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The secret to reducing belly fat is really obvious

Bellies: We’ve all got them, and some of us have more than we really want. I know there is no miracle solution to cutting down the size of my belly (despite what those ubiquitous animated online ads tell me), but until last month, I really didn’t know what I could do right to get rid of my excess.

Calgary Herald Life section showing Beating the Belly article

In “Beating the Belly,” I dropped a little knowledge, courtesy of dietician Liz Pearson, for dropping a few inches. (Thanks Sam for the photo.)

Then I spoke to dietician Liz Pearson for a story for the Calgary Herald. Believe it or not, the secret to getting rid of belly fat is… a healthy diet and regular exercise. Mind. Blown. Right?

But Liz helpfully gave me a lot more detail than that. There are some foods that have a particular close link to reducing belly fat (whole grains, peppers, berries to name a few) and some types of exercise are especially effective for reducing rotundity (sweaty, intense intervals).

A bigger belly, by the way, is linked with serious health risks like diabetes, dementia and this big one: early death. And from experience, I can tell you pants don’t fit as well when a belly is in the way, but I think early death is even worse than uncomfortable pants.

Beating the Belly

For the Calgary Herald. Originally published Feb. 8, 2013

There is no miracle cure for melting away stubborn belly fat, but adopting some key healthy living habits can slim down a bulging midsection, and may help you live longer, too. “Abdominal fat is dangerous,” says Toronto-based dietitian Liz Pearson, who reviewed several studies to determine which foods and habits appear especially effective in reducing waist size.

Researchers are just beginning to learn about the relationship between food and belly fat, she says.

The “metabolically active” fat around the belly negatively affects the way the body handles fats and sugars and increases harmful inflammation in the body, she says. The chronic inflammation exacerbated by belly fat is “like putting fuel on the fire for cancer cells,” Pearson says.

Excess weight around the waist significantly increases the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and early death, Pearson says, and it may speed up the aging process and the onset of dementia.

Most people she speaks to are surprised just how close to the danger zone they’re treading with their tummies, Pearson says. Health Canada warns that a waist circumference of at least 88 centimetres (35 inches) in women, and 102 centimetres (40 inches) or more in men, is concerning.

A belly measurement can be taken with a soft tape measure around the waist, just above the hip bone.

The tape measure should be pulled snugly, but not tightly around relaxed abdominal muscles.

Diets high in refined grains, sugars and alcohol all contribute to the accumulation of belly fat, as do smoking, stress and lack of physical activity. If you’re in the belly fat danger zone, Pearson prescribes daily cardio, aerobic and weightlifting exercises rather than just submitting yourself to crunches on the floor of your living room.

Read the rest at the Calgary Herald. (And please let me know via email if this link goes dead)

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