Belly fat can not only affect your confidence, but it can be extremely detrimental to your health too.
Belly fat settles around your organs and can increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and other serious health issues.
With the help of health experts, we share X ways to banish that belly fat.
How to banish belly fat
Eat Whole Foods
Trainer Autumn Calabrese, the creator of the 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme fitness and nutrition programs, is all about fuelling your body with proper nutrients through all-natural “whole foods you recognise.” We’re talking fresh produce, whole grains, and lean protein. For breakfast, she recommends steel-cut oatmeal with almond butter and strawberries. And for snacks, instead of reaching for crackers or chips, tuck into fresh fruit and vegetables.
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Calabrese told POPSUGAR that it’s so important to remain consistent with your exercise and nutrition. “By exercising three to five days per week and eating healthy, you can help fight belly bulge,” she said. “Everybody responds differently and in a different amount of time. You can expect to see changes as fast as the first week of eating healthy and exercising consistently.” Monitoring your progress by tracking your weight, how your clothes fit, or with monthly photos will keep you on track.
“Studies have shown that a lack of sleep may cause us to eat 300-400 more calories the next day. And in order to keep energy levels high we tend to choose sugary or starchy quick fixes.
“Just one extra hour of sleep each night can increase leptin, the hormone which suppresses appetite,” says Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist at SuperfoodUK.com the online shopping destination for health & wellbeing.
Cut back on social media
Always checking Facebook and scanning your Instagram feed constantly throughout the day, ring any bells? A large study found that if participants had a friend who became obese, it then raised their own chance of becoming obese by 57% and scientists suspect that this is because social networking can influence what people perceive as normal and acceptable. For example, if you see your friends getting heavier, then you may be more inclined to feel that is ok if you do too.
Nutritionist, Cassandra Barns looks further into how social media could be encouraging us to pack on the pounds, “I’d say that an addiction to social media could well increase the likelihood of weight gain. Anyone who’s spending a lot of time on Facebook or Instagram is likely to be less active, and online connections, even for those who have a lot of online ‘friends’, are much less satisfying and fulfilling than real human contact. This could increase the tendency to comfort eat, to boost levels of ‘feel-good’ chemicals such as serotonin that are lacking as a consequence.
“For all of us – and particularly those concerned about weight gain – I’d suggest we need to do more than just take the odd break from the screen. Making sure that we spend time with friends in the real world is essential – don’t neglect your real relationships with others in favour of your online connections. When we’re more fulfilled, we’re less likely to comfort eat.”
“Eating clean, healthy foods is a huge step in the right direction, but if you want less belly fat, we need to burn calories and build lean muscle,” said Calabrese. What type of workouts does she recommend? “I’m a big fan of cardio strength training. It’s a workout style where you are using weights in your workout and the type of exercises that you perform combined with the weights keep your heart rate in a cardio zone.” And you don’t need to exercise all day long. “If you really push during your workout, you can keep it to 30 minutes.” Her 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme programs feature workouts like these.
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Read food labels
Do you scan the shelves and select ‘gluten free,’ ‘sugar-free’ or ‘low fat,’ in the hope that it can help shift those stubborn pounds? Unfortunately, that’s exactly what could be increasing our fat around the middle. ‘If a food or drink is described as ‘low sugar’, ‘slim line’ or ‘diet’, it will usually contain an artificial sweetener. These sweeteners have been linked to mood swings and depression, and it has been found that people who regularly use artificial sweeteners tend to gain weight because they can slow down the digestive process and increase appetite,’ explains Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading Nutritionist, author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar (www.marilynglenville.com).
Eat the right fat
“Fat is an essential part of our diet and should not be avoided. We need to eat the right kind of fats: oily fish, nuts, seeds and seed oils in order to obtain essential omega 3 and 6 fats which are necessary for our health. What we should be avoiding are the processed fats found in junk food and bakery products,” says Marilyn.
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Avoid processed food
Calabrese reminds us that “eating processed food leads to excess belly fat,” so if you’re serious about slimming your middle, say no to “sugar, sodas, chemically altered fats, and packaged, fried, and preserved foods.”
Use smaller plates
“Optical illusion can make us eat more than we think. Larger plates can make a serving of food appear smaller, however, smaller plates can lead us to misjudge the same quantity of food to be significantly larger,” says Lily Soutter, Nutritionist and weight loss expert at lilysoutternutrition.com.