Belly fat plagues us all, whether you have rock-hard abs or a large, round tummy. Belly fat can have severe implications on your health and overall well-being, so getting it in check is super important! Fat is stored in your body in two different ways – one you can see and one you can’t see. The one you can’t see may actually have a higher effect on your health. This type of fat is deep inside of your body, around your vital organs in the chest, abdomen and pelvis. Though the fat you can see is what makes you self-conscious, the hidden fat is dangerous even to thin people. A way that you can determine if you are in a safe or unsafe range with your belly fat is to take out a measuring tape and measure your waist in inches. The ideal waist measurement for women is less than 35 inches and for men is less than 40 inches. Waist measurements any larger than that are sending you into unsafe territory. The good news is there are some changes you can make to reduce the levels of fat in your body, which will help you lose belly fat!
EXERCISE! This one may seem obvious, but a lot of people still don’t see the benefit. Half an hour of vigorous exercise four days a week is the ideal amount to help lose body fat. This will help cut the fat you can see and the fat you can’t see. Moderate exercise can also help. Anything that raises your heart rate for at least 30 minutes will help you reduce fat in your entire body, including your belly. Exercise does not have to be in a gym – you can do an exercise DVD at home, garden, play sports with your children or do anything else that raises your heart rate.
NUTRITION! There is no “magic pill” or “magic diet” that will help you lose belly fat. However, when you lose weight by changing your diet, a lot of times you will lose belly fat first. With nutrition, you really need to work on eating as little processed food as possible (“clean eating”). Most processed foods are filled with sodium, which will make you bloat and make you feel like you have more belly fat than you do. Adding in more fiber to your diet can help as well, so try including more whole wheat, beans or apples to your daily meals. Aim for at least 10 grams of soluble fiber per day. Eat as clean as possible and opt for lean meats and low-fat dairy, vegetables, fruits and grains. Avoid food that is high in saturated fat. Green tea and black coffee are great additions, as they have been shown to increase the metabolism.
SLEEP! You may have heard this one before and wondered how sleep has anything to do with belly fat. Believe it or not, there have been numerous studies done that show people who got six to seven hours of sleep per night gained less visceral fat (the fat you cannot see) over a five year period compared to those who slept five or fewer hours per night. That same study also showed that getting more than eight hours per night did not lessen the gain of visceral fat – so between six and seven hours a night seems to be the sweet spot.
STRESS! Obviously you can’t avoid stress completely, but you can do your best to handle it effectively. Rather than being stressed constantly, try talking to friends or family, exercising or meditating. I have always been a person with high levels of stress and anxiety, so exercise is my “out”. Exercise it what I do right when I get home after a long day, because it helps elevate my mood and reduce my stress to the point that it is barely noticeable. Exercise will also help you sleep better at night.
If you are short on time and have to choose one of these items to focus on, I would totally recommend exercise. Exercise will help you sleep better and will help your stress levels be reduced. Many studies also show that an active lifestyle encourages us to eat healthier… I mean, who wants to eat a big load of French fries after an intense workout? Chances are, you will opt for healthier choices after a workout.