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How To Lose Belly Fat Effectively And Healthily

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How To Lose Belly Fat Effectively And Healthily

Belly fat occurs when excessive abdominal fat around the stomach and abdomen has built up to the extent that it is likely to have a negative impact on health. For many, the belly fat is just the tip of the iceberg, it’s the deeper fat stores that form in and around your internal organs than can cause some serious health problems if it isn’t reduced.

Losing belly fat is important, not only for appearance and vanity but also for your health with research showing the significance of belly fat and its role in the risk of acute myocardial infarctions, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well as other inflammatory conditions.

Causes of Belly Fat

Women are more likely to gain excess belly fat, especially deep inside the belly as they go through perimenopause and into menopause when their menstrual cycle ends. That’s because as oestrogen levels drop, body fat is redistributed from the hips, thighs, and buttocks to the abdomen.

For men, the natural reduction in testosterone as they age means excess calories are often stored as visceral fat and thus the accumulation of belly fat occurs.

Stress and the cortisol connection contribute to belly fat as well. Research findings support the hypothesis that cortisol secretion might represent a connection between stress and abdominal fat distribution.

Abnormal Fats vs Normal Fats: Not All Fats Are Equal

The first type of body fat is the structural fat which fills the gaps between various organs. Structural fat also performs important functions such as bedding the kidneys in soft elastic tissue, protecting the coronary arteries and keeping the skin smooth and taut.

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The second type of fat is the essential fat reserves. This is the normal reserve of fuel used when the body is faced with immediate dietary insufficiencies such as regular low-calorie diets. Such normal reserves are localized all over the body.

Both structural and essential fat are normal, and even if the body stocks them to capacity this can never be called obesity.

The third type of fat, belly fat, is entirely abnormal and is non-essential.

It is the accumulation of this fat which creates the dreaded belly fat. This abnormal fat is also a potential reserve of fuel, but unlike the normal reserves, it is not available to the body in a nutritional emergency or during most diet programs. This third type of fat is the causative factor in health problems associated with belly fat.

It is difficult to remove and adds to further fat stores in the body due to its ability to slow down the metabolic rate.

Interventions that Reduce Belly Fat

Diet

The number one rule in reducing belly fat: DO NOT start by decreasing your fat intake. Not all fats are bad fats. In fact, eating certain fats can help you reduce belly fat.

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Good fats that you need to add to your eating regime include avocados, olives and other sources of Omega-3. A study in the International Journal of Obesity found that eating three 5-ounce servings of salmon per week for four weeks as part of a low-calorie diet resulted in approximately 2.2 pounds more weight loss than following a diet that didn’t include fish.

Dan Mendilow shares some fantastic points on what you need to do to turn your body into a belly-fat burning machine by replacing a few unhealthy foods with healthy foods. Dan goes on to explain the importance of eating certain fats and why you should not be shunning them in your quest to lose your belly fat:

  • Studies have shown that drinking diet drinks greatly contributes to belly fat. By drinking sugar-sweetened beverages excess sugar, mostly due to the large amounts of fructose present, can lead to increased accumulation of fat in the belly.
  • Apple cider vinegar is a great way to kick-start your metabolism and get belly fat moving. “One theory is that the acetic acid in the vinegar produces proteins that burn up fat,” explains Pamela Peeke, professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and author of Fight Fat After 40.
  • With stress and the cortisol connection, your body starts to produce more insulin as you age, since your muscle and fat cells aren’t responding to it properly. With the increase in insulin comes fat storage, especially around your belly. A diet high in protein may protect you against insulin resistance, thus decreasing belly fat.

Exercise

Skip the crunches. Abdominal crunches and sit-ups should build strong muscles, but you might not see them under belly fat. In fact, crunches might actually make your stomach look bigger as you build up thicker abdominal muscles. Instead, if you strengthen your back muscles, your posture will improve and pull in your belly.

Alternative core exercises:

Side stretches

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    Stand up straight, with your feet hip-width apart. Put your right hand on your right hip, and lift your left arm straight up, with the palm facing right. Keeping your legs centered, lean to the right and “reach” over with your left arm, stretching your left side. Repeat 3-5 times on each side.

    Squats

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      Stand with your feet about 8 inches (20 cm) apart. Extend your arms in front of you and do four sets of 15-20 squats.

