What’s causing your belly?
Festive excesses left their mark around your middle? Take our quiz to discover how to trim your turn for good.
It’s easy to become fixated with the weight around your middle. That stubborn pouch or spill over your jeans can make you feel fat and fed-up. And if the Christmas chocolate selection box has taken a hammering and the gym put to back of your mind, take comfort, you’re not alone But it’s not all doom and gloom. Even though the predisposition to storing weight around your middle is determined by age, gender and genetics, it IS possible to take control of your turn. Plus, it’s important to keep weight off here to protect yourself against illness such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Our quiz will show you what’s causing your belly fat and the best way to fix it:
What’s causing your belly? Photo Gallery
1.YOUR IDEA OF A GOOD EVENING IS…
A.Drinks and dancing with friends into the early hours
B.A 1OK run followed by a shower and a healthy salad for dinner
C. Going to the cinema to watch the latest blockbuster
D.Enjoying a takeaway and a bottle of wine at home
2. YOUR WORKLOAD DOUBLES IN THE OFFICE. DO YOU…
A.Work into the night to catch up
B. Escape to the gym to run for an hour on a treadmill
C. Go home and watch Coronation Street to zone out
D. Reach for chocolate – it always makes you feel better
3.YOU WOULD DESCRIBE YOUR DIET AS…
A. Low-carb, low-fat, low everything really
B. Very healthy – I eat clean and train dirty
C. Fairly balanced, but I do eat more calories than I burn off
D. I don’t diet. Where’s the fun in that?
4. WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING BEST DESCRIBES YOUR BODY
A. I’m lean everywhere, except for my flabby tummy
B.I can’t shift that pouch below my belly button
C. I carry weight on my tummy as well as on my bottom and my thighs
D.I have a muffin top and love handles
5. WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING BEST DESCRIBES YOUR ATTITUDE TO EXERCISE?
A. I exercise during my lunch hour, then rush back to work
B. I’m a fitness addict, not day goes by without me doing some exercise
C. Walking to the pub is exercise, right?
D. I exercise so I can still give myself treats
6.TO TARGET YOUR BELLY FAT IN THE PAST, YOU HAVE…
A.Put yourself on a strict diet- no carbohydrates after breakfast
B. Spent longer in the ‘fat burning’ zone on the crosstrainer at the gym
C.Set yourself a challenge of doing 100 sit-ups a day
D. Switched to low-fat crisps and diet coke
MOSTLY A’s MOSTLY B’s
“The best exercises for reducing belly fat are weighted exercises recruiting large muscle groups which increase your resting metabolic rate
YOU NEED TO DE-STRESS…
And we’re not just talking emotional stress. ‘These days, many of us live under chronic stress,’ says Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of Fat Around the Middle (£9.99; Kyle Cathie). Punishing Your body with crash diets, little sleep and intense exercise places physiological stress on your body. The more stress your body is under, the more of the hormone cortisol it produces, which actually causes weight-loss resistance. ’Unless you do something physical to use the extra energy (glucose) produced when cortisol levels rise, it must be redeposited as fat,’ says Glenville.Numerous studies link cortisol and abdominal fat, including a study by Yale University where even slender women were more likely to store fat around their middle if they were experiencing high levels of stress. The Reason fat targets the middle is because it is close to the liver, where it can be quickly converted back to energy if needed, says Glenville.
• Regardless of how balanced your diet and exercise regime is, stress will still send fat to your belly. ‘As soon as your system has less stress hormones running around inside and you’re nourished and hydrated, the weight will begin to fall off easily,’ says Sam Bearfoot, kinesiologist and founder of wellness company Body Sync (body-sync.com).
• Don’t go from one stressful situation to another, such as going from work to the gym then back to work.
• Switch your lunch-hour cardio workout for a restorative yoga class or a walk in the park, instead.
SCALE BACK THE EXERCISE
Exercise burns the fat you can’t see first – visceral fat. This is good news, because this is the fat cushioning your vital organs and sitting around your heart which, if allowed to increase, puts you at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain cancers. A study in the American Journal of Physiology found aerobic exercise was the most effective means of fighting this fat.Subcutaneous fat – the squidgy bit we like to pinch and prod – takes longer to disappear. But if you’re already exercising hard, we’re not suggesting you spend even longer in the gym. Another hour in bed would be much more beneficial, says Ben Pratt, northern tutor manager at Premier Training International (premierglobal.co.uk). Your body produces the stress hormone cortisol when you exercise, so if you’re moderately active for a longer time your cortisol levels will be very high, sending more fat to your turn.
• ‘Shorter, more intense exercise, followed immediately by active recovery – whether that’s a gentle swim, relaxing in a jacuzzi. some Tai Chi or stretching – helps your body counteract the damaging effects of cortisol,’ says Pratt. Cortisol is also released when your blood sugar drops, as it wants to ensure there’s an available supply of energy in case of another fight or flight situation.
• To avoid a situation where cortisol is needed to rebalance blood sugar, make sure you refuel within 30 minutes of exercise with a carbohydrate-rich snack.
MOSTLY C’s MOSTLY D’s
IT’S TIME TO GET MOVING
Not all fat in the body behaves the same. Tat around the middle of the body literally has a mind of its own, and it actually operates just like an endocrine [hormone-secreting] organ, producing its own array of hormones,’ says Glenville. All the more reason then to get off your buttand start to burn off some excess calories. It stands to reason that a sedentary lifestyle will lead to weight gain around your turn, as well as the rest of your body. If you have low muscle mass and a large fat mass, any excess calorie intake will be sent to available fat cells to be stored, instead of being stored as energy in your muscles. And sorry, doing TOO sit-ups a day isn’t the answer; you need to get your heart pumping.
• ‘The best exercises for reducing belly fat are weighted exercises recruiting large muscle groups, such as lunges, squats, deadlifts, rows and presses, which increase your resting metabolic rate,’ says PT Charlotte Ord. ‘Interval and resistance training with weights is the most effective as it develops lean muscle tissue, which is the most metabolically active tissue in the body.’
• Just 20-minutes of high-intensity interval training is enough to keep your body in a fat-burning state for 10-12 hours. ‘If you raise excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or ‘afterburn’, by doing short bursts of activity, you’ll encourage your body to use stored fat as its primary fuel,’ says Pratt. And, if you’re an apple shape who’s strapped for time, this is great news!
CUT OUT THE SUGAR
Eat a little less of what you fancy and much more of the foods your body needs to balance its erratic hormones. ‘Lots of good-quality nutrition is needed to rebalance the endocrine system,’ says Bearfoot. ‘Processed foods and stimulants play havoc with your hormones.’Belly fat is caused by a hormone imbalance, where levels of insulin, cortisol and testosterone are comparatively higher than oestrogen and progesterone in the body. Foods that contain a lot of sugar and fat increase your body’s production of insulin, which is the number one fat-storing hormone in the body, says Pratt. This insulin spike stresses your body, which then releases cortisol, and so the vicious circle continues.
• Ditch takeaways, wine, chocolate and foods marketed as low fat as they often have a lot of added sugar.’Your diet needs to be tailored to fat loss,’ says Ord. ‘That doesn’t mean eating low fat, but rather clean, natural foods, with moderate amounts of grains, nothing processed and as little sugar as possible.’
• Increasing the fibre content of your diet will also help you achieve flat-belly results faster: eat lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. ‘The solution is to find a way of eating that tells your body all is well and reassures it that it is not under stress,’ says Glenville.
• To give your body a natural boost, Bearfoot also recommends taking the plant remedy Siberian ginseng for a three-month period to strengthen your body’s defence against stress.