Lose Belly Fat
Drop That Belly Fat
Belly fat, also known as abdominal or adipose fat, can be beneficial if it is not excessive. The subcutaneous belly fat layers are those that lie closest to the skin. These layers store fat for conversion to energy if needed and have not been shown to be harmful. The inner layer, or visceral layer, is next to internal organs and veins. Visceral fat produces hormones.
In the quantity produced by a person who is not overweight and who has normal amounts of belly fat, these hormones are useful. However, excessive hormone production by visceral fat raises the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer. Having too much belly fat is one cause of sleep apnea, due to increased pressure on internal organs and reduced lung space. Being overweight also increases stress on joints. You need to lose weight in order to lose belly fat. You likely will notice the difference in your waist size before noticing improvement in other areas.
Determine the Need to Lose Belly Fat
Measure your waist at the navel. A measurement of more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men indicates excessive belly fat.
Measure your body around your waist, then around your hips at their largest point. If you are a woman and your waist is greater than 4/5 of the circumference of your hips, take action. Men, begin a weight loss regimen if your waist is larger than your hips.
Children add fat cells during early childhood and again near puberty as part of the normal growth process. Girls increase the amount of visceral belly fat during adolescence. Children who are overweight for their age, height and stage of maturity will find losing the extra fat gives them more energy. It also improves their overall health and helps in keeping their weight within normal ranges later on in life. Consult with the child’s pediatrician to confirm the need for weight loss before beginning a weight loss diet.
Take Stock of What You Currently Do
Before starting a program to lose belly fat, track your current habits. For one week, write down everything you eat. List each food or drink individually, including the time of day as well as the amount consumed. Note all physical activity, including housework and washing the car. Document the length of time as well as the intensity. For example, your note might read: “Tuesday: 1:00 – 1:30 p.m. Took a walk. Terrain mostly hilly. Walked slowly for 5 minutes, then picked up the pace to a fast walk until 1:25 p.m, and slowed down for the last 5 minutes.”
Find a Support System
Having someone to talk with who supports you in your efforts can mean the difference between success and failure. This might simply be a friend who will encourage you and help you get back on track during those times you feel like giving up. It can be an exercise buddy, or someone who will go on your weight loss program with you. Or it may consist of an entire group of people working together for a healthier lifestyle, such as is found in organized weight loss and physical fitness programs.
Develop Your Plan
Talk with your doctor before changing your diet or increasing the amount of exercise you do, especially if you have health issues or are greatly overweight. Tell him what you want to do, and ask about possible undiscovered medical causes, such as an underactive thyroid.
With the doctor’s approval, choose ways to increase the amount of exercise you do from a variety of activities. Select those you know you will enjoy, or at least those you won’t dread. Pick at least one activity that will increase your heart rate and one that builds muscular strength.
For example, you might decide to swim for half an hour once a week and that while swimming, you will swim slowly for a few minutes, then faster, and then slow down again. You also might decide to contract your abdominal muscles to hold your belly in for 10 seconds at a time, then relax 5 minutes, and repeat this exercise throughout the day while you work at your desk. Or you might lift weights, or do push-ups and sit-ups. All body movement burns calories.
Select a method of reducing your caloric intake from the many known diets, or develop your own. Review the information you compiled as you kept track of your food and drink intake. Look up the calories for each entry, find your daily total, and write down each total for the 7 days you tracked. To lose belly fat, it is not important what diet you follow or what foods you reduce or eliminate, as long as the total daily calories consumed is less than what you have been consuming. However, you will feel better if you eat more fruits and vegetables and less saturated fat. You also will not feel hungry using this method, as you would have to eat approximately twice as many grams of carbohydrates or proteins to have the same calories as one gram of fat.
Set reasonable goals to be accomplished on your journey to permanent loss of excess belly fat. One goal might be to strictly follow your planned diet for a full week, and then for each week thereafter until you reach your desired weight. Another might be to do a certain set of exercises for a month. You might set calendar dates on which you want to be at a particular weight. Set goals for maintaining your weight loss once it is accomplished. Chart your goals.
Record Your Reasons
List your current weight as well as your waist measurement and waist-to-hip ratio. Write down all the reasons why you want to lose belly fat. Include health concerns, how you feel about yourself, what health goals you want to accomplish and how you want to look. Make this record as detailed as possible.
Simple Changes You Can Make
- Park your vehicle a bit further away from where you are going and walk the increased distance.
- Walk up and down stairs instead of using the elevator.
- Hold an unopened vegetable can in each hand, and lift and lower the cans as you watch television.
- Drink a glass of water when you first feel hungry.
- Replace one sugary drink each day with the same amount of water.
- Use butter OR jelly on your toast instead of butter AND jelly.
