How to Beat Unwanted Belly Fat Naturally
Belly fat. We’ve all got it, but some of us have a little more to share than others. Even skinny people aren’t immune to the pooch. Some fat around your middle — just under the skin — is normal, but too much belly fat is unhealthy. That deeper belly fat, called “visceral fat,” isn’t just an eyesore; it can actually be dangerous to your health. While some visceral fat provides a cushion to the organs, too much can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and even certain cancers like breast cancer and colon cancer. That’s because visceral fat stimulates stress hormones like cortisol, which cause inflammation and affect insulin production.
A simple way to determine how much visceral fat you have is to stand up and measure your waist at your belly button with a measuring tape. A healthy waist size is less than 35 inches for women and less than 40 inches for men. If you have more abdominal fat, then most likely you also have more visceral fat. Remember, even a thin person can have too much unhealthy visceral fat.
So how do we beat belly fat? There are four areas of your life that affect how much or how little belly fat you have: exercise, diet, sleep, and stress level. To follow are some tips that not only help you burn belly fat, but also lose weight and improve overall health.
- Exercise is essential to burning belly fat. Regular exercise reduces fat all over the body, including visceral fat around the belly.
- Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week or more vigorous exercise like running or cycling for 20 minutes, four days a week.
- You cannot spot reduce belly fat, so unlimited crunches aren’t as effective as you might think. Instead, do a variety of exercises that work your core like planks, Russian twists, and V-ups.
- To really eviscerate visceral fat, step up your workouts. According to Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, “people who completed a high-intensity workout regimen lost more belly fat than those who followed a low-intensity plan.” That’s because high-intensity exercises burn more calories.
- Maintaining weight loss with regular exercise is key to preventing belly fat from coming back.
- A low-carb, high protein, high fiber diet is another key ingredient to burn belly fat. When you lose weight on any diet, belly fat is usually the first to go.
- Aim for at least 14 grams of soluble fiber a day from fruits and veggies, oats, and legumes.
- Eat more protein and fewer carbs. As you age, your body begins to produce more insulin, and more insulin means more fat especially around your belly. Eating more protein protects against insulin resistance and visceral fat. Ideally, daily food intake should consist of 30 percent protein, 30 percent fats, and 40 percent carbs (Prevention).
- Avoid sugar and sugar-sweetened drinks like fruit juice, sports drinks, and sodas. According to Authority Nutrition, “[e]xcess sugar consumption may be the primary driver of belly fat accumulation especially sugary beverages.”
- Reduce the refined carbs found in processed foods; opt instead for natural foods like produce and whole grains. The antioxidants may actually prevent belly fat.
- Saturated fats found in meat and dairy also increase visceral fat. Instead, eat more monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados) and polyunsaturated fats (fish, nuts, and seeds).
- Use coconut oil instead of vegetable or canola oil. Two tablespoons of coconut oil a day might slightly reduce belly fat.
- Track your food intake to see how much protein, fat, and carbs you’re eating. My Fitness Pal is a really handy and free app.
- Get 6 to 7 hours of sleep at night. In a 16-year study of 70,000 women, those who slept five hours or less at night were 30 percent more likely to gain 30 pounds or more than than those sleeping seven hours (Time). Good sleep is good for the mind, body, and soul, so make it a priority.
- Stress is also a contributing factor to belly fat. During stressful times, people often reach for high-fat, high-calorie foods that contribute to weight gain. When you’re stressed the hormone cortisol is released, which may increase the amount of fat your body holds on to and enlarge fat cells. Higher levels of cortisol have been linked to more visceral fat. Finding healthy ways to relieve stress can actually reduce visceral fat.
- Exercise, prayer and meditation, reading, and spending time with family and friends are just a few ways to reduce stress and beat belly fat. Find what works best for you.
Still, despite your attempts to reduce belly fat, genetics plays a significant role in how much visceral fat you have. If you are apple-shaped, then you will tend to pack pounds around your middle. This genetic predisposition means it may be harder for you to lose belly fat than a pear-shaped person who puts on weight around the hips and thighs. However, don’t let your genetic make-up be an excuse to be unhealthy.
No matter your genes, if you are motivated to lose weight, you can. Commit to regular exercise (especially weight training and cardio), eat a low-carb/high-fiber diet, sleep seven hours a night, and find enjoyable stress relievers. Then, watch the belly fat melt away.
What tips do you have to lose unwanted belly fat?