Dr K. Hari Prasad, M.D., Apollo Hospitals, sheds some light on the stubborn belly fat.
I was a sportsman in my younger days and was very fit. The rigours of studying medicine made me bid goodbye to sports and I have consistently put on weight around my belly, and despite my best efforts, the accumulated fat refuses to go. It is critical to avoid the fat around the belly, simply because getting rid of it once it has accumulated, is an impossible task!
The key to avoid belly fat is an efficient lifestyle. Exercising at moderate intensity, including strength training for 30 minutes or more, at least five days a week, avoiding or minimal intake of alcohol, eating healthy and above all, an awareness about belly fat will help in avoiding a resistant problem.
It is not a sign of prosperity, but definitely an indication of an unhealthy status of the individual. A number of diseases, some of which are even fatal, are attributed to abdominal obesity. Also, these fat cells change the way your body operates. Women with a waist circumference of more than 35 inches and men with a waist circumference of more than 40 inches are at increased risk.
One should distinguish between fat under the skin (subcutaneous fat) and fat around the internal organs in the abdomen (visceral fat). Visceral fat is hidden in the abdomen and is much more dangerous than the subcutaneous fat.
Just a word
A variety of diets, supplements and exercise regimens are being advertised to lose belly fat. Remember that it is more difficult to lose belly fat than overall weight — no single technique is adequate. I must end by stating that it is easier said than done — please do everything possible to prevent an increase in the size of your waist.
Why this bulge?
Diet: Consuming too many calories without adequate activity to burn them, results in accumulation of fat.
Age: As we get older, the metabolism in our bodies decreases and the excess calories starts getting accumulated as fat.
Women: After menopause, there is a change in the hormonal status of a woman that results in weight gain, particularly around the abdomen.
Depression: Depression is a proven cause of obesity and belly fat. People with depression put on weight much faster than those who are not.
Alcohol: Alcohol increases calorie intake and causes obesity. It has been proven that those having more than three drinks daily, are prone to abdominal obesity.
Stress: Stress results in increased secretion of the hormone called cortisol, which increases belly fat.
Medications: Some medications like cortisol and prednisolone, when used for medium to long periods, result in accumulation of belly fat.
Genetics: There is a genetic predisposition towards gaining belly fat. However, this predisposition is more in women.
How to get rid of belly fat?
Ditch your diet and stop counting calories, otherwise your body will think there’s a famine and will raise stress levels, which contribute to fat storage.
Eat every three hours. Keep your blood sugar levels and energy levels stable by eating regularly. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a mid-morning snack and one mid-afternoon. No carbs after 6 pm. This will stop those roller-coaster highs and sugar cravings. Because your blood sugar isn’t allowed to drop, your body will no longer have to ask you for a quick fix.
Don’t skip breakfast. If you do, your body immediately registers famine and holds on to your stores of fat.
Cut down on all added sugar and refined carbs. Avoid any foods that make your blood sugar rise quickly, because, as your blood sugar drops again, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol to stabilise it once more. Switch to whole grain alternatives that release energy slowly.
Add protein to each meal. It slows down the rate your stomach processes food and delays the passage of the carbohydrates with it, keeping your sugar levels at bay.
Eat essential fats. Long-term dependency on low-fat products might mean that you’re consuming less saturated fat, but also that you are deficient of the good fats — essential fatty acids, found in oily fish, nuts and seeds. They help to boost your metabolism, so don’t forget to include them in your diet.
Don’t eat on the run. It tells your body that time is scarce, you are under pressure and stressed. Furthermore, your digestive system will be less efficient. Make it a point to sit down and eat your food as calmly, as possible.
Cut out all caffeine and sugary drinks and significantly lower your alcohol intake (abstain completely for a month if you can). If you can’t live without your cappuccino, make sure you don’t drink it on an empty stomach as it gets straight into the bloodstream and triggers cortisol release.
Dr K. Hari Prasad, M.D.,