Dangerous visceral fat — the type of deep fat that tends to accumulate near your belly, surrounding your vital organs — raises the risk for serious conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and many others.
Visceral fat is also called “organ fat” or “intra-abdominal fat”. This fat lies in close proximity to the vital organs of the body, including the liver, kidneys and other digestive organs. Fat is actually similar to an organ, in that it releases compounds in the blood and alters hormone levels.
When fat is stored close to the vital organs, it’s easier for this fat to get into the bloodstream and circulate through the entire body. This leads to problems such as clogged arteries, hypertension and even problems with metabolic functions in the body. Several hormones are involved in accumulation of belly fat, including insulin, ghrelin, leptin and cortisol. Here are some of the ways that the “modern lifestyle” can cause belly fat to start increasing:
- Insulin is the hormone that’s released when we consume carbohydrates. It helps take glucose (sugar) out of the bloodstream and brings it into cells to be used for energy. However, when too much glucose remains in the blood, it’s stored away for later use as body fat.
- Appetite hormones, including ghrelin and leptin, control how hungry or satisfied we feel before, after and between eating. Eating chemically altered foods (which spike cravings), repeat yo-yo dieting, crash dieting, genetic factors and stress can all interfere with appetite regulation.
- Cortisol is often called “the stress hormone” because we release more of it when we’re emotionally or physically stressed. Although we need cortisol for some essential functions, too much can contribute to fat accumulation around the midsection, increase appetite in some people, interfere with sleep quality and have other negative effects.
5 Ways to Start Trimming Your Midsection
1. Eat More Fat-Burning Foods
Focus on eating vegetables, fruits, seeds, clean meats and fish, legumes, and others grown in healthy, rich soils without any chemicals added when you’re trying to lose belly fat. This will help not only get rid of the unwanted visceral fat but also give your body the vital nutrients it needs to function properly.
Eating real foods will also result in you eating more of a high-fiber diet, beneficial for controlling appetite, digestion, heart health and more.
2. Eat Mindfully
Slow down while you eat so you’re less likely to scarf down too much, too quickly. Become aware of how much food it takes to make you feel satisfied when eating without becoming overly stuffed.
Face emotional or comfort eating head on by figuring out better ways to handle stressors in your life and eat in a healthy manner first and foremost in order to support your health long-term, rather than just to lose weight quickly.
3. Intermittent Fasting
Best approached as a shift in lifestyle and eating patterns, there’s no need to count calories or measure grams. Simply focus on extending the duration of time between eating the healthy foods you already eat, with a particular emphasis on healthy fats and proteins.
There are several ways to practice fasting, including: skipping breakfast, severely limiting calories on some days or even not eating anything at all some days, or limiting your eating hours to only 8 hours a day. Besides helping to reduce body fat, here are the major benefits of intermittent fasting:
- has a dramatic impact on human growth hormone levels, resulting in greater endurance with faster muscle repair and growth
- may help slow the aging process
- can help regulate insulin levels, which is key for those who are diabetic or obese
4. HIIT Workouts
High-intensity interval training–style has been shown to be an excellent way to burn fat in a short period of time and help improve the physical performance of athletes of all kinds. HIIT workouts combines short, high-intensity bursts of exercise, with slow, recovery phases repeated throughout one short 15–20 minute session. It’s done at 85–100 percent of one’s maximum heart rate rather than 50–70 percent in moderate endurance activity.
5. Get Enough Sleep
A lack of sleep is often one of the most overlooked factors contributing to belly fat, and experts call getting good sleep an “important part of a obesity prevention approach.” Getting enough sleep helps regulate your stress hormones, controls your appetite better, gives you more energy for physical exercise, may help reduce cravings for sweets and tends to decrease emotional eating.
Effective long-term weight loss that results in decreased visceral/belly fat depends on permanent changes in dietary quality, calorie (energy) intake, lifestyle habits and also physical activity.
Need help with your weight loss goals? Schedule a free 20 minute strategy session and start losing weight fast.