You’ve heard the ads, read the claims, and seen the products. It seems everywhere you turn, there’s a “new” way to burn that pesky belly fat that everyone seems to struggle with. We have a seemingly endless arsenal of diet plans, metabolism accelerators, exercise programs and fancy fitness gadgets at our disposal. You’d think we’d have it all figured out by now. So why, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, does Idaho still have an obesity rate of 26.5 percent, and spend $227 million annually in obesity costs? Well, like P. T. Barnum famously said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
Losing weight in one specific area only, what used to be called “spot reducing,” is pretty much impossible. Why? Because your body works as a unit, and your shape is your shape. Whether you run along the Boise Greenbelt, hike the Foothills, cycle, Zumba, yoga or pole dance the pounds away, your proportions will likely be the same. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s true.
Whatever method you choose, weight loss results when you burn more calories than you consume. For most people, excess belly fat is the first to come off at the beginning of a new diet or exercise plan. Visceral fat, the kind which likes to hang out around, and sometimes over, our waistline, is more metabolically active than subcutaneous fat, which is the kind of fat just under the skin. One other thing to note about visceral fat, also known as heart attack fat? We usually have more of it. So it makes sense that it’s the first place we notice a change when we start losing weight, no matter what we’ve done to lose it. The trick is to maintain that fat loss as we progress on our diet and exercise plans. Easier said than done, in many cases.
There are four key components to a successful loss of visceral fat. Not surprisingly, diet and exercise are the first two. Experts suggest that a diet high in fiber can help control the build-up of visceral fat, which we all accumulate as we age. Your activity level is another key factor. As little as 30 minutes of exercise, four times a week, can help prevent that dreaded visceral fat from building up. Likewise, inactivity can accelerate it. So be sure you’re up and moving each day.
The remaining elements are stress management and sleep. If you’re stressed out, there’s a very good chance you’ve got a little extra padding around your middle. One of the ways our bodies react to stress, whether it’s the short-term stress of our commute or an ongoing stress like financial hardship, is to hold on to visceral fat. It’s a vicious cycle—many people eat to cope with stress, adding pounds, and then worrying about their weight, causing more stress. If that sounds familiar, find support through friends, meditation or prayer. Another great way to reverse the cycle is to exercise, releasing endorphins that make you feel better. Finally, if you get too little sleep—less than five hours per night—or too much—more than eight hours each night—that can also lead to an accumulation of visceral fat.
So, does anything really burn belly fat? Well, yes. However, it doesn’t come in the form of a pill or a crazy diet or any specific “fat blasting” piece of exercise equipment. The only two things that truly burn belly fat are hard work and determination. Is it the easy way out? Of course not, but it works, if you stay focused. Make a plan, and be sure it includes eating well, moving every day, getting enough sleep, and dealing with your stress. Only then will you see results.
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