds this to their smoothies. You can ask for it without it and it still tastes just as good. Sugar is often disguised as sucrose.
Instead of simple carbs like white bread and refined-grain pasta opt for whole-grain bread and whole-wheat pastas. Eliminate or drastically cut back on processed foods and foods high in fat and sugar. You will have to really monitor your sugar intake to lose belly fat. Instead of frying foods use the 3 B’s; bake, broil, or boil. Eat more complex carbs like vegetables, fruit, beans, and lentils. These foods have half the calories of processed and sugary foods and will leave you full.
Drink plenty water. It keeps you full. Water, although tasteless, is a great substitute for sugary drinks. It has zero calories and sugar. Drink a cup or two before meals to help you eat less. This is especially helpful when dining out. Stay hydrated as to not confuse thirst for hunger. Before reaching for a snack, try taking a big gulp of water (enough to fill your mouth) hold it for a few seconds and then swallow it. Do this twice. If this doesn’t satisfy you then go for a snack.
If you need flavor in your water, add fruit. If you fast, only drink water like this during your feasting window. Drink sparkling water, occasionally.
Other Eating Tips To Decrease Belly Fat
Eat lean proteins. Eggs, nuts and nut butters, 90% or leaner ground beef, and beans are good sources. Nuts and nut butters are also a good source of healthy fats. Be careful because nut butters, like peanut butter, may have added sugar. Choose organic nut butters. Add olives, avocados and nuts to foods like salads or sandwiches. These are other sources of healthy fats.
Decrease your caloric intake. If you don’t want to count calories try controlling your portions. Fill half of your plate with vegetables, one-fourth with lean protein, and the remainder whole grains, fruit, or starchy vegetables.
Ohhhhhh, about booze. Beer is a given. It’s in the name of one of the stomach shapes mentioned above. Beer causes bloating and is loaded with carbs. You should avoid it altogether. At least cut back or choose low carb options. Our body doesn’t store alcohol and considers it a toxin. Because of this, the body stops metabolizing your food to process the alcohol, storing the food as energy for later. Energy stored turns into body fat. This means you should watch your food intake when drinking alcohol, specifically the carb your more prone to go to when attempting to “soak up the liquor”.
Incorporate fasting. Part of the processing of food requires the release of insulin. Insulin stores food to use for energy if its not burned from daily activity or used for normal body functions. Insulin is responsible for turning food into fat in our bodies. When we eat our insulin levels should increase, signaling to the body to store some fat. When we don’t eat our insulin levels decrease, signaling to the body to burn fat. The more you eat, the more the more opportunities to produce insulin. Fasting gives your body a break from not only processing food, but from producing insulin and storing fat. Eating carbs and sugary foods causes insulin levels to rise. Eating a low carb diet limits insulin production and causes your body to use another source for energy, body fat. A quicker way to get there is from fasting. From personal experience this is the best way to lose belly fat. Avoiding sugar and bread plus fasting equals a flatter stomach and smaller waistline. Trust me on this one.
I Should Exercise, Right?
Focus more on burning calories instead of intense training. Think about it, if you’re just beginning and you go full force, how likely are you to stick with it? Plus your body wouldn’t be able to handle it. This can cause injury and inflammation in the body. As your weight decreases begin to incorporate other activities. A great place to start is 30 minutes of brisk walking at least three times a week along with a balanced diet and caloric deficit.
Self Care Is Important
Take time for yourself. Spend time meditating. Develop a self care routine. Stress causes weight gain. When experiencing stress the hormone cortisol is released into the body. This increases insulin levels and drops your blood sugar, causing you to crave comfort foods. Stress eating is a result of this. Develop habits that make you happy. Form routines by being consistent with everything.
Forming good sleep habits is self care. Cortisol levels are higher when you do not get adequate sleep. Remember, increased cortisol levels increases your cravings for foods high in calories, carbs, and fats. Simply put, comfort foods.
Whether it’s a muffin top, beer belly, or flat tire you want to get rid of, don’t stress about it. Losing belly fat for good can be done. In fact, stay far away from the stress. Avoid processed foods and sugary drinks. Minimize your sugar intake. Seriously, cut back on it. Choose whole foods. Become consistent and deliberate with your actions to form routines that become habits. Take 30 minutes of your day for cardio. Focus on yourself more and be understanding and patient with yourself. It won’t happen over night. Even if it seems like it may have with other people. It’s a process. It will come off with consistency and in the process you will learn how to keep it off through mindfulness.