In 2014, The Today Show and AOL.com did a joint study where they surveyed over 2,000 adults and teens to get a better understanding of how people feel about their bodies. When asked about what body part they worry about the most, both men and women agreed that their stomach is their biggest source of anxiety. It’s no surprise, then, that one of the most common questions people have is how to get rid of belly fat, which is precisely what I’m going to be discussing in today’s post.
First Thing’s First...
Every single one of us has a six pack (yes, even you as you read this). The problem is, we all have varying amounts of fat residing over top of that six pack. The more fat you have, the less visible your six pack will be.
The simplest piece of advice I can give you when it comes to getting rid of belly fat is this: “Abs are made in the kitchen.” The fact of the matter is, no matter how many crunches you do, you absolutely MUST alter your diet in order to get rid of belly fat.
Furthermore, there’s really no way to “spot treat” when it comes to weight loss. That is, you can’t just choose to lose weight from your midsection; you have to achieve overall weight loss to see results at any specific body part.
The Dangers of Belly Fat
While most of us want to lose belly fat for aesthetic reasons (who doesn’t look good with abs?), our main motivation to lose belly fat should really be to avoid the many health risks that are specifically associated with this type of fat.
The scientific term for belly fat is visceral fat, which describes the fat stored in your abdominal cavity around a number of important organs like your liver, pancreas, and intestines.
According to the academic journal Ageing Research Reviews, even though general obesity is an important risk factor for many diseases, visceral fat especially is “most strongly related to many health conditions,” including:
Fatty liver — more often associated with visceral fat than with alcoholism!
It also has far more pro-inflammatory characteristics than any other type of fat. Clearly, the importance of losing weight in this area clearly cannot be overstated.
How to Get Rid of Belly Fat
1. Decrease your overall caloric intake & eat real food.
The best way to start is to not only pay attention to how many calories you’re eating, but to also take a look at where you’re getting them from. “Energy-dense, nutrient-poor diets containing high amounts of fat and refined carbohydrates combined with sedentary lifestyles are believed to be the major drivers of the global obesity epidemic,” according to the Journal of Nutrition. Just eating whole, natural foods will work wonders on reducing your visceral fat. Remember, packaged foods like cookies and chips are HIGH in calories yet contain practically zero nutrients.
2. Increase your intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
According to a 2015 study from the Journal of Nutrition, eating a higher amount of polyunsaturated fat vs. saturated fat helps with the reduction of visceral fat while also helping with the development of lean mass. Polyunsaturated fats include omega 6’s — mainly found in animal protein, seeds, olive oil, and supplementarily as evening primrose oil — and omega 3’s — mainly found in flax, fish, nuts, and seeds.
3. Drink some tea.
Another study by the Journal of Nutrition found that the polyphenols (a.k.a. antioxidants) in green tea particularly help increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation.
The Journal of Hepatology states that aerobic exercise is proven to effectively reduce visceral fat and liver fat regardless of the exercise dose or intensity. Refresher: Aerobic exercise is anything that gets your heart rate up and causes you to sweat. I would personally recommend trying a boxing class… What a great cardio workout!
The Bottom Line
Visceral fat is especially harmful to our health for a number of reasons, but the good news is that it’s not nearly as hard to get rid of as you might think. With some simple changes to your diet — like swapping refined or junk foods for whole, natural, unadulterated foods — you can slowly start to see that six pack coming back to the surface, especially if you couple your diet changes with some aerobic exercise! Remember, it will take patience and time. You didn’t gain the weight overnight so you won’t lose it overnight either!
Measure Your Visceral Fat
Measure your waist by putting a measuring tape around the smallest part of your waist (usually an inch or so above your belly button).
Put the measuring tape around the fullest part of your hips for your hip measurement.
Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement.
If you’re a woman and this number is greater than 0.85, you have a fair amount of visceral fat. If you’re a man and this number is greater than 1.0, same thing.
NOTE: This method isn’t as accurate as getting a CT scan, but it’s easy and quick and can be done in the comfort of your own home.