You don’t want to face it anymore; you don’t want another diet, do you?
You’ve starved yourself for months, you’ve done pretty much everything from buying overhyped diet pills that promised to reduce cortisol levels in days to cutting-edge workouts, but nothing worked. Maybe you lost five pounds after all the hassle you’d to go through.
And now you’re about to throw in the towel, thinking that you’re just destined to be overweight. This guide can help change all that, but let me be bluntly honest:
- if you want to get serious results, you’ll have to make serious efforts
- you’ll not get six pack abs overnight (but you’ll start seeing the results soon)
So far, no pill, product, or workout has been scientifically proven to target your abdominal fat, and ignore the nice bone blanket for the rest of your body.
But the good news is:
You don’t have to spend a dime to tighten your abs, all you need to do is understand a few basic things about your body:
Let’s get started.
What is fat?
In scientific terms, the body fat is called adipose tissue. It’s loose connective tissues composed mostly of adipocytes. There are two major types of adipose tissues, or body fat: white and brown.
White fat vs brown fat
White fat is the one you hate; it makes your belly bulge out and gives you the apple shape you detest. Brown fat in humans is actually good for your health, as it has metabolism generating organelle and its main function is to produce heat. Earlier, it was believed that only children have the brown fat in their body which disappears as they grow up. This was proven wrong in a 2014 study at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia. The study also established that people with a higher percentage of brown fat were slimmer.
So, how do the two types of fats differ from each other?
In layman’s terms, white fat stores energy (in the form of fat) while brown fat helps you burn it. Scientists estimate that 50 grams of white fat store about 300 kilocalories, while 50 grams of brown fat burns 300 kilocalories per day.
Some white fat is subcutaneous and lies just below the skin. Although it depends on several things such as genetics, but women usually store extra fat in their hips and thighs, which is called Gynoid fat (pear-shaped body), while men usually store it around their chest, shoulders and abdomen (apple-shaped body). Subcutaneous fat, though gives you a bad look, doesn’t pose any serious health risks.
The rest of the white fat is stored around vital organs, and is called visceral fat. It’s can cause serious health issues including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancers, and dementia. It does so by injecting fatty acids directly into your liver through portal vein. These acids then start accumulating in areas such as heart, pancreas and other abdominal organs. Now these organs are not made to store fatty acids, and start to dysfunction when the stored amount increases.
Another quality of visceral fat that makes it different from subcutaneous fat is that it possesses higher volumes of steroid hormones cortisol and estrogens, and an increased blood flow. Higher cortisol and insulin levels can excite growth hormones and decrease testosterone. We’ll talk more about cortisol and estrogens shortly.
5 little-known causes of weight gain (and their fixes)
You know you’re not doing enough exercise and you’re either eating too much or eating what you shouldn’t eat, so we’ll talk about things that you might not be paying much attention to:
- You’re depressed A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Public Health established that lonely and sad people are more prone to obesity than those who are living a happy, depression-free life. So, depression alone can correlate to obesity. What really makes the matters worse is that many anti-depressant medications have ingredients which can result in intense weight gain.This side-effect is not limited to anti-depressants. So, if you’ve been taking any medication, particularly anti-depressants, and you’ve noticed a bump in weight, it’s time to talk to your doctor,
- You eat in bigger bowls A research conducted by Dr. Brian Wansink and colleagues showed that their students, who were given larger bowls to eat, served themselves and ate almost 56% more than the students who were given smaller bowls.So, you should buy new, smaller utensils which make food look more plentiful, and you will feel satiated, even though you might have eaten lesser than usual.
- You have digestive issues Any of the digestive issues can also cause fat accumulation. Slow bowel movements or gut can usually account for excess pounds. These issues are usually triggered by dehydration, low fiber diet, or even malfunction by any of the digestive organs. Stay hydrated and eat more fiber, but if you suffer from prolonged constipation or any other digestive disorders, it’s time to check in with your doctor.
- Your diet lacks key nutrientsIf your body doesn’t get optimal amounts of magnesium, vitamin D, iron or zinc, your immune system will not function properly and your energy levels can drop drastically. What most people do is start taking caffeine and sweets to get a quick boost in energy, which might seem to work for a short time, but actually backfires in the long run. Consult a professional and ask for the right amount of supplements because consuming too much of these can be harmful; for example, excess of vitamin D can cause kidney stones.
- You’re growing old When you grow old, your body changes the way it gains or loses weight. When you’re 50, you start burning fewer calories than you used to burn when you were 25. Your metabolism rate also declines, and women have to deal with menopause, which can result in accumulation of fat on the stomach.When you grow old, you should eat less, and choose low-fat, low-carb and high protein foods, and exercise more.
Simple, actionable tips to reduce belly fat
Before we discuss what you should do, here are a few things you should not do:
- Most products sold on the market are nothing more than snake oil. Just keep your wallet inside your pocket, or you’ll not only waste your money, but will also feel dejected at the end of the day. And if you’re not motivated, you just can’t lose a single pound.
- Don’t sit or lie in bed for too long. If your work requires you to stay seated for extended periods of time, make sure to take a break, walk a few steps and stretch your legs frequently. Thighs have the biggest muscles in your body, and keeping them stationary for too long forces them to release more insulin into the body.
