What Your Chunky Midriff Could Mean and How to Lose Itby Carissa Andrews - October 26th, 2015
We all know a healthy weight and body shape is a smart thing, and many of us can attain to reach that goal. However, if you notice your body blooming from a pear shape to an apple (ladies) or that beer gut developing, it’s time to start addressing the issues before it’s too late.
What does gaining weight in the middle mean?
According to WebMD, not all fat is created equal. In fact, the fat around the middle (also known as visceral fat) can be a signal to pay attention. The reason the fat around your belly is called visceral fat is because it builds up in the spaces between and around your viscera – otherwise known as your internal organs.
The visceral fat, when its accumulated too much around your middle, works totally against you by creating toxins that affect the way your body functions. Chemicals called cytokines, created by the fat, can boost your chances of developing heart disease. It can also create insulin resistance, thus bringing on diabetes. You’re also put at risk for developing high blood pressure, dementia, and certain types of cancers such as breast cancer, and colon cancer.
This fickle thing about belly fat is you don’t have to be obese to have a problem with visceral fat. In fact, a number of seemingly healthy-weighted people can have visceral fat, as well. The key is to pay attention to the tape measure.
Women who aren’t pregnant and have a waist measurement of more than 35", and men with a waist of 40" or more, should consider themselves at risk.
What can cause it?
There are four main reasons people pack on the mid-section pounds.
1. Sedentary lifeNot exercising enough is one of the biggest culprits of weight gain. Weight around the middle is no exception.
2. Funky dietWhen we eat a diet high in simple sugars, bleached flours and rice, without enough protein, fiber, and good-for-you nutrients: this contributes to mid-section bulge.
3. Sleepless nightsPerhaps surprisingly, sleep plays a role in how we metabolize the food we consume and the way we handle daily stresses. When we don’t get enough sleep, it can translate into more weight.
4. Stress-r-usWhen you’re under stress, whether because of a new baby, a loss of a job, or just a simple fight with spat with a spouse – your body produces a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol basically tells the body to hold onto extra fat, just in case things might get rough and food becomes scarce. I know we don’t live in the scavenger days, but our Neanderthal brain doesn’t know that.
If you’re struggling with a medical condition that exacerbates your belly weight gain, know that any effort you make in the above four sections will still pull you further away from an impending disaster.
How do you combat it?
The first thing to note is knowledge is power. Start by breaking out the measuring tape and finding our your waist measurement. If you want to get super-precise, a CT scan or an MRI can measure exactly how much visceral fat you have, but it really isn’t necessary if you plan on making some healthy changes. Write the number down before you start, so you can stay motivated through the process.
Now, remember the four main reasons the pounds have packed on? Let’s address each of those and how to attack them.
1. Exercise moreSounds simple, because it is. However, exercise doesn’t have to mean an exhausting, time-consuming ordeal (though that can get you where you want to go faster). Exercise, including leisure walks, yoga, tai chi, and even pampering yourself with a massage, reiki, or a meditation break will bring about beneficial results. Try doing mild, relaxing exercise three times a week to reduce stress and increase mindfulness. Include two days a week utilizing a more heart-pumping cardio, or weight training routine. If you could aim to spend most days going for a 20-60 minute leisure walk (in addition to the other items), you’ll find those pounds melting off and your self-esteem and health returning.
2. There is no magic pillThere’s no one single diet formula you can do to combat belly fat. However, the biggest rule of thumb is to cut back on how much you eat. At the same time, increase your fiber intake to at least 10 grams of soluble fiber daily (that’s just two apples, people!). We’ve already discussed the United States and Canada’s obsession with sugar – so you already know reducing or eliminating the amount of sugar you consume is a biggie, too. Last suggestion: eat more veggies, whole grains, and naturally bright colors in your food.
3. Sleep, peopleMost adults need a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night to function optimally. While I know there are times when getting the best sleep can be difficult (like with a new infant), do your best to get as much sleep as possible. If it means taking naps, or going to bed earlier, then for your health, please do so.
4. BreatheStress is killing a lot of us. It’s a silent, slow killer, though. To combat this problem, we need to become more mindful of it in all ways. Stress is anything that can increase your blood pressure and heart rate; even for a short period of time. Incorporate daily meditation breaks or download some apps to help you learn how. Get regular massages, do things you find relaxing (crossword puzzles, walks at the beach, playing with grandchildren), and please, remember to breathe. When you hold your breath, you’re signaling to the body to hold onto tension.
If there’s only one thing you do in order to change your habits and reduce your chunky midriff, let it be this: Exercise more. Not only does it jump start your metabolism, but it also releases endorphins – feel good hormones – which in turn, reduces stress. So it’s really a one-two punch. Your health and well-being is important, however, so if you’re concerned about the weight, take your concern seriously and do something about it.
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Carissa Andrews is a passionate author and freelancer from Minnesota with a focus in creative writing.
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