      Planks

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        Get in the push-up position, but rest on your elbows and forearms. Pull your stomach muscles in tight, keeping your back, neck, and bottom in a straight line. Hold this position for 30 seconds or as long as possible. Rest and repeat 3-5 times.

        Check Your Progress and Remain Persistent

        Calculate your waist-to-hip ratio on a regular basis. Your waist-to-hip ratio (the circumference of your waist divided by the circumference of your hips) can be a good indicator of whether you need to lose belly fat in the first place and how successful your interventions are.

        • Wrap a soft tape measure around the thinnest part of your waist at the level of your navel. Note the measurement.
        • Wrap the tape measure around the widest part of your hips, where you can feel a bony protrusion about 1/3 of the way from the top of the hipbone. Note the measurement.
        • Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement.
        • Know what’s healthy. Women should have a ratio of 0.8 or below; men should be at 0.9 or lower.

        Lastly, team up with a friend as you chart your progress. Make sure to team up with someone who is just as motivated as you are. Join a walking club in your area with people around your age and ability. Get your family on board. Do whatever it takes to get yourself motivated and on track with the new you.

        Featured photo credit: Piotr Marcinski via shutterstock.com

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        Last Updated on September 8, 2021

        10 Fitness Excuses You Need to Stop Making Now

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        10 Fitness Excuses You Need to Stop Making Now

        “You can have results or excuses. Not both.” – Anonymous

        Human beings tend to only ever do as much as they absolutely need to.

        Motivational speakers call this innate trait laziness, biologists call it efficiency. Either way, the fact remains: we are evolutionary wired to minimize time and energy wherever possible.

        And this is not necessarily a bad thing. If we weren’t wired this way, we probably wouldn’t have survived this long as a species.

        Back in our caveman days, before supermarkets, calories were worth their weight in gold. For cavemen, trying to actively burn off calories would have spelled certain death.

        In this light, our fitness excuses make total sense. Our reptilian brain comes up with believable sounding rationalizations to stop us from burning off our precious calories; to minimize time and energy.

        Unfortunately, due to our present access to highly calorific foods, the fitness excuses that once ensured our survival, now send us to an early grave.

        Below I’ve provided the 10 most common fitness excuses our reptilian minds trick us into believing and why, ultimately, they’re all nonsense.

        1. I don’t have enough time.

        This is probably the most common fitness excuse of them all.

        First off, when you say you don’t have enough time, what you’re really saying is “I don’t have enough time for that”. 

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        Do you really think that if you were to add up all the time you spend watching TV and surfing the web throughout the average week you couldn’t replace any of it with a workout?

        A 30 minute workout takes up 2% of your day.

        Don’t ask yourself how much time you’re going to waste by working out a few times a week. Ask yourself how much of your life you’re going to waste being unfit and overweight.

        2. I’m way too tired to workout.

        Your mind, when it comes to exercising, is like a spoiled child. If you give in to its demands without a fight, it will see weakness and prey on it often.

        If you miss one planned session, you’re much more likely to miss the next. The biggest journey always starts with one step and the biggest failings always start with one step backwards.

        You need to show your mind who’s boss. You won’t always have lots of energy when you go to the gym but that doesn’t matter. The only thing that counts is showing up and giving it a shot.

        If you’re too tired to workout, change your sleeping habits, not your workout habits.

        3. But exercise is so boring!

        You don’t want to exercise because it’s boring?

        So you find brushing your teeth, taking showers, styling your hair and getting dressed highly entertaining? No. We do these things because we have to. We accept them as part of life.

        The people who never miss a workout are the ones who view it just like brushing their teeth. Complaining about it is just pointless. To be successful sometimes you’ve got to do things that aren’t as fun as watching your favorite TV show. That’s just life.

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        If don’t enjoy your workouts, you don’t stop working out, you just workout differently. Try crossfit, martial arts, hiking, body building, powerlifting, running, or swimming. Try music. Try anything, but keep showing up.

        4. I have no motivation to workout.

        If you think you need motivation to train you’re already half beat.

        What you really need is meta motivation: the motivation to train even when you’re not motivated. If you rely on your feelings to decide whether to workout or not, you never will. As you know, your feelings are designed to keep you caged up in your comfort pit.  Your feelings want you to be safe, not successful.

