How to Trim Your Tummy …
And Why You Should
Most people are now well aware of the health benefits of keeping their weight within a certain ideal range. This is conventionally measured by BMI, or body mass index, a standard for measuring your weight-to-height ratio. But here’s something you may not know …
Carrying extra weight around your middle may be increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia and more … even if you weight is otherwise healthy.
You may be carrying unhealthy excess pounds even if your BMI and weight are in the recommended ranges, and these pounds may be devastating to your health.
Waist Size, Not Just Weight, Important for Your Health
In order to get a thorough assessment of your health, it’s not as important to not only hop on the scale, as it is to measure your waist size.
In a study of more than 100,000 people aged 50 and older, those with the largest waistlines had about twice the risk of dying during the nine-year study period than those with the smallest waists. This was true even if their weight fell within a healthy BMI range.
For each 4-inch increase in waist size, there as a 25 percent greater risk of death, researchers found.
Other studies have also linked a large waist with:
- Diabetes and insulin resistance
- Heart disease
- Impaired lung function
- Sleep apnea
- Metabolic syndrome
- Early death
What Makes a Big Belly so Dangerous?
There are two types of fat: subcutaneous and visceral. Subcutaneous fat is the type found just underneath the skin, which may cause dimpling and cellulite. Visceral fat, on the other hand, is located in the abdomen and surrounding vital organs.
It can infiltrate the liver and other organs, streak through your muscles and even strangle your heart; and you can have it even if you appear to be thin. Visceral fat can also lead to chronic inflammation, which is a leading cause of many diseases, both physical and neurological, including heart disease, crohn’s disease, colitis and arthritis.
People with large bellies are at a higher risk of dangerous visceral fat.
What size belly is too big?
Public health authorities generally recommend women should keep their waistline circumference at 35 inches or less, and men should aim for 40 inches or less. However, some guidelines are more stringent. The study of 100,000 people noted above recommended keeping waistlines at less than 30 inches for women and less than 35 inches for men.
You’ll need a tape measure to find out yours for sure, using your natural waist, above your hipbone as the measuring spot. Do not rely on your pants’ waist size as a reliable indicator as many are not true to size. For instance, Esquire magazine measured a variety of pants in size 36 and found they measured anywhere from 37-41 inches.
Measuring your belly can give you important clues about your health. For men, your waist should be 40 inches or less, for women 35 inches or less.
How to Trim Your Tummy
Losing weight specifically in one area of your body can be a challenge, as we all know that weight will fall off (and stick to) wherever it pleases. However, following a healthy diet, one with a wide variety of vegetables and fresh, unprocessed foods, and limited empty calories and processed carbs is always a good idea for your health and your weight.
Just make sure you stick to this healthy diet as part of your lifestyle, not a “crash” diet, as studies suggest that “yo-yo” dieting (constantly losing, then regaining, weight) may encourage visceral fat.
Outside of a healthy diet, there are two major strategies that can target your tummy fat specifically …
A study by Duke University Medical Center researchers found that people who were physically inactive had significant increases in visceral fat, while those who exercised frequently had significant decreases in visceral fat, over an eight-month period. The study found:
- Those who did not exercise had an 8.6 percent increase in visceral fat.
- Those who exercised the highest amount (17 miles of jogging per week) had an 8.1 percent decrease in visceral fat.
- Those who exercised a low amount (11 miles of jogging each week) did not significantly increase or decrease visceral fat.
Just a brisk 30-minute walk six times a week was enough to prevent accumulation of visceral fat, while even more exercise was found to actually reverse the amount of visceral fat.
So be sure you are exercising regularly, using a variety of exercise approaches including aerobic, strength-training, stretching and more.
- Stress Relief
Stress hormones can actually encourage your body to produce visceral fat, so reducing stress as much as possible is an important strategy. Try listening to soft, soothing music; it’s is one of the fastest ways to alter your mood and put your mind in a more relaxed state.
Using meditations regularly will help you to live in a more relaxed way and you’ll notice that when you begin to feel stressed, you’ll be able to relax more easily than before.
When you sleep, the stress hormone cortisol is also lowered, but when you are sleep deprived, cortisol levels rise. For this reason, getting a good night’s sleep is also an important method for keeping away dangerous belly fat.
As your belly fat gets under control your may want to work on strengthening your abdominal muscles to show off your new six-pack.
Binge drinking (drinking more than eight units of alcohol on at least one day in the week for men, and six units for women) may lead to or have already resulted in a beer belly.
Drinking four 8-ounce or more glasses of water a day along with a half-hour to an hour of daily exercise can and often does reduce and progressively eliminate a beer belly.
Take both vigilance and dedication. The latter will save most from an early demise.
Archives of Internal Medicine;170(15):1293-301.