- Don’t eat big meals and don’t swallow big chunks of food. Food that isn’t chewed properly, doesn’t have enough amount of saliva in it. The larger pieces and absence of saliva put a lot of burden on your stomach.
No matter what your fitness goals are, getting good, sound sleep is mandatory. But if you want to lose weight, you must sleep at least eight hours a day, and make sure you go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
In a 2010 study at Wake Forest University, the researchers found that routinely squeaking by on five hours or less every night considerably increased the visceral fat levels in human body. Remember, visceral fats are responsible for the apple shape.
Many people follow a sleep schedule on weekdays but sleep very late on weekends. Abnormal sleep patterns can result in abnormal cortisol release, which increases the amount of cortisol in your adrenal glands secrete, and your body will have a tough time regulating it.
Keep a track of what and how much you eat
Everybody knows that it’s important to know what you eat: you need to eat high protein and low fat, low carb diet. But they usually have a wrong idea of what they’re actually consuming. In other words, they know that they have to eat high protein, low carb and low fat foods, but they either over- or underestimate the ratio. But if you really want to improve your eating habits, you need to keep an accurate track of things.
Technically, it’s almost impossible to weigh or measure everything you eat, but doing it every once in a while can help you realize the true ratio of protein, carb and fats you’re eating. There are also several smartphone apps that can help.
Foods you should eat
Nuts (particularly pistachio, almonds and walnuts), fruit (especially apples and grapefruit), mushrooms, yogurt, oat bran, olive oil, avocado oil vegetables (especially leafy greens, broccoli, kale, and cabbage), squash, legumes, fish (especially salmon and tune), whole grains.
Foods you should avoid
All sorts of fast foods, all kinds of soda or energy drinks, fried foods, deli meats, refined grains, Mayonnaise and Hollandaise sauce, ice cream and cream, chocolate, cakes, candies, animal fats.
Controlling hormones with diet
Insulin processes sugar in blood stream and converts it into energy, or stores it as excess energy, which we call fat. So, if you’re taking too much sugar or simple carbs, insulin will store more fat in your body. Higher levels of insulin not only store fat but can also result in several physical disorders including metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
The easiest fix for this is to eat more protein-rich foods. Depending on your body and your workout routine, you should start at about 25 grams of each per meal, men can add an extra 10g protein per meal. Higher protein balances sugar levels, lowers insulin levels and helps you lose fat.
Too much cortisol (aka stress hormone) can result in anxiety, depression, stress, and irritable bowel syndrome. It also increases your appetite and cravings for sweets, but also causes loss of libido and bone density. And a research at Yale university found that even slender women who had a higher cortisol lever had more stomach fat. Later another 2000 research published in journal of Psychosomatic Medicine confirmed a link between belly fat and high cortisol level. You can control your cortisol level if you sleep enough and eat right foods at the right time i.e. eat high protein meals and after 3 or 4 hour gaps.
Belly fat can also result in an increased conversion of testosterone into estrogen. This can increase the risk of prostate cancer in men and likelihood of PMS in women. A blood or saliva test can accurately assess your estrogen level, which can be controlled by consuming green tea and turmeric, or your doctor might prescribe a medicine.
Testosterone levels go down as you grow old, but men these days experience an early decline. It can result in early aging, obesity and stress. Other side effects of lower testosterone include a decrease in stamina, motivation and sexual desires. You can have a blood test to check your testosterone levels. If your body has lower testosterone, you should workout more, take zinc supplements and more proteins.
Do regular exercise
Ideally, you should do some sort of exercise every single day, or at least, five times a week. Cardio exercises are ideal to slim down in the middle, some of which are
- Walking and jogging
- And any high-activity sports such as basketball, tennis, that bump up your heartrate to training zone
Yoga is also very effective at strengthening your back and abs. Likewise, most mat-based exercises can also help you trim down in the middle. It’s best to try out everything once and find out what you really enjoy, because if you don’t enjoy your workout, you’ll find excuses not to do it.
But doing cardio alone won’t cut it.
In fact, it’s a big mistake to only work on your abs. You’ve amassed fat all over your body, and it can’t be taken off from one spot unless you go for liposuction. Do resistance training, work on your bigger muscles, and you’ll gain mass and speed up your metabolism. This will help you lose belly fat a lot faster.
In April, 2014, a research was published in Journal of Sports Science that established that people who combined aerobics with resistance training saw considerably better results than those who did aerobic training alone.
Women usually stick to aerobics or train using very light weights fearing that they’ll end up getting a Hulk-ish body. Fortunately, women have a biologically different body that doesn’t develop outsized muscles, until and unless certain chemicals are injected into it. Muscle training also increases muscle mass and burns a lot more calories than aerobics.
A 2012 research at Harvard revealed that Irisin – a muscle hormone – was triggered by intense exercise. This hormone plays a key role in the conversion of unhealthy, ugly white fat into healthy brown fat.
No matter what sort of exercise you do, make sure you work your abs at the very end. Your abs are indirectly used whenever you do any exercise, as they stabilize your upper body. If you’ve already tired out your abs, your entire workout will be less productive
To sum up, there is no silver bullet to eliminate the stomach fat – apart from liposuction, which has its own perils. The best course of action is to have a better life style, eat healthy, not let your body dehydrate, get good sleep, and avoid stress.