10 tips to lose belly fat — for good
by Paula Owens —
Liposuction, hundreds of sit-ups, planks and crunches, core workouts, the latest infomercial gadget, fat burners, the newest celebrity diet — all promise flatter, well-defined abs. In reality, they deliver little to zero return on your investment.
Belly fat is composed of two different types of fat — subcutaneous and visceral. Subcutaneous fat is found just beneath the skin, the fat you can grab or pinch. On the other hand, visceral fat is hard, intra-abdominal fat located deep within the abdominal wall where it pads the spaces between organs, such as the liver and heart.
Visceral fat can be the most dangerous, as it is linked to diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, polycystic ovary syndrome, gallbladder problems, fatty liver, breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Its accumulation is the result of ingesting trans fats, soda, fructose, processed foods, sugar, rancid vegetable oils, pesticides, a high toxic load, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, prescription drugs and unhealthy lifestyle choices, including heavy alcohol consumption.
10 tips to lose belly fat
1. Stabilize insulin. One of the earliest and most noticeable symptoms of insulin resistance is weight gain, particularly belly fat. Food choice and quality are crucial when it comes to balancing blood sugar and stabilizing insulin. Eat 10 to 15 daily servings of fiber-rich, non-starchy veggies and tons of leafy greens, a sufficient amount of organic protein, low fructose fruits, such as organic berries and healthy, healing fats from whole eggs, avocado, olive oil, pastured butter, coconut, and raw nuts and seeds. Other belly blasters include green, oolong and yerba mate teas, hot chili peppers, apple cider vinegar, turmeric, cinnamon, dark chocolate and water.
Are you overeating insulin-spiking carbs from breads, crackers, cereal and fruit juice? Hormonal responses occur to foods. For example, 300 calories of broccoli, avocado, steak or chicken produce an entirely different hormonal response compared to a 300-calorie bagel, sugary yogurt, cereal, juice or latte, which increase blood sugar and insulin levels and reduce insulin sensitivity. When comparing a high-carb diet to one that includes a higher amount of protein at the same amount of calories, the diet with the protein results in a greater fat loss due to the increased thermic effect of protein.
Avoid wheat, gluten, grains, vegetable oils, nonfat and low-fat foods, dairy, sugar and artificial sweeteners, soda, soy, and all processed and packaged fake foods.
You may enjoy a few bites of a favorite dessert or a glass of wine occasionally. But be accountable and take responsibility. Keeping a food journal can be an eye-opener.
2. Keep adrenals healthy. When cortisol levels are chronically elevated or extremely low, belly fat is gained. Abdominal fat has up to four times more cortisol receptors than fat in other parts of the body, making it highly sensitive to the fat-increasing effects of circulating cortisol.
It is no secret that chronic stress triggers cortisol release, but it also rises in response to pain, chronic inflammation, elevated blood sugar, poor food choices, food sensitivities, sleep deficiency, excessive exercising, negative emotions and mental overload. Stress can be physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, electromagnetic or environmental.
3. Tame the flame — reduce inflammation. The bigger the belly, the smaller the brain and the more inflamed someone is. Just about every chronic health problem stems from excess inflammation. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is to blame: heavy carb intake, excess alcohol, sugary treats, super-sized sodas and syrupy lattes, fructose, rancid vegetable oils, antibiotic- and hormone-injected frankenmeats, along with processed, packaged and fake fast foods.
Other sources of inflammation are infections, such as candida, H. pylori, parasites, bacterial and viral infections, food sensitivities, dehydration, heavy metals, digestive problems, rancid cooking oils, sleep deprivation, chronic stress, injuries, environmental toxins, GMOs, pesticides and medications that trigger excess cortisol.
4. Sleep — snooze to lose. If you are sleep deprived, cortisol levels rise. Just four nights of short sleep decreases insulin sensitivity of fat cells by 30 percent. Uninterrupted sleep is crucial and a neglected component for health, vitality, longevity and fat loss. So prioritize sleep if you want to look and feel good and lose belly fat.
5. Exercise smarter, not longer. In weight training, multi-joint, big-bang compound exercises, such as chin-ups, pull-ups, deadlifts, push-presses, squats, and lunges have a higher metabolic cost and increase fat oxidation, as opposed to crunches, bicep curls and exercises performed on machines. A study in the journal Obesity found that subjects doing 20 minutes of daily weight training had less of an increase in age-related belly fat compared with those who spent the same amount of time doing aerobic workouts.
A recent study in the Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that interval training is the most effective for losing both visceral and subcutaneous fat.
Interval training workouts are performed with intense effort for a select length of time, followed by a rest period or active rest. This type of workout can be done on a bike, stairs, a hill, sidewalk, track, in the pool or with free weights or bodyweight.
Parasympathetic activities are also in the mix, i.e., meditation, yoga and increased mindfulness, as an antidote for reducing belly fat, lowering stress, anxiety and balancing cortisol. Consistent meditation practice, yin and restorative yoga, increased mindfulness, spending time in nature and less busyness are sure-fire solutions.
6. Sit less. Sitting for long periods of time negatively affects glucose levels and increases insulin resistance. Once insulin resistance begins, a vicious battle ensues and belly fat settles around our internal organs.
7. Reduce toxic load. Toxins accumulate and affect our endocrine systems, brain function, liver health and ability to lose belly fat. The intestines, liver and kidneys become overloaded with toxins from processed foods, sugar, soda, alcohol, pesticides, environmental toxins, pollution and personal care and household products. These toxins build up and can trigger health complaints including constipation, fatigue, insomnia, weight-loss resistance, headaches, memory loss, diabetes, mood disorders and excess visceral belly fat.
8. A healthy gut and microbiome are crucial. Gut dysfunction, digestion problems and harmful bacteria increase inflammation, making cells less sensitive to insulin, and they can silently flourish for years without causing any noticeable symptoms.
Healing can only begin when the problematic root cause is identified, which may be heavy metal toxicity (lead, mercury, aluminum); inflammatory intestinal diseases: IBS, Crohn’s, diverticulitis, leaky gut, SIBO and other GI conditions; HCL (hydrochloric acid), bile and enzyme deficiency; lack of or imbalances of healthy flora; long-term use of antibiotics, birth control pills, NSAIDs and steroids; infections: viral, bacterial, candida, H. pylori, parasites and other gut pathogens; sugar, alcohol, conventionally raised frankenmeats, dairy, wheat, grains, GMOs, gluten and processed foods.
9. Identify food sensitivities. These sensitivities are unique to each individual and a primary cause of fatigue, emotional problems, mood disorders, water retention, bloating, inflammation, stubborn belly fat and weight-loss resistance. The top triggers are corn, eggs, soy, sugar, artificial sweeteners, peanuts, dairy, wheat and gluten. However, any food can be problematic for any individual.
10. Take basic nutrients. These include probiotics, digestive enzymes with HCL, vitamin D, essential fatty acids, a high-quality vitamin/mineral and fiber powders.
Remember that shortcuts to lose weight do not work. It is what you consistently do on a daily basis toward a healthy lifestyle that will. The tips provided here will help you look and feel better than ever, and you will lose that excess belly fat for good.
Paula Owens, M.S., is a holistic nutritionist, Functional Health practitioner, and fitness and fat-loss expert with more than 25 years of experience. She is the author of The Power of Four and Fat Loss Revolution and the creator of “21 Days to a Leaner, Healthier You,” an online exercise and weight-loss program. paulaowens.com.
Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 34, Number 1, February/March 2015.