Love handles, muffin tops, mushy tummy. Sound familiar? Whatever adorable nicknames you have for them, having an inflated tire for a midsection is really one of the most common fitness dilemmas there is.
Facts first: It’s not just a nuisance. It’s a threat.
Here’s something to really get you to jump off your seat and get on a belly-bulk-busting mission. A recent study found evidence linking belly fat to increased heart attack risks. Patients who were apple-shaped (more fat concentration in their mid-section) were classified as high-risk, being almost two times more likely to encounter fatal heart ailments compared to those with normal waistline measurements.
Scientists believe that the fat accumulating in the belly releases toxins that affect heart and blood vessel tissues. These toxins may also damage vital organs like the liver and kidneys.
According to the researchers, body fat is not created equal. If you had to choose between flabby arms and love handles and decide which to target first, you're in your right mind to read on.
Reality check: No magic formula
If you're serious about losing inches off your belly, then it’s time to get realistic. Once fat accumulates in this area, taking it off isn’t a walk in the park. The only formula you will need is a lot of patience, time and commitment to a healthier lifestyle that includes proper nutrition and exercise.
Nutrition: 8 power foods to zap your belly fats
You know by now that wholesome, healthy nutrition is your prime defense against belly fat. There are no special diet combinations to melt away your midsection. On top of your lean meats and complex carbs, throw these amazing tummy slimmers into your daily diet:
- Whole grains: If you can’t live without your carbs, don’t struggle without them. Cereals, bulgur, whole wheat, brown rice, and oats are filling and keep your insulin levels to a minimum, a mechanism which is believed to shrink fats. Plus, you enjoy steady energy without the hunger pangs.
- Green tea: It’s relaxing, and brimming with antioxidants that give you that youthful glow! But more importantly, green tea keeps your metabolism high. Three cups can burn up to 30 calories because of a substance in the tea called ECGC.
- Avocados: Ever heard of fighting fat with fat? Avocados are a great source of friendly fats called monounsaturated fats. These control blood sugar levels, preventing fat storage in your belly. Avocados are one of nature’s best power foods.
- Bananas: Bursting with potassium, bananas ban bloating! The potassium counteracts the bloating effects of sodium, helping your belly to shrink little by little.
- Skim milk: Even when you’re slimming down, your body needs calcium to keep your bones strong and protein to build lean muscles. Best consumed after a workout, the combo of carbs and protein is sure to do the trick!
- Greek yogurt: Skip the creamy version. Yogurt is most loved for its live bacteria content, calcium, and protein that keep insulin and energy stabilized. It is also incredibly versatile. Make smoothies, eat it with berries, and crunch it up with grains and nuts.
- Citrus fruits: Grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes can zap up to 30% of fats during a workout. Plus, your immune system gets a lift the natural way.
- Berries: The antioxidants and vitamins in berries get more blood to flow to all your muscles, aiding in metabolism. For a power-packed combo, have grains, berries and yogurt before a workout.
No one will know: secret stomach slimming tactics
There are so many things you can do to gradually reduce belly fat without having to make it look like you’re trying too hard.
- At work: While crammed with work at your desk, try a little pilates breathing. Inhale and tighten your gut, as if you needed to button your tight jeans. With your abs tight and unmoving, try to breathe in and out several times. Hold your gut as is for half a minute and repeat five more times.
- While driving: Any seated position should allow you to do your Kegels, but you can also tighten and release your abs while waiting for the lights to turn green. It’s effortless, and you won’t even notice how frequent you’re doing it, and how much faster the results will be coming in.
- Dog walking: Stand with your spine upright, and while you're tugging at your dog’s leash, keep your shoulders back. Tighten abs as you stride five times, and relax them for the next five strides, and so on.
- Bedtime: As you lie in bed, put your palms below your belly button and breathe. Watch as your tummy expands. Inhale, sucking your belly button towards your spine. Keep in this position for 10 seconds, and then release.
Spot reduction: Get over it
Here’s a common complaint: “I do 200 crunches a day, but my belly’s still huge.” The truth is, crunches make your muscles strong and firm, but they can’t burn the fat that is jiggling over those muscles. If you really want to see progress, focus on cardio and strength training. Cardio gets your metabolism to the extreme. Strength training exists to make sure that you lose fat but you don’t lose muscle.