Having excess fat around the waist area is a much bigger concern than just feeling a bit tight in your jeans. Having too much fat around the organs inside the tummy can set you up for some serious health problems. We call this fat - visceral fat. It produces inflammatory hormones that over time, can promote long-lasting inflammation. It also releases free fatty acids that increases the risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease and even certain cancers.
Without a proper body composition assessment, it's hard to judge how much visceral fat you have. However, a protruding belly and large waist are two signs that you have too much of it.
Here are some of my tips for weight loss that I give to my clients:
1. For weight loss - Do more aerobic exercise
There is one thing to like about visceral fat, and that is that it responds very well to exercise. Cardiovascular exercises in particular, like brisk walking, running, cycling or swimming for at least 3 days a week works great to lose visceral fat.
2. Avoid high glycemic index, refined carbohydrates and added sugars to lose weight
Studies show that high intakes of refined sugars increase visceral fat accumulation. One sugar in particular - fructose, can get turned into fat by the liver, which increases visceral fat storage. When we eat refined carbohydrates and sugar, our blood sugar levels spike sky-high. Our pancreas releases a hormone called insulin to shovel all the sugar away. Unfortunately, insulin also signals your body to store belly fat.
You can reduce your added sugar intake by simply replacing it with whole foods, such as fresh vegetables, fruits, lean meats and fish, as well as lower glycemic index carbohydrates like brown rice, low GI breads and sweet potato. Avoid drinking large quantities of fruit juice and sports drinks which are concentrated in fructose.
3. Increase your intake of soluble fibre
When soluble fibre reaches the colon, it's fermented by gut bacteria into short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids are a major source of nutrition for colon cells and have been found to reduce levels of hunger. Soluble fibre also 'absorbs' fatty acids and can therefore reduce the amount of fats stored as visceral fat. To increase your soluble fibre intake, try eating more sweet potatoes, vegetables, lentils, beans, chick peas and grains like brown rice and oats. You can also try taking a good soluble fibre supplement.
4. Start your day with a low GI breakfast that contains some protein
A good, healthy breakfast makes you feel satiated and satisfied and provides you with nutrients that are slowly released throughout the morning.
5. Keep healthy snacks at work to eat between main meals
This will keep your blood sugar steady throughout the day and prevent you from over eating later which just promotes fat storing. My favourite snacks are:
- An apple with peanut butter
- Whole-grain crackers with guacamole or hummus
- A handful of trail mix
6. If you want lose weight - Avoid alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol may harm both your health and waistline. Drinking too much alcohol regularly may increase visceral fat. Try limiting your alcohol to small amounts, occasionally.
7. Get enough sleep
Studies have shown that a lack of sleep may increase your risk of visceral fat gain. On the other hand, increasing your sleep may help reduce visceral fat. If you struggle to get enough sleep, try relaxing before bed or taking a magnesium supplement.
8. Stress less
Stressing a lot can stimulate the body's adrenal glands to produce more cortisol, a stress hormone. Studies have shown that excess cortisol can increase visceral fat storage. To relieve stress, try exercising more, yoga, meditation etc.