Whether it’s fat found just beneath the skin (subcutaneous) or between inner organs (visceral), extra weight around the middle has serious health implications. Visceral fat is particularly dangerous, causing inflammation related to diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Here, three experts offer tips on how to shed inches off your waistline for long-term health.
Tailor workouts to belly fat.
Burn visceral fat with interval training. Spend between 10 percent and 20 percent of cardio time doing high-intensity bursts. After a warm-up walk, accelerate to a speed you perceive as “eight” or “nine” (on a scale of one to ten) for about 90 seconds. Slow down to “six” until you have recovered; then do another burst. Start with four bursts and build up to eight.
Muscles between your ribs and pelvis support the abdomen, keep you upright, and maintain a flat stomach. These muscles weaken with age; as ribs sink toward the pelvis, the belly pushes out. Try variations of crunches, like lying on your back and pedaling an imaginary bicycle. Also try the plank exercise: Facing the floor, prop up on toes and elbows while keeping legs and back straight. Focus on pulling your navel to your spine.
Studies show constipation prevents abdominal muscles from properly receiving electrical impulses, decreasing exercise’s effectiveness. To encourage regular elimination, eat foods rich in soluble fiber such as beans and oatmeal.
-Kathy Smith, instructor, Ageless with Kathy Smith (Acacia, 2011)
Balance metabolism with diet.
Processed foods cause improper metabolism: They increase blood sugar and insulin levels, raising diabetes risk. Eat five or six small, whole-food meals a day, with no more than four hours between eating. Skipping meals sends your body into “starvation mode”—when metabolism slows and fat-cell production increases. Avoid more than two alcoholic beverages per week.
Focus on portions.
Soluble fiber–rich foods, like beans, oatmeal, bananas, and citrus, tend to absorb water, making you less likely to overeat. Fiber also helps absorb toxins. Portion properly: Half your plate should contain nonstarchy vegetables like broccoli or green beans, one-fourth lean protein, and the other fourth a complex carbohydrate like quinoa, brown rice, or sweet potato.
Choose helpful supplements.
Taking a B-100 complex (50–100 mg) daily encourages your body to break down carbs and proteins. Nettle tea has diuretic properties and supports metabolism, as do digestive enzymes. Add metabolism-boosting chlorella to smoothies.
-Keren Gilbert, RD, founder and president, Decision Nutrition
Sixteen hormones affect weight gain. To balance hormones, avoid artificial sweeteners and hydrogenated oils; eat protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Exercise, but don’t lift weights excessively, which can increase production of cortisol, the stress hormone that fosters belly fat.
Deep slumber boosts melatonin and stimulates growth hormones, which help skin, bone, and muscle regeneration and cut down belly fat. Sleep no fewer than seven hours nightly in a pitch-black room between 68 to 70 degrees, which allows for optimal production of recuperative hormones. Enough sleep also lowers cortisol levels. GABA, magnesium, and melatonin supplements can help.
Listen to your liver.
Excess estrogen can cause belly fat in men and women. Manage estrogen levels by optimizing liver function. Turmeric, calcium D-glucarate, magnesium, and B vitamins aid in estrogen detox. Fiber binds to and eliminates excess estrogen. Aim for 35– 40 grams daily from ground flaxseed, chia seeds, or oat bran.
-Natasha Turner, ND, author, The Hormone Diet (Random House Canada, 2009)