The migration of fat to the midsection is a topic that worries many people. It is known by the technical names abdominal fat and central obesity. Less flattering are names like “beer belly,” “muffin top, ” or “love handles.” Whatever its called, belly fat is the unflattering accumulation of fat deposits around the waist. With the approach of middle age, learning to how to lose belly fat is a central component to an overall plan of health and wellness.
Understanding Central Obesity
Belly fat is comprised (at least in part) of visceral fat, which is that fat located under the muscle, and threaded between organs, as opposed to being located just under the skin. For this reason, belly fat is associated with a host of health risks, including increased risk of early onset dementia, diabetes, heart disease, and colorectal cancer. Studies have shown that belly fat is biologically active. Scientists believe it secretes a variety of compounds, including hormones that raise insulin resistance and general inflammation.
Sex hormones have been shown to play a central role in controlling how fat is distributed in the body. Young men are more prone to accumulate belly fat than women, since testosterone promotes the development of belly fat. Estrogen promotes the formation of subcutaneous fat in the hips, thighs, and buttocks. As women enter middle age, and estrogen levels start to fall, they also develop a greater risk of developing belly fat.
It’s important to understand there is no no “magic bullet” that targets abdominal fat. The build up of fat within the body is based on calories; plain and simple. Eating more calories per day than are burned through regular activity plus exercise leads to weight gain, and the later build-up of fat. Although hormones play a role in where and how its stored, its mere presence is simply a function of calories.
With that in mind, applying these simple tips will speed your way to removing unwanted belly fat:
Start A Food Diary. The first step in understanding how to lose belly fat is figuring out how many calories you are consuming. Start by spending a week just writing down everything you eat. For a single week, track down everything that goes in your mouth, then figure your average daily calorie consumption by dividing overall calories by the number of days tracked. You may be surprised by this number.
Learn about calories. One of the most important first steps to controlling weight is understanding how many calories you should eat per day. There are a number of tools available for calculating your suggested daily calorie consumption. Most are based on BMI, and whether you agree with that measurement or not, they will get you in the ballpark for a reasonable calorie target. Use this number to plan your meals. Be sure to include a few healthy snacks during the day, and stick to that plan.
Start An Exercise Program. There’s a lot of evidence to show that belly fat is more metabolically active than its subcutaneous cousin. Although there’s no exercise that “targets” belly fat, there is evidence to support the idea that the body will lose visceral fat at a faster rate than elsewhere. It’s also true that starting a low intensity exercise program helps reduce appetite, and improves sleep quality, both of which help control hunger. So, talk to your doctor about starting a low intensity exercise program.
Understanding how to lose belly fat requires applying a handful of simple principles. While these techniques don’t guarantee fast weight loss, they will get you started down a path of sustainable, long-term weight loss.
Published May 2011, updated December 2011.
- “Central Obesity And Increased Risk Of Dementia More Than Three Decades Later” Neurology September 30, 2008 vol. 71 no. 14 1057-1064. Accessed November 2011.
- “Index Of Central Obesity” SciTopics. Accessed November 2011.
- “Inactivity, Exercise, And Visceral Fat. STRRIDE: a randomized controlled study of exercise intensity and amount” Journal of Applied PhysiologyOctober 2005 vol. 99 no. 4 1613-1618
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