Every time a 'lose your belly' advertisement pops up on the right side of my screen, I hit exit, suck in my stomach, and wait for a few seconds, hoping it'll go away. Belly fat is my kryptonite and I've feared it for as long as I can remember. I don't have a disciplined diet but manage to workout a few times a week. Upon seeing my frame you'll realise that belly fat should be the least of my concerns, when in fact it's probably the most likely and most dangerous of them all. This time around we'll talk about the causes of that hard-to-get-rid-of tummy fat and some handpicked stomach exercises to reduce belly fat.
What Causes Belly Fat?
The myth of 'the beer belly' - It's been said for far too long, but here it goes again: "Drinking too much beer can give you a beer belly." But, does it really?
Beer stretches your stomach which gives you a belly, not the calories themselves. And this gets more common with age, especially in men. A researcher at the Mayo Clinic explains this in simpler words:
When you drink alcohol, your liver starts to burn that instead of burning fat. So fat goes and settles in your body, mostly around the mid-section.
Men and women store fat differently. Women tend to have more subcutaneous fat, which is fat stored under the skin. Which is why they tend to put on weight on their arms, thighs, buttocks and love handles. However, men don't have as much fat stored under the skin and so what they gain first goes to their belly. With age, the level of activity of your hormones tends to drop which is why you tend to put on weight quicker than usual, and mostly on your belly.
He also attributes the belly to another reason - the number of pints you consume at one go. Let's say it's been a hectic day and after work you head out straight to a bar. You order a couple of pints, each has somewhere around 150-200 calories. Add some comfort food like nachos, fries or sliders to this mix and you've got 800-900 calories attributed to just one meal. Now multiply that with the number of times you go out in a week and you've got yourself the reason why you're putting on weight or getting a belly. There are people who indulge in this more often than recommended and probably don't have a belly but that's because they workout the calories consumed the night before.
Another reason why you've collected fat on your belly could be sudden hunger pangs. This may have happened to you on several occasions; you feel hungry beyond control and grab the closest snack, which in most cases is a high carb one - chips, samosa, deep-fried kachoris and so on.
Moving on, you might also want to watch the number of diet-soda cans you guzzle. Diet-soda is bad! It's bad for your health, bad for your weight and bad for your waistline. According to a study published in the journal of the American Geriatrics Society, people who drank diet-soda over a period of nine years or more gained triple the belly fat than those who didn't. So you get where we're going with this, right?
Why Your Belly Fat Won't Budge! Dr.Randolph, author of the book From Belly Fat to Belly Flat, explains that the stubbornness of belly fat is largely dependent on your hormones. If there is any kind of imbalance, then displacing your belly might be a real tussle. So first, you need to correct your hormones and once that's done, it's pretty easy to rid yourself of belly fat.
Bigger the Belly, Bigger the Risks
Vanity isn't and shouldn't be the only reason you should want to dislodge your belly fat. It should be 'good health' because a big belly can have some serious health implications.
Belly fat could put you at the risk of sudden cardiac death, according to a study that was published recently in the journal Heart. Higher the waist-to-hip ratio, higher the chances of cardiac death. But this presents the worst case scenario. Some other conditions belly fat could lead to are: hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol.
Another study done at the Pennslyvania State University and published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine linked abdominal fat to increased levels of daytime sleepiness, tiredness and exhaustion.
Burn the Fat Away!
Snack - What you eat is probably the most important factor that disturbs your weight. A study conducted by scientists from Penn State University showed that snacking on almonds could help curb belly fat. That's great because we also know that almonds help curb the appetite. So not only can you control how much you eat, you can also burn fat!
Diet - If you consume more calories than required and don't workout, it's only normal that you'll put on weight. And if you want to avoid that, your diet is the first thing you need to curb. Cut out the excess salt, sugar and fat. But don't stop eating or cut your calorie intake drastically. If you do, then your body's response to it isn't always going to be good. Your body could up the production of the stress hormone cortisol and start to store fat in your abdominal area.
The Ultimate Work Out!
Besides your diet, there's another very important touch point you need to go over. Exercise! For those of you who can't make it to the gym or your nearest park, here are five wonderful workouts you can do at home. Namita Jain, global wellness expert, has some excellent suggestions.
Fit ball - Grab one of those big inflated balls to do the following exercises.
1. Reverse curl with ball - Lie on your back with your arms by your sides. Rest your heels and calves about knee-width apart on the ball. Tense your abs and, holding the ball between your heels and thighs, raise it off the floor. Slowly, return to starting position.
2. Back extension - Stabilise yourself on the ball, face down, so that only your feet are on the floor. Place your hands on your lower back and slowly lift your spine off the ball. Make sure that you don't hyperextend your spine while you do this exercise. Slowly return to starting position.
Pilates - Grab the closest yoga mat for these exercises.
3. Roll like a ball - Sit with your knees bent, holding your ankles. Initiate the movement by rolling backwards and bringing your knees with you. Inhale as you roll back and exhale as you come forward. Each time you come forward, "put on the brakes" and balance on your tailbone. Hold for 30 seconds. Do not allow your feet to touch the mat.
Exercise Those Abs
4. Crunches - Lie on your back with your knees bent, and your hands behind your head. Lift your shoulders off the floor and curl your legs towards your ribcage; simultaneously. Slowly, return to starting position.
5. Lie on your stomach - With elbows bent and close to your waist, lift your entire body into a plank position. The entire body is in a straight line parallel to the floor and resting on your forearms and toes. Use your abdominal and back strength to maintain this position. Slowly return to starting position.