Belly fat is a fact of life for many Americans because of our poor eating habits, lack of exercise and stress-filled lives. But belly fat is more than an unsightly bulge; it is unhealthy and can actually be attributed to many dangerous health conditions. Excess belly fat can increase the risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, metabolic syndrome, gallbladder problems and sleep apnea. Belly fat does not discriminate; it is unhealthy for both men and women. The good news, according to Michael Jensen, MD of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, is that belly fat is the first fat you tend to lose when you go on a weight loss diet. Here are some tips for losing that stubborn belly fat.
Know Your Fats - Your body has more than one type of fat. The two most commonly known are visceral fat, which lies deep inside the body tucked around the organs, and subcutaneous fat, which sits between the skin and the abdominal wall. Subcutaneous fat is the visible fat you see, and is less dangerous than the visceral fat which can cause health problems. Fortunately, visceral fat is the first fat that you lose when you go on a weight loss diet.
Reach Your Target Heart Rate - By reaching your target heart rate each time you exercise, you will lose more body fat faster, including belly fat, and reach your best physical fitness level. To figure your target heart rate, subtract your age from the number 220. This number is your maximum heart rate. Now, figure 60-80% of that number. This will be your target heart rate. Example: If you are 35 years old, subtract 35 from 220 to get 185. The 185 is your maximum heart rate during exercise. Now, multiply 185 by 60% and you get 111. This is your target heart rate. Your goal is to exercise for at least 20 minutes at your target heart rate once you have reached it. As you become healthier, you can raise your target heart rate up to 80% of your maximum heart rate. You should exercise at least 30 minutes each day, 4-5 days a week.
Reduce Refined Carbohydrates - Eating refined carbohydrates in food such as white bread, processed cookies, crackers and cakes raises your blood sugar levels which then increases insulin in your body. The increased insulin makes it easier for fat to be deposited into cells. By reducing the amount of refined carbohydrates in your diet, you will decrease the amount of fat that is stored in your cells.
Add Whole Grains to Your Diet - According to Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, nutritional researcher at Penn State University, increasing whole grains in the diet while decreasing refined carbohydrates helps to lower blood glucose levels in the body and use blood glucose more efficiently. This allows the body to mobilize fat more easily and lower fat deposits in cells, which will aid in losing belly fat. It is recommended to eat at least 3 ounces of whole grain food each day. Brown rice, whole grain cereal, crackers and whole grain pasta are all good sources of whole grains.
Pack Your Lunch - It's hard to choose healthy when you are going to the fast food drive-thru for lunch. By packing your lunch, you can control what, and how much you eat. Pack a healthy snack for morning and afternoon too. Fruit, nuts, whole grain crackers, yogurt or a low-fat fruit smoothie all make good, healthy snacks and can also be a part of a healthy lunch. Hate cold lunch? Try one of the many low-calorie frozen meals that you can heat up in the microwave at work. By packing you own lunch, you will not only save on calories, but save money also.
Eat More Fruits and Vegetables - Yes, you hear this all the time but it is true that you can lose weight and maintain a healthy weight if you eat right. Substitute an apple, pear, banana, strawberries, blueberries or some mixed fruit for those high-calorie snack bars or candy bars. Fill up on carrots, peas, green beans, asparagus and broccoli at meals so you get the recommended 5 servings of vegetables each day. Fruit and vegetables fill you up and add fiber to your diet while adding very few calories.
Reduce Stress - The more stress you have in your life, the harder your body hangs on to belly fat. Chronic stress places the body into survival mode and releases more of the hormone cortisol, which in turn causes the dangerous visceral fat to build in the belly. If you are unable to remove the stress from your life, then it is important to learn to manage your stress. Taking a 15 minute walk each day away from your place of work can help reduce stress. Deep breathing for a minute or two at your desk can also help. Try yoga, meditation, a massage or spending 30 minutes to an hour each day quietly reading. Find the best way for you to relax so you can stop stressing and start losing that belly fat.
Forget about Alcoholic Beverages - Alcohol is packed with sugar and calories and can pack on the pounds. If you drink alcohol often, just cutting back to one or two drinks a night can help you lose weight, especially belly fat. If you are serious about losing belly fat for good, forget the alcohol and drink fresh juice or water instead.
Don't Diet: Change Your Lifestyle Instead - When you think about a "diet", you think depravation. Don't refer to changing your eating habits as a diet; think of it as a lifestyle change that will make you feel better physically and look better too. Keep up a positive attitude and tell yourself this change in lifestyle is to help you have a longer, healthier and more satisfying life.