The presence of unhealthy fats centred on the stomach area has grown substantially in recent years, primarily due to unhealthy changes being made in the Australian standard diet. Find out here why this belly fat is so unhealthy, and some tips to get rid of it.
If you’re carrying a few extra kilograms of fat around the belly, you’re not alone. But this is one case where following the crowd isn’t a good idea. Carrying excess weight – especially belly fat – can pose a considerable risk to your health.
The fat that is located just below the skin of most of your body is known as subcutaneous fat. However belly fat also includes visceral fat, which lies deeper inside your abdomen around your viscera (the internal organs such as the stomach and intestines).
This is why fat around your belly can become dangerous, as visceral fat inside your abdomen produces toxins that affect the way your body works, and can lead to several damaging health effects.
Regardless of your overall weight, having a large amount of stomach fat increases your risk of:
- Heart disease;
- Insulin resistance and diabetes;
- Colon cancer;
- Sleep apnoea; and
- High blood pressure.
What causes belly fat?
Your weight is largely determined by the balance between the calories you consume and the energy that you burn through metabolic functions and physical activity. If you eat too much and exercise too little, you’re likely to gain weight.
Ageing can also be a factor in increased belly fat. As you age, you naturally lose muscle mass, especially if you’re not physically active. Loss of muscle mass slows the rate at which your body burns calories, which can make it difficult to stay within a healthy weight range. Your genes can also affect whether you store fat more easily and where that fat it stored. However, genetics aside – by balancing the calories you intake against increased physical activity, you can actively prevent unhealthy weight gain.
So how do you determine if you have too much belly fat?
- Whilst standing, place a tape measure around your stomach, just above the hipbone.
- Tighten the tape measure until it fits snugly, without pushing into your skin. Make sure that the tape measure is a level height all around your stomach.
- Relax your stomach and measure your waist.
For women, a waist measurement of more than 89 centimetres indicates an unhealthy concentration of belly fat and can result in an increased risk of health problems. For men, a waist measurement of more than 102 centimetres
is considered problematic.
How to lose belly fat
Abdominal muscles can be toned by doing targeted abdominal exercises such as sit-ups, but doing these alone won’t get rid of belly fat. To battle the bulge you must lower your total body fat, and this can be done by:
Eating a healthy diet
Choose a diet that’s focused on plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose lean sources of protein and low-fat dairy products. Limit saturated fat and processed meats, and choose moderate amounts of ‘healthy fats’, found in oily fish, nuts and certain vegetable oils.
Keeping portion sizes in check
Even when you’re eating healthy foods, calories still add up when you don’t keep your portion sizes in check. At home, slim down your portion sizes, and when out at a restaurant, consider ordering an entree as your main dish or sharing a main meal.
Cleansing the liver
Cleansing your liver can have countless benefits, and one of them is getting rid of belly fat. Stubborn belly fat is mostly a by-product of liver toxicity, which explains why it’s so tough to get rid of it through exercise and calorie restriction. By cleansing your liver, you enable your body to start getting rid of unwanted fat.
The best foods and spices for detoxing your liver are:
- Turmeric: Consuming half a teaspoon a day, combined with some black pepper (which boosts the absorption of curcumin) will start to clear toxins from your liver. Try adding it to a drink of water or to a small bowl of rice.
- Avocados: Avocados contain glutathione, which is the detoxifying chemical your liver uses to flush toxins. The high monounsaturated fat content also helps to eliminate fatty deposits in the liver.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are high in lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant. Once ingested, it travels through the bloodstream and provides antioxidants to your body. In the liver, lycopenes neutralises free radicals, which cause DNA damage.
- Cucumber juice: Drinking a glass of cucumber juice each day is a nice, refreshing way to cleanse your liver. Loaded with vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, it’s a great replacement for water on hot days.
The average adult requires at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (brisk walking, swimming etc) each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (jogging, hiking etc) a week. Some studies indicate you must take at least 15,000 steps each day in order to lose weight and at least 12,000 steps each day to maintain a healthy weight. In addition to this, strength training exercises are recommended at least twice a week.
Target your core
As well as general aerobic exercise, it’s a good idea to perform regular exercises that focus on your abdominal area. Yoga exercises such as the Cobra, the Pontoon Posture, the Plank and the Bow Posture are great for strengthening the core, working on digestion and fighting constipation. Other belly fat burner workouts that repeat a series of circuits centred on the abs work to strengthen your core whilst toning your stomach.
Keeping it off
To lose excess fat and prevent it from coming back, aim for slow and maintainable weight loss – around one kilogram a week. Consult your doctor before getting started and create a plan for staying on track. Simple tricks such as taking a photo of your belly fat before you start will help you stay motivated, as will buying a pair of pants one size too small.
Remember, belly fat is no joke, and it pays to not only get it off, but keep it off.
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified medical practitioner. CBHS endeavours to provide independent and complete information, and content may include information regarding services, products and procedures not covered by CBHS Health Cover policies. For full terms, click