That collection of fat around the midsection can be one of the hardest to lose. Belly fat, as it’s called, can accumulate in no time, but losing it can seem to take ages. We feel every dieter deserves to know the truth about what they’re fighting, so we dug deep into medical journals, authority websites and university papers. We don’t just skim the surface; we cover everything you could want to know about that abdominal problem.
What is Belly Fat?
When you look at your abdominal section, you may notice an accumulation of fatty tissue often referred to as belly fat. For some people it is extremely easy to store fat in the midsection, but for others it seems like no matter what they eat the tummy stays flat. If you’re on a mission to get rid of yours, you may be overwhelmed by promises from pill and diet companies that swear you can target the midsection, but that’s not the case.
What are the Types of Fat?
There are actually three different types of fat – subcutaneous, intramuscular and visceral.
Subcutaneous fat is found just under the surface of the skin. You can pinch it because it is loose.
Intramuscular fat is located between your skeletal muscles. You cannot see it with the naked eye.
Visceral fat is found even further in the body between organs like the liver and stomach. This is often referred to as belly fat.
You also have to take into consideration that there are two other subcategories of fat – essential and storage.
Essential fat is required for the healthy function of the body. It is stored in muscles, the central nervous system, bone marrow and organs. Women, who have about 12% essential fat, also store some in the breasts, hips and thighs.
Storage fat is what’s left over when the body has too much energy to burn. It holds on to, or stores, this energy in the form of fat so it can be there for use just in case. Belly fat is considered storage fat.
Belly Fat and Weight-Loss
Belly fat is one of the most commonly reported problems with dieters. You have to be wary of products or programs that claim they can target the abdominal area, because it’s simply not true. In order to lose weight in any area of the body you need to eat healthy, move more and boost your metabolism.
How Does Weight-Loss Affect Belly Fat?
At the heart of shedding that belly fat is a healthy diet. You basically have to eat fewer calories than the body needs to function every day. To find out just how many calories you need, combine your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) with the number of calories you burn with extra activity. For example, if a 35 year old man who is 6’2” weighs 230 pounds, his BMR is 2,205. He can eat that number of calories and still lose weight if he is relatively active. Getting up and walking around, eating, digesting, exercising and other activities increase the BMR.
Now, if you start eating fewer calories and the weight starts coming off it can have a positive impact on belly fat, if you store fat in that area quickly. According to Dr. Janet Brill, a nutritionist, “If you tend to gain weight around your waist, you’ll likely lose weight from your midsection first.” It’s also important to note that women tend to hold on to fat in the thighs, butt and hips because those are the areas necessary for child-bearing and rearing.
Can I Skip Meals to Lose More Belly Fat?
Weight-loss is all about eating right and moving more, not skipping meals. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, when you eat after fasting the body can actually store more fat in the belly area. “Even though they were consuming the same amount of energy [calories], they were storing it differently — storing it as adipose tissue.” The article goes on to say, “despite a reduced cumulative food intake compared to [feeding] ad libitum, restriction-induced gorging [resulted in] increased intraabdominal fat accumulation.”
Mood and Belly Fat
Surprisingly, storing belly fat is about more than the foods you eat. According to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, being mindful, “defined as the ability to attend nonjudgmentally to one’s own physical and mental processes”, helped participants lose about one pound of belly fat. MAAS (Mindful Attention Awareness Scale) was used to determine mindfulness. “People with the lower MAAS scores had, on average, a bit more than a pound of belly fat (448 grams) than people with the high score.”
Targeting Just Belly Fat
If you’re looking for a means of targeting just belly fat, there’s no way to do that. Regular exercise and healthy eating can help you lose weight and fat, from all over the body, but it will not focus weight-loss solely on the abdominals. According to Harvard Health Publications, “Spot exercising, such as doing sit-ups, can tighten abdominal muscles, but it won’t get at visceral fat.”
What is important to know is that the fat that is stored in the belly area is active. This means the body tends to burn off this fat first. According to an article reviewed by Dr. Rob Hicks, “Visceral fat (the fat surrounding your vital organs) is more metabolically active than subcutaneous fat (the fat just under your skin) so it tends to burn off quicker.” Belly fat is visceral.
Belly Fat or Bloat?
It can be difficult to tell whether the belly fat you’re trying to lose is actually fat or if it is the effect of stomach issues, like gas. In a study of 2,000 people, “72 percent said they have experienced at least one of the following gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms a few times a month or more: diarrhea, gas, bloating, stomach pain, frequent bowel movements, unexplained weight-loss and non-specific GI discomfort,” as reported by Abbvie (a bio-pharmaceutical company).
Changing up your diet to remove foods that commonly cause gas may be a good option if you think your digestive system is having some issues. Many dieters are surprised by just how many foods are likely to cause gas.
According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, the following foods can cause gas.
• “Beans (Presoaking reduces the gas-producing potential of beans if you discard the soaking water and cook using fresh water)
• Vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cucumbers, green peppers, onions, radishes, celery, carrots
• Fruits such as apples, peaches, raisins, bananas, apricots, prune juice, pears
• Whole grains and bran (Adding them slowly to your diet can help reduce gas forming potential)
• Carbonated drinks (Allowing carbonated drinks, which contain a great deal of gas, to stand open for several hours allows the carbonation/gas to escape)
• Milk and milk products, such as cheese and ice cream
• Packaged foods prepared with lactose, such as bread, cereal, and salad dressing
• Foods containing sorbitol, such as dietetic foods and sugar-free candies and gums
• Beverages such as wine and dark beer”
What’s the Final Take on Belly Fat?
The takeaway is simple. You can lose belly fat, but only if you follow a healthy diet and exercise program. There is no secret pill, magic workout or quick way to shed that abdominal weight. The only thing that impacts where you lose fat from is where you most often store it.