What is belly fat?
Belly fat is the excess amount of abdominal fat that surrounds the organs in the stomach. This gives it the bulging or the protruding effect instead of a relatively flat abdomen. This type of fat comes under the VISCERAL type of fat. Visceral fat accumulates within the abdominal walls and surrounds the internal organs. Some levels of visceral fat are important and healthy.
But, high levels of visceral fat can be dangerous.
What are the dangers of it?
Belly fat is dangerous because it doesn’t sit there harmlessly. It has its own negative effects on every organ. How? It produces more than required chemicals and hormones; Deposits of fat near the belly region puts people at a higher risk of many health problems like diabetes, health diseases, liver problems, some kinds of cancer and even the risk of sudden death.
What factors cause and increase belly fat?
There are two major factors which contribute to the amount of belly fat that accumulates in the abdominal region:
- Genetics: You genes govern the shape of your body and the amount of visceral fat that your body stores.
- Environment: Environmental factors like your lifestyle, your daily movement and your diet also play an important role. If your daily movement is very low and if you spend a lot of time sitting and not moving around, then the energy gets converted to fat and gets stored as visceral fat in your belly. If your diet is high in carbohydrates and fatty acids, this unhealthy type of diet also contributes to the accumulation of belly fat.
In the current times, we are more stressed than ever before. We barely get time to unwind, destress and relax. Stress causes the release of a hormone called “cortisol.” Cortisol activates our body’s fight-or-flight system, which further leads to more storage of visceral fat.
How do you know if you have excess belly fat?
A quick way to know if you have an excess amount of belly fat is to use a measuring tape and measure yourself at home. Use a measuring tape and wrap it around your stomach. Make sure you aren’t wearing any clothing to get an accurate reading. Measure it right above your hip bone. The tape shouldn’t be too tight. It should feel right.
For men, the measurement should be within 40 inches. If it is more than 40 inches, then it indicates an excess of belly fat.
For women, the measurement should be within 35 inches. If it is more than 35 inches then it indicates an excess of belly fat.
How to approach belly fat or any kind of fitness goal?
Our bodies are doing their best to keep us alive every single day. We throw all kinds of foods and challenges at them and they still manage to keep functioning. I want you to treat yourself and your body with kindness. Achieve your fitness goals while practicing self-love too. Don’t look at your body as some monster that has to be controlled and subjugated. Don’t punish yourself. Instead, look at your body as a friend and as someone who you want to care for. Recognize that it is your body that allows you to experience life on Earth. Don’t fit into the popular definitions of “healthy.” Work towards being the healthiest version of yourself and accept that it looks different from everyone else’s definition of “healthy.”
How to reduce belly fat?
- Increase your movement: Increase your movement throughout the day. Take the stairs, walk to the store nearby, take your dog on a walk etc. Find small ways to keep your body moving.
- Exercise: Make sure to get 30 minutes of moderate intensity workout every day. It can be brisk walking, bicycling, slow dancing, a moderate yoga session etc. This would definitely help in burning body fat and helps to burn visceral fat like belly fat too.
- Weight Training: Lift weights. This would help to burn fat and gain muscle mass. Even though your body weight would remain the same, you would be gaining muscle and losing fat which is good for you in the long run.
- Good sleep routine: Maintain your sleep schedule and be sure to get uninterrupted sleep of 7-8 hours each night. Getting too much or too little sleep, both scenarios would increase the build-up of visceral fat.
- Eat healthy: Your diet must be healthy and nutritious. It must include whole grains, low-fat fairy, fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Avoid consuming high fat foods, packed foods and high sugar foods. Instead opt to eat healthier, more often. It doesn’t have to be a drastic change. Start with having one healthy meal per day and slowly switch out unhealthy snacks and drinks with healthier options.
- Reduce your stress: Our daily lives have increasingly become more stressful. Learn to manage your stress. As stated before, cortisol, the stress hormone causes for the accumulation of more visceral fat. So, indulge in stress-relieving activities on a daily basis. Yoga, meditation, breathwork, journaling, going for a walk, etc.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking: The more you drink and smoke, the higher the chances of accumulation of visceral fat in your abdomen.
In conclusion, belly fat becomes a problem if not solved with changes in lifestyle and diet. It would lead to chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart problems and some types of cancer. The solution to belly fat isn’t complicated. We only have to make better choices for ourselves and our bodies. And I hope you would make the choice to choose better for yourself.