Belly fat is particularly dangerous because it generally indicates a high level of visceral fat. Unlike subcutaneous fat, which is found just below the skin, visceral fat lies deeper in the pelvic cavity and wraps around your organs. Visceral fat also produces inflammatory substances, and breaks down more easily into fatty acids that drain into the liver, which can increase cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin resistance. All of that is very bad news.
The good news is that belly fat can be reduced with lifestyle changes. While losing weight – and reducing fat – is never easy, visceral fat is generally easier to reduce with diet and exercise than the more stubborn subcutaneous fat. So if you have a protruding belly or a waist that measures 40 inches or more, take these steps to improve your health as well as your appearance:
- Increase the intensity of your exercise. Any exercise is beneficial, but visceral fat appears to respond best to high intensity activity. Interval training, which includes one minute “all out” intensity bursts into every three-five minutes of lower intensity activity, is particularly effective for reducing belly fat. Gradually increase to 75 minutes of high intensity exercise every week.
- Don't skip meals. Eating at regular intervals, and consuming mostly nutritionally-packed foods such as fruits, vegetables, and low-fat protein, will help keep your metabolism revved and inflammation levels in check.
- Avoid processed carbs and sweets. Consuming too much sugar causes blood sugar levels to fluctuate, which trigger cravings and decrease your energy level.
- Get enough sleep. We can't say it enough: good quality sleep is critical for optimal health and wellness. Getting a good night's sleep – every night – is the easiest thing you can do to decrease your belly fat and improve your overall health.
This article first appeared in the April 2014 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.