In some parts of the world a fat belly is a sign of wealth. Whereas other parts a 6-pack is a sign of youth and health.
Either way are more and more people are getting used to a Western diet, men’s waist sizes are increasing. This is not a good sign, more a sign of problems to come.
The trouble with belly fat is that it’s not limited to the extra layer of padding located just below the skin, which is called subcutaneous fat. It also includes visceral fat, which lies deep inside your abdomen, surrounding your internal organs like your heart.
Regardless of your overall weight, having a large amount of belly fat increases your risk of:
• Heart disease
• Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
• some types of cancer, including colorectal and kidney cancer
• Sleep apnea
• Premature death from any cause
• High blood pressure
Factors that impact the size of your belly is mostly lifestyle orientated, but it can also be because of genes and medication. Lifestyle issues include over eating and not exercising enough to burn the calories consumed. But age is also a factor for belly fat to build up. That is as you age, you lose muscle, especially if you aren’t very active. The loss of muscle mass decreases the rate at which your body uses calories, which can make it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight.
Drinking excess alcohol can cause you to gain belly fat, also called the beer belly. But beer alone isn’t to blame. Drinking too much alcohol of any kind can increase belly fat, because alcohol contains calories. Although some research suggests wine might be an exception, if you drink alcohol, do so only in moderation.
For men age 65 and younger, moderation means up to two drinks a day. For those above the age of 65 the limit is one drink a day. Logically, the less you drink, the fewer calories you’ll consume and the less likely you’ll be to gain belly fat. But when do you know you have too much belly fat? Simple, measure your waist. What you do is stand and place a tape measure, just above your hipbone, around your bare stomach. With the tape measurer tight around your waist without pulling in your stomach, make sure it is level all the way around. If your waist is more than 102 centimetres or 40 inches, you have a problem. Since a measure above that will indicate an unhealthy concentration of belly fat and a greater risk of health problems.
Now you can run to the gym and start doing abdominal exercises such as sit-ups and crunches to tone your abdominal muscles, but these exercises won’t get rid of your belly fat. The problem is that visceral fat, meaning the deeper layer of fat, responds to the same diet and exercise strategies that can help you shed excess pounds and lower your total body fat.
Therefore, your action plan should be to eat a healthy diet. Eat a lot of plant-based foods, like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Choose lean sources of protein like low-fat dairy products and fish. Limit saturated fat, which you can find in meat and high-fat dairy products, like butter and cheese. And cut out processed meats, as well as other processed foods. But do include healthy fats, like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that are found in fish, nuts and certain vegetable oils. Also keep a check on your portion sizes. This is very true in social environments like restaurants which it can be harder than at your own house. So you can either share meals, eat half your meal and take the rest home, or opt for tappas instead of a heavy meal.
You should also reduce your sugary beverages. Instead drink water with a slice of lemon or some mint and cucumber. Besides your diet, you should add some physical activity in your daily routine. This does not mean you have to join a gym and have a trainer, but a brisk walking, for at least 150 minutes a week or vigorous aerobic activity, such as jogging, for at least 75 minutes a week can do the job. But you should do some strength training exercises at least twice a week. If you want to lose weight or meet specific fitness goals, you might need to exercise more.
Losing belly fat takes determination and persistence. To lose excess fat and keep it from coming back, aim for slow and steady weight loss.