How to Reduce Fat Around Your Middle?
Spare tyre, beer belly, muffin top, love handles – whatever euphemism you want to use, they all mean the same thing: abdominal fat. Trouble is, belly fat doesn’t just make your clothes pinch; it could signal your health is at risk, too. You see, those extra inches on your waist indicate there’s visceral fat around some of your major organs, like the intestines, liver and pancreas. And this can put you in the danger zone for developing heart disease and type-2 diabetes. So how can you shift this stubborn paunch?
Power up with protein
Protein is a powerful weapon for weight loss. It helps build and retain lean muscle tissue and increase your metabolic rate i. Plus, it’s super satiating, meaning you’ll feel fuller for longer and won’t be tempted to load up on extra calories throughout the day ii. Indeed, many observational studies note that individuals who eat more protein tend to have less fat around their middle than those who don’t iii. The best way to reap the fat-busting benefits of protein is to include a quality source with every meal – be it animal or plant-based. Discover more ways to up your protein intake here.
Fill up on fibre
If you really want to shift that spare tyre around your middle, upping your fibre intake is probably better advice than following a rigorous diet, counting calories and strictly measuring portions put together. Like protein, fibrous food is incredibly satiating. A raft of scientific research suggests adding more fibre to your diet can promote weight loss by helping you feel full and satisfied, naturally dampening your appetite and cravings iv. Make a conscious effort to embrace a variety of high-fibre foods every day. Legumes, broccoli, avocados, porridge, brown rice and kale are all chock-full of the rough stuff. Supercharge your fibre consumption with these fantastic foods.
Say no to sugar
It’s time to ditch the sugary drinks, cakes and ready-meals. Sugar is a sneaky weight-loss saboteur. A bulk of data highlights the relationship between excessive sugar intake and increased abdominal fat v. It’s also worth noting that while fruit and veggies are generally good for you, sometimes they can trigger weight gain if consumed in vast quantities, thanks to their high levels of natural sugars. Oh, and watch out for ‘low-fat’ food options, too – they’re often jam-packed with hidden sugars. The solution: become an ingredient sleuth and always read the label. Is your sweet tooth still tempting you? Try whipping up some of our guilt-free, sweet treats here.
Sure – we all like to unwind with a tipple now and then, but excessive drinking can give you that notorious ‘beer belly’. Studies often link heavy drinking to an increased risk of central obesity – excess fat around your middle vi. We’re not saying you have to go teetotal, but reducing your consumption will work wonders for your waistline. In fact, a study of more than 2,000 people discovered that individuals who drank alcohol on a daily basis but consumed less than one beverage per day, had less abdominal fat than those who drank more infrequently but binged on the days they drank vii. To reduce your consumption, why not use smaller glasses for your beverages?
Teetotal on trans-fats
Margarine, biscuits, frozen pizzas and crackers are some of the common culprits loaded with unhealthy trans-fats – that is, unsaturated fats pumped with hydrogen, such as soybean oil. These fats have been linked to a slew of health implications: abdominal fat gain, insulin resistance, heart disease and inflammation viii. Regardless of whether you want to lose weight, limiting your consumption of trans fats is a wise idea. As with sussing out hidden sugar in food products, you need to become savvy at reading ingredient labels to detect trans fats, which are often listed as partially hydrogenated fats.
Stress wreaks utter havoc with your body: fact. But it’s not just the far-reaching psychological repercussions that are cause for concern; it can have a sizable impact on your physical health, too – and when we say ‘sizeable’, we mean it in the literal sense. Stress and anxiety trigger the release of the hormone, cortisol – a compound that makes you crave unhealthy pick-me-ups that provide an instant hit of energy and satisfaction. While short-term bursts of cortisol are needed to support your body in immediate danger, a prolonged peak can drive abdominal fat storage ix. To slash your stress levels, you need to establish effective coping mechanisms – yoga, meditation, deep breathing and exercise are great tools to stash in your wellbeing toolbox.
Clock more sleep
From that late-night cuppa java to Instagram-scrolling to Netflix, there are many ways we unwittingly prevent ourselves from getting quality rest. Besides feeling groggy and sluggish the next day, poor sleep – less than 7 – 9 hours each night – can have a disastrous effect on weight loss. Problem is, when you’re sleep deprived, your body’s hormones are thrown out of whack, impacting hunger levels the following day. In a 16-year study that followed more than 68,000 women, researchers found participants who slept for less than five hours per night were more susceptible to gaining weight than those who clocked seven hours or more x. Struggling to clock off? Discover more ways to improve your sleep hygiene here.
Hit up HIIT
Think sit-ups and crunches are the best way to banish the bulge? Think again. Abdominal fat is merely where your body stores energy, so you need a full-body approach to attack it. And HIIT (high intensity interval training) is one such way. HIIT denotes any workout that alternates between intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of less intense activity or even complete rest. It zaps fat and gets your heart pumping. A good starter activity is running as fast as you can for 1 minute and then walking for 2 minutes. Exhausting? You bet. But it works. Be mindful exercising without rest can affect your cortisol levels and contribute towards fat around your middle, too. Your body needs a healthy balance of physical activity and recuperation, so prioritise rest days.
Fight fat with fasting
Intermittent fasting is especially in vogue at the moment. It’s a diet that alternates between periods of fasting and periods of eating. One popular method involves fasting for 24-hours once or twice per week. Another technique consists of fasting every day for 16 hours and eating all your food in an 8-hour window. In an analysis of intermittent fasting, individuals showcased a 4-7% decrease in abdominal fat in 6-24 weeks xi. Learn more about fasting for weight loss here.
Shedding excess weight always requires determination, commitment and perseverance. And sadly, there’s no magic bullet for losing that stubborn tyre around your middle. That being said, adopting some of the strategies we’ve mentioned above will certainly accelerate your efforts and help you shift those extra pounds. It’s important to be realistic and patient, too – slimming down doesn’t happen overnight. Remember: be kind to yourself.
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Barnosky, A., Hoddy, K., Unterman, T. & Varady, K. (2014). Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings. Translational Research, 164(4), 302-311.
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Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.