        That said, there is a trick you can use to get yourself motivated to workout, and it’s  backed up with research. It’s called ‘the few minutes’ principle.

        The basic idea is that procrastinators often put off doing certain things because the size of the task in front of them seems too overwhelming. By deciding to just go to the gym for a ‘few minutes’ you’ll often see the workout through to completion.

        Are you motivated enough to train for two minutes? That’s all you need.

        5. I have kids to look after.

        One day your kids might have someone to look after too: you.

        Don’t burden them with an ill parent when they have their own kids to look after. And don’t be the kind of parent who tells their kids exercise is good for them but doesn’t follow their own advice. Kids are smarter than that.

        If you’re really struggling with managing your fitness and your kids, combine the two. Find a field and play frisbee for a few hours, go swimming, take a walk around the lake and feed some ducks. There are so many fun and cheap ways to exercise with your kids, the only limits are your imagination.

        You kids should be your biggest reason to exercise, not your biggest excuse.

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        6. I don’t have anyone to train with.

        What you’re really saying with this fitness excuse is that you don’t have anyone to talk with while you train. If you’re training properly, you won’t need to talk.

        Don’t get me wrong, having a training partner is great but here’s what you’ve got to understand: most people first meet their training partners at the gym. The reason you probably don’t have anyone to train with is because you don’t have many friends who train. Like attracts like.

        By becoming someone who regularly trains, you’ll start attracting people into your life who also value health and fitness. You have to earn your training partners, they don’t come free.

        7. I don’t feel very well.

        After you get into the habit of overriding your fitness excuses and working out regularly, the thought of missing a workout starts to drive you insane. When I broke my jaw in two places the doctors told me I couldn’t lift heavy weights for three months. What did I do? I lifted light weights instead. Train smart, not hard.

        At some point in our lives we’ve all pretended to be ill so we could skip a day of school. Some of the better actors among us probably blurred the lines in their mind between real symptoms and those imagined. It’s easy to exaggerate things when it fits our agenda.

        If you’re really sick, I don’t recommend you train. But feeling a bit tired or achy – that’s no reason to skip a workout.

        8. The gym is too expensive or far.

        If you think you need a gym to achieve your fitness goals, you’ve been seriously misled.

        The world is your fitness playground. Ever watched a training scene from a Rocky movie? He chases chickens, runs up steps, punches meat, and chops wood. Many people cite these scenes as their favorite.  Something about training dirty and raw resonates deep within us.

        There are whole fitness subcultures dedicated to working out outdoors, and without formal equipment. Ever heard of Calisthenics, Tai Chi, Yoga or Parkour? Look them up.

        If you want to put on muscle, try some typical strongman training like chopping wood, flipping tires, lifting barrels. Remember, if it’s important enough to you, you’ll find a way. Arnold Schwarzenegger made his own gym equipment out of chairs and sticks for the first year he trained. He claims he gained 25 pounds of muscle from doing this.

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        9. I don’t know how to train properly.

        If you’re reading this article, you’re obviously more than capable of figuring this out. The internet is brimming with routines and training tips. This site alone will give you more than you need. Read these 10 tips for better workouts, perfect for beginners.

        However, it’s important that you don’t get too engulfed in the theory of ‘training properly’. Like most things in life, you learn best on the job. Ask people in the gym to show you how to use proper technique, then practice through action.

        People love giving out tips. You might even get a training partner out of it.

        10. I feel intimidated by the fit people there.

        This is normal and everyone has this when they first start out. The environment is new, everyone there looks like they know what they’re doing. You feel like you’re in someone else’s home.

        The number one reason you feel intimidated when you go to the gym is because you don’t go enough! If you started going regularly you’d get used to the place, the people and your fitness would improve. Everyone knows training improves your confidence. Just stick with it. It’s something you’ll laugh at a few months down the line.

        Anyone can get in great shape. Anyone can become fit. But very few people ever do because they give in to their natural inclination to minimize time and effort.

        Stop making excuses and just stick with it for two months. After that you’ll be finding excuses to workout even when you do have important stuff to get on with.

        Featured photo credit: United Artists, Chartoff-Winkler Productions via Rocky (1976)

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