Written by Dr Mickey Mehta
The biggest battle man has ever fought is the battle of the belly bulge, which is the most belligerent of all. Let us understand how belly fat gets accumulated in the first place. There is fat right under our skin and deeper inside our body, mainly around our heart, lungs, liver and other organs. This deeper fat is called “visceral fat,” a type of fat which is more prominent around the abdominal cavity or stomach and which heightens health risks.
While belly fat is needed, as it provides cushioning around our organs, too much fat may turn out to do more harm than good, even for lean people. This is because it increases the chances of getting high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, including breast and colon cancer.
Having more abdominal fat means having more visceral fat. There are many factors that cause bulges around one’s waist and abdomen. Primarily one can blame their genes for it can very well run in the family owing to the genetic disposition. Other factors include low metabolic activity when the food that we consume doesn’t get converted into energy and rather deposits as fat, and over a period of time this fat starts accumulating more and more which can lead to complications in our health.
How belly fat builds up?
Binge eating, irregular or dysfunctional hormones, bad oral and dental health, less than usual intake of water, inactive lifestyle and lethargy plays a crucial role in fat build-up. Taking in more calories than you can burn out and sleeping for a few hours can play an integral role in disrupting our metabolic activity, which is crucial in converting food into fat and burning fat into energy.
Another trigger that is responsible for weight gain around the belly is stress. When one feels too tense, the stress hormones release cortisol that makes one crave for high-fat, sweet and fried foods. Cortisol is responsible for depositing fat around the belly. Menopausal women and women post-deliveries especially find it difficult to get back in shape because of sudden weight gain around their abdominal area.
Why is belly fat stubborn?
The reason we find it so difficult to shed belly fat is because we do a lot of exercises with our hands, shoulders, chest, back and legs but most of us neglect workouts of the stomach.
How can lifestyle changes alter belly fat?
Here’s how we can start adopting lifestyle changes to get back in shape. Clean, green food is extremely important as also what food to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. If food becomes constitution-specific and therapeutic, we have won half the battle against belly fat. Since, we have meals three to four times a day, make sure we burn it out daily lest it convert itself to belly fat. Work out every day and to people who ask me why every day, I counter-question them, “Why do we eat every day?” If we need to eat every day, we need to work out every day, it’s that simple.
Breathe in a regulated way so that our hormones get regulated, our thyroid gland functions well, our digestion improves and yes, whichever type of exercises we do, we must practise yoga for a minimum of thrice a week. Yoga is the only exercise which regulates our hormones and functions of the organs. It cleanses them, rejuvenates them and revitalizes them.
Yoga, focussed on the abdominal area, would also help in insulin management, glycogen management, renal functions, lung, heart and digestive functions.
Adopt a simple yoga routine that agrees with you
The essence of yoga is not straining, draining and exhausting. Asanas not just work on the muscles, they work deeper on one’s internal system, organs, tissue and the cellular level. Practise simple yoga poses to begin with such as Tadasana, Utthita trikonasana (Triangle pose), Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend), Padahastasana (standing forward bend) as per your capacity. Naukasana (Boat pose), Eka padasana (Tree pose), Parvattasana (Mountain pose), Ardha Matsyendrasana (twisting asanas), Bhujangasana (Cobra pose) and Surya Namaskara are very essential in your day-to-day life.
If not yoga, then what else can I do to met belly fat?
Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. Indulge in daily walks and gentle jogging, swimming, dancing or partake in any sports activities. Breathing exercises like Bhastrika, Uddiyana bandha and Surya bhedi pranayama are especially beneficial. But do back these up with a supportive diet, which plays a crucial role in making you work towards shedding that extra flab.
How diet can help in losing weight
Here are some effective tips to help reduce belly fat using diet. Eat a mostly plant-based diet. Consume foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Eat more soluble fibre as it absorbs water and forms a gel that helps slow down food as it passes through the digestive system. This type of fibre helps you feel full, so you naturally eat less. Consume high fibre foods every day. Excellent sources of soluble fibres include flax seeds, broccoli, sweet potatoes, avocado, green peas, spinach, papayas and bananas.
Take a high protein diet. Protein is extremely important for weight management. High protein intake gives a feeling of satiety, thereby promoting fullness. Protein also raises the metabolic rate and helps to retain muscle mass during weight loss. Include a good protein source at every meal such as dairy, beans, legumes, lentils, nuts and seeds. So also eat probiotic foods.
Probiotics help improve gut health and enhance immune function. Eating curd, fermented foods like idli and dosa or taking a probiotic supplement help promote a healthy digestive system. Beneficial gut bacteria may help promote weight loss. We should move away from processed foods. The ingredients in packaged goods and snack foods are often heavy on trans fats, added sugar and added salt or sodium — the three things that make it difficult to lose weight.
We should also cut down on carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates. Reducing the carb intake can be very beneficial for losing fat, including abdominal fat. We ought to replace refined carbs with complex carbs like wholegrains, nuts and legumes, vegetables and fruits as part of a healthy balanced meal. We should also have at least two cups of green tea, twice a day as it contains an antioxidant which helps boost your metabolism. When combined with a balanced meal and exercise, it can help reduce belly fat.
A good night’s sleep is all you need
Apart from focussing on diet, we should have at least eight hours of deep sleep and rest, which allow our body to feel refreshed and rejuvenated when we wake up every morning to take on another hard day’s work! That fresh energy spike will help you keep moving about rather than postponing activities. Let’s be more responsible towards our health and fitness. Our real strength is in our mind and that belly bulge can easily disappear.
(Dr Mehta is a leading holistic health guru and corporate life coach and has trained Bollywood superstars Akshay Kumar, Preity Zinta, billionaires, politicians, Miss World/Miss Universe candidates and the Maharashtra Police. A best-selling author, he has been appointed FIT India Movement Champion by the Sports Authority of India).
Written by Dr Mickey Mehta