- Reduce the amount of gravy or sauce, as well as salad dressings. Or eliminate them altogether. Within a few days, you will find yourself enjoying the flavors of the foods themselves. If some foods need a bit of moistening, add water or rice milk.
- Keep nutritious, low-calorie snacks handy, in sight and easy to reach.=
- Eat and snack on schedule. If you find yourself unexpectedly hungry, drink a glass of water. Wait 20 minutes. Then if you still are hungry, allow yourself one portion of a low-calorie snack.
Find Your Triggers
Almost everyone who strives to lose belly fat has difficulty at some point. Some lose their resolve on the third day of the weight loss program and start binge eating. Others stick to their plan during the day and find themselves raiding the refrigerator at midnight. Still others exercise with great resolve the first few weeks, make a little progress and then slack off. If you are able to pinpoint the cause, you can solve the problem.
Continue to keep a written log or daily diary of your efforts to lose weight. Pay close attention to the times that you don’t follow your plans. Think about circumstances and motivating factors.
A few that may cause slips are:
Do you eat or drink more when you are with friends? Do you order the same foods they order?
Once you recognize that peer pressure affects your resolve, you can monitor what you drink and eat more closely when you socialize. You also may want to let your friends know how important it is to you to be successful in losing weight and keeping it off, and ask them to help you stay on track.
Conversation or Distraction
Do you eat more while listening to others? Do you eat while reading a book or using the computer?
Separate reading, computer work, and watching television from eating. Establish a designated site where you will eat, usually the kitchen or dining room. Sit down while eating, and take time to savor each bite.
Nervousness, Agitation or Fear
When you feel nervous, do you fill your hands with food or drink? When agitated or fearful, do you eat to calm yourself?
If you fill your hands with food or drink when nervous, decide on a different activity. Exercise is an excellent replacement. An outdoor walk can refresh you and calm agitation or fear. Talking with someone in your support network is another option.
Do you eat when you don’t know what else you want to do? Does your calorie reduction plan seem boring? Is your exercise routine dull?
If you find yourself eating when bored, “change it up.” Find something to do that really interests you so that your mind is not on food. Perhaps you always wanted to learn to crochet. Now is the time. Ask a friend to teach you, and pick up the crochet needles instead of a snack. If you have become bored with your meal or exercise plan, try new foods or change the exercises you do, keeping within the caloric guidelines of your original plan.
Lack of motivation. Are there times when you lose sight of your goal, don’t recall why you wanted to lose belly fat or begin to think it’s not worth it?
If you have lost your motivation, review the record you drew up of your reasons for losing belly fat. Look at the log of your eating and exercise habits that you kept for a week before starting your program. Talk with people in your support network and ask their help.
Do you eat more or exercise less because the rebel in you takes over?
Listen to what your “inner talk” is saying, then make a conscious effort to change the talk. If you find yourself silently saying, “I don’t want to. I don’t have to. I’m not going to do my exercises today, and I will eat what I want,” realize that your own mind is working to prevent you from reaching your goals. When you catch yourself thinking this way, shut the negative talk off and “change channels.”
Tell yourself, “I can reach the goals I set. I want to look and feel better. Today I will follow my plans.” Then immediately take the first step toward that day’s plan. Once you are in motion, it is easier to continue in the direction you moved, whether it is selecting your breakfast meal or lifting weights.
Plan ahead to give yourself a reward each time you accomplish a goal on your way to permanent loss of excess belly fat. Then follow through. Choose rewards that are meaningful to you, don’t involve food that will wreck your diet and don’t cause financial stress.
You might reward yourself with a manicure or pedicure, a visit to the barber or hair stylist, a new item for your wardrobe. Perhaps you will hike a trail you’ve been wanting to explore or learn to ride a horse. Maybe you will schedule time for relaxed conversation with a friend or find a quiet location to sunbathe. You might buy an inexpensive item you consciously choose to notice and enjoy, such as a single rose you can admire each day as its bud opens and its fragrance fills your senses, a potted plant, an inexpensive wall hanging or a whimsical piece of jewelry.
Continue your reward system after you are at the weight you want to be. Plan a reward for every month you maintain that weight. Weigh yourself weekly. If you gain a pound or two, act immediately to take it off. Once you return to the correct weight and maintain it for a month, reward yourself.
Nutrition and Safety Tips
Foods that are as close to their natural state as possible contain more nutrients than those that have been highly processed. Heat also destroys nutrients. Steamed vegetables are better for you than those that are cooked in boiling water for several minutes. The skins of fruits and vegetables contain fiber and nutrients that are lost if the peelings are discarded. Before eating fruits and vegetables, be sure to wash them thoroughly to remove dirt, bacteria and pesticides that can be harmful to your health.
