We all know excess weight isn’t good for you, but belly fat is especially unhealthy and dangerous. Most people know about subcutaneous fat–the fat that you can see and pinch, but there’s also visceral fat that isn’t talked about enough. It’s located deep in your abdomen and it wraps around your vital organs and can cause major health problems like stroke, heart disease, some cancers, type 2 diabetes and more. “The most important thing to know about belly fat is that it is very metabolically active and very pro-inflammatory. Atherosclerosis and diabetes are worsened by a pro-inflammatory state,” Dr. Mohammed S. Alo, DO Board Certified Cardiologist and Certified Personal Trainer Assistant Clinical Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, Midwestern University and author of Actual Weight Loss: The No Nonsense Weight Loss Plan Without Gimmicks, Diets, Fads, and Restrictions tells Eat This, Not That! Health. He adds, “Fat that is located in the abdominal area is more hormonally active and leads to worse cardiovascular outcomes. We know that obesity in and of itself is the most pro-inflammatory state, regardless of any other conditions you may have. The question becomes, what can we do about it?” Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
According to Dr. Terry Simpson MD FACS, a weight loss surgery and certified culinary medicine specialist with St. Johns Camarillo and St John’s Dignity Health, “Belly fat is a big problem as we age. Our fat goes from our tissue under our skin to our belly – and is made worse with menopause! While everyone will have an opinion about what exercise a person should have, the literature is clear that the best exercises for belly fat are cardiovascular, like running, swimming, and fast walking. I love Yoga because it is intense, cardiovascular and fun. So if you want to get rid of belly fat – first find something you like to do that will cause some sweat.”
Dr. Simpson shares how important a diet rich in fiber is, “so increasing vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. Trying to get 35 grams of fiber in isn’t that hard – adding a couple of carrots at lunch, blueberries with breakfast, an apple, then some beans or chickpeas in your salad, and use whole grain bread and pasta. Fiber diets keep you regular, fit, reduce waist size and help you burn more belly fat.”
Dr. Alo says, “One of the most effective ways to reduce inflammation, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular mortality is to reduce overall body weight. Studies have shown that regardless of what diet you want to follow, if you lose weight, your cardiovascular mortality and inflammatory markers all improve. In other words, if you lose weight, you will live longer. Regardless of which diet you want to follow. It’s important to follow the diet that feels the least restrictive to you.”
Dr. Alo shares, “Increasing activity levels will reduce inflammation, insulin resistance, cardiometabolic syndrome, and reduce cardiovascular mortality. This happens even in the absence of weight loss. Studies have shown that overweight individuals can reduce their cardiovascular risk to that of their lean counterparts when they begin an exercise program, even if their weight doesn’t change. It is very important to exercise for fitness, not fatness. You will be disappointed if you decide to start a new exercise program thinking it will cause a tremendous amount of weight loss, but then you don’t lose any weight. We need to focus on the health benefits of exercise, as opposed to weight loss.”
According to Dr. Alo, “Adopting a more wholesome, less processed diet will help reduce cardiovascular mortality, regardless of anything else. The Mediterranean diet has been shown in multiple studies to lower cardiovascular mortality, as well as reduce the incidence of approximately 12 different types of cancer. You should start doing this slowly. Radical, sweeping changes are very difficult to adopt and maintain long term. Start by increasing fruit intake, then add nuts, in a few weeks eliminate pop and sugary drinks. If you do this gradually you will notice a huge difference. If you make sudden, radical changes, you will not be able to make this a lifelong change.”
“Unfortunately you can’t spot reduce belly fat,” Dr. Alo emphasizes. “You can’t target belly fat by doing 200 crunches a day. You have to reduce body fat everywhere. Lower belly fat can be very stubborn and difficult to reduce in men and women. The good news is that visceral fat that surrounds your organs can be reduced faster, and won’t push your belly out as much. The toughest belly fat to lose is the subcutaneous (just under the skin) belly fat. The physique athletes I coach have to get incredibly lean to finally see the bottom two abs. The good news is, you don’t need to get that lean to appreciably reduce belly fat. You will start to notice a difference in 8-12 weeks. Get yourself into a calorie deficit and watch the magic happen. A calorie deficit will cause weight loss regardless of which macronutrients you choose to emphasize. You can eat more carbs, no carbs, only fat, only protein… whatever your heart desires. As long as you are eating less calories, you will lose weight and all of your cardiovascular markers will improve.”
Dr. Alo states, “Focus on resistance training and not just cardio. Lifting weights will slowly increase your basal metabolic rate because you will be carrying around more lean body mass (muscle). This is one way to increase metabolism. As a bonus, you will like the way you look when more fat comes off. Increased lean body mass has also been shown to be more protective and showed reduction in all cause and cardiovascular mortality.“