I’m not sure about you but my ol’ muffin top, potbelly, spare tyre is a little more visible this winter than ever before. The cold weather, even with some fabulous sunny days, has really taken its toll on my eating habits and comfort food delicacies. So how do you rid that Belly Fat Curse and get a flatter mid-section in time for spring and summer?
Now some would say we are animals and for winter, we need to hibernate after fatten up our bodies in the autumn. Although humans are mammals, there are only a handful of mammals that hibernate in the winter so there is no excuse to stack on the fat to make it through the winter.
With that thought, what is it (belly fat), how does that excess fat stick around and why is it a struggle to shred?
Visceral fat is body fat that is stored within the abdominal cavity and is therefore stored around a number of important internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines. A waist size of 100cm (40 inches) on a male and 90cm (35 inches) on a woman indicates an excessive amount of fat that elevates the health risks.
Subcutaneous fat is the fatty or adipose tissue lying directly under the skin layers – the tubby tummy we can grab onto. Subcutaneous translates to "under the skin." It contains not only fatty tissues but also blood vessels, which supply the skin with oxygen and nerves.
Too much visceral fat can interfere with how the liver functions and interrupts normal hormonal communications between vital organs. This can lead to insulin resistance (the beginning of diabetes), high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and a higher risk for developing heart disease. High visceral fat storage has also been linked to breast cancer, colorectal cancer, stroke, Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Not only that, but a larger waistline, combined with high blood pressure, high triglycerides (fat in the blood), low HDL (“good” cholesterol) and rising blood sugar characterises Syndrome X – also known as Metabolic Syndrome, which starts with high visceral fat stores. The most accurate way to know how much visceral fat we have is with a Dexa-Scan, MRI or CT-Scan.
Living Social currently has an offer for a 3D full body scan, which includes body composition, in Bondi Junction. $29!!! Normally $249 – it’s a win win.
The good news is that visceral fat relinquishes fairly easily with regular moderate-high intensity exercise and healthy diet. Benefits range from lower blood pressure to more favourable cholesterol levels. Subcutaneous fat located at the waist can be frustratingly difficult to budge as it holds onto the fat stores in case of starvation and childbearing for women, but in healthy-weight people (that is to say they have not been diagnosed as overweight or obese), it's generally not considered as much of a health threat as visceral fat is.
Listening to a blogspot by Nutritionist Shawn Wells this week, he talks about the 7 Curse Busting Foods (see below) that assist in breaking down the fat cells and boosting the metabolism to reduce the belly bulge. If you combine small portions with a minimum 30 minutes of moderate-high intensity exercise per day and eliminate processed foods – particularly those with high trans-fats, you will be on your way to reduce the percentage of visceral and subcutaneous fat by the time it’s bikini and budgy-smuggler season.
Dining on these 7 Curse Busting Foods + incorporating the Super Fat, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a naturally produced trans-fat found in pasteurised beef and dairy products, will heighten the chance of reducing the centimetres around the waist. Studies (Journal of Inter’l Medical study) show that the recommended daily intake (RDI) is 2-3 grams however that is a bit unpractical for human consumption. Supplements can be consumed however I’m not really a supplement kind of gal so I personally ensure each meal has some level of CLA.
Then there is the “Wonder Fat”: pomegranate seed oil which reduces the fat storage, reduce fasting blood sugar levels and boosts insulin sugar levels.
Pomegranate seed oil has been shown to help reduce white adipose tissue, the fat in which the “starvation” hormone leptin is produced, in humans when combined with brown seaweed extract in the supplement known as Xanthigen™. This combination speeds up the metabolism and has been deemed safe to take for long periods of time to lose weight and maintain results.
There are some VERY interesting studies on the relationship between coconut oil (or any type of coconut fat, including coconut milk and cream) and how it can affect your body fat...
These findings may surprise you!
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Lipids consisted of testing the effects of either 2 tablespoons of coconut oil or 2 tablespoons of soybean on a group of 40 women over the span of 28 days.
Results showed that the group that ate the coconut oil had a decrease in abdominal fat, while the soybean oil group actually showed a slight increase in belly fat. Additionally, the group that ate the coconut oil showed increased HDL ‘good’ cholesterol levels, while the soybean oil group had decreased HDL cholesterol and increased LDL ‘ bad’ cholesterol.
The Journal of Nutrition published a study where researchers investigated all studies relative to medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs = saturated fats) that are abundant in coconut fat and weight management. The studies showed that diets rich in fats such as those found in coconut oil prompted a boost in metabolism, increase in energy, decrease in food consumption, reduced body weight and lower body fat mass. The study authors highly recommend using oils that contain MCFAs, such as coconut oil, as a tool to drop extra abdominal fat, manage a healthy weight, and even as a way to treat obesity.
Yet another study that assessed body weight and fat storage relative to three different types of diets including a low-fat diet, high-fat diet with long chain fatty acids (LCFAs = saturated, mono-saturated, poly-unsaturated) and a high fat diet with MCFAs. In order to bring about weight gain, caloric intakes were adjusted for the diets. At the end of the research period (which lasted 44 days), the low-fat diet group stored an average of 0.47 grams of fat per day, the LCFA group stored 0.48 grams of fat per day, and the MCFA group only stored a mere 0.19 grams per day (despite purposely increasing calories). Those in the MCFA group (coconut fat) had a 60 percent reduction in body fat stored compared to the other diets.
So where do you start? Main thing to remember is that you need to start somewhere and substitute what you have been eating to a better alternative - that's the way to go. If you have the ‘bad stuff’ in the pantry or fridge already, how about contacting a local food charity and donating it – then you can detox your cupboard and your body so you can reap the results by breaking down the visceral fat and ridding your belly bulge.
Stay Active in the Season you are in