Meats are high in protein. Some cooking is necessary to keep meats safe to eat. Never eat rare pork or wild game. The meat should be cooked until it no longer is pink. Pork and wild game not fully cooked may contain trichinellosis, also known as trichinosis, as well as other parasites. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, salt cures, drying, smoking or microwaving meats without first heating them to l45 degrees does not kill all parasites and may make surviving bacteria more heat resistant. Ground beef must be heated to 160 degrees, and poultry to 165 degrees. Salmonella often can be found in or on raw chicken or turkey. Wash your hands and all utensils with soap and water after cutting or preparing any type of meat or handling raw eggs.
If you want to remove meats from your diet, eat a variety of nuts, seeds, unrefined grain, and legumes. Quinoa, brown beans, peanut butter, soymilk and lentils all are good sources of protein.
Fats are necessary to the human diet. However, partially hydrogenated oils, also called trans fats, found in some packaged foods and baked goods as well as in some deep-fat fried foods, promote obesity, increase inflammation and affect our immune system. According to an article published by the Harvard School of Public Health, these fats are mostly man-made through a process in which hydrogen gas bubbles through vegetable oil, with the help of a nickel catalyst. Harvard researchers recognized the dangers of this fat in the early 1990s and worked to raise public awareness. Companies making packaged foods that contain trans fat are now required to list it on their labels.
To lose belly fat, eat as few packaged foods as possible. Avoid store-bought bakery goods and deep-fat-fried foods. Choose liquid cooking oil rather than solids, and read the label carefully. Natural fats found in nuts, seeds and grains, olives and avocados contain oils essential to proper nutrition, as do some types of fish. You will want to limit your intake of natural fats and oils to lose weight, but do not eliminate them entirely. Keep daily consumption of fats and oils from all sources between 20 and 35 percent of your daily calories.
Liposuction, also called lipoplasty, is considered cosmetic surgery. The best candidates for this surgery are people who are physically fit and have good eating habits but who have pockets of fat they can’t get rid of. There are several risks to this surgery, and deaths have occurred. Proper preparation and good aftercare help reduce complications. The procedure is performed by inserting thin hollow tubes through small incisions in your belly and moving the tubes back and forth to dislodge excess fat. Then this fat is suctioned through a surgical vacuum or syringe the surgeon attaches to the tube, called a cannula. Alternatively, laser or ultrasound may be used to liquefy the excess fat before it is vacuumed out of your body.
If you are greatly overweight for more than five years and have been unable to lose weight through diet and exercise, you might be a candidate for bariatric surgery. Surgery is not a cure-all, however. You still will need to count calories and exercise regularly the rest of your life in order to maintain a healthy weight. Surgery for weight loss requires a great deal of expertise by surgeons and health care facilities to reduce the risk of complications.
A few types of bariatric surgery are:
Gastric banding, also called “lap band” surgery
This surgery is done through small incisions with use of a laparoscope. A band is placed around the upper part of the stomach. The band can be adjusted to affect the rate at which food passes through. The surgeon also can remove the band later if needed. Many patients are able to go home the same day they have the surgery and to return to work within a week.
Your stomach is made smaller through removal of a portion of it. You then are able to eat only small meals.
Your stomach is reduced and rerouted, bypassing part of the small intestine. Weight loss usually will be greater with this method than by stomach reduction alone.
Biliopancreatic diversion with a duodenal switch, or BPD A large portion of your stomach is taken out, and your stomach is rerouted so that food does not go through most of your small intestine. As the small intestine’s job is to absorb food, most of what you eat never gets used by your body.
Surgery to lose belly fat is a drastic measure not recommended for most people who would like to reduce their waistline. The seriousness of the risks involved, as well as cost, make it an undertaking that only is advisable if the risk of serious health problems caused by obesity are greater than the risk of surgery.
Food for Thought
It does not benefit you to lose weight, gain it back, lose it again, gain it back again, much like a yo-yo on a string. Those who diet and exercise vigorously to lose weight may have rapid weight loss but cause themselves other health problems. Gradual weight loss that can be maintained provides much greater health benefits.
If you lose one pound a month, in a year you will be 12 pounds lighter. One pound a week is approximately the fastest weight loss to pursue to be able to maintain your pace. Do not reduce your caloric intake by more than one-fourth the amount you were consuming before you started your plan, and perform aerobic exercise at a rate that gets your heart working a little faster than it was before; but do not push yourself to the point of exhaustion.
Expect plateaus while you work to lose belly fat. It is normal for the body to work at increased metabolism, then adjust to that level, then increase again. Just keep following your plan, stepping up your exercise slightly during the plateaus should you choose to do so. Persistence pays.