Excess fat is never a good thing, but visceral fat (also known as belly fat or abdominal fat) is particularly dangerous. “The problem with visceral fat is it is highly inflammatory: Visceral fat releases cytokines, small proteins that cause inflammation,” says Julie Chen, MD. “This inflammation can damage blood vessels and other organs, eventually leading to damage of the blood vessels in the heart and other tissues. This inflammation can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, which, in turn, can put you at risk for heart attacks and strokes.” Here are five ways to blast belly fat you most probably haven’t tried yet. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
No, seriously. It may seem strange that just sitting still and practicing mindfulness can help you lose weight, but it really can. “I’ve discovered that the successful clients who lose weight and keep it off are the ones who do the inner work,” says Holistic Health Practitioner Sarah Anne Stewart. “They’re ready to confront their thoughts, feelings, love for self and how they perceive themselves. They’re willing to dig up emotional triggers and past traumas that have manifested into an unhealthy weight and/or their relationship with food… In meditation , you get to the truth of why you consistently skip your morning workout or grab fast food each night on the way home. You can explore your motivations for weight loss and why you haven’t accomplished your goals. You can confront childhood programming such as being told you have to eat all the food on your plate. Most importantly, you can understand why weight loss has been an issue in the past and get to a place where you’re mentally prepared to stick to a weight loss program and get to (and keep) your ideal weight.”
You don’t need to kill yourself at the gym to get decent fat-loss results, experts say—small changes can add up to big results. “I would suggest adding cardio into your workout routine—something that will get the heart rate up and the body heated and sweaty,” says celebrity fitness expert Sarah Louise Rectorfounder of the SLR Life Workout Program and app. “If that is not possible then definitely add regular walking into your lifestyle to help get up and moving. I’m a dance cardio girl, so I find that to be ‘fun’ cardio fitness. It’s extremely effective not only for weight loss, but it also boosts your mood and mental clarity, which really does increase those happy endorphins for a more positive outlook (especially when it comes to body confidence)!”
It’s incredibly easy to underestimate how many calories are in your food, experts say, which explains why so many of us think we’re eating less than we actually are. “It’s easy to think that you’re eating correct portion sizes. You measure a salmon filet by the size of your palm and judge the peanut butter you spread on toast to be no more than a teaspoon,” says Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private practice dietitian. “Yet, studies have found that most people underestimate their portion sizes, especially for high-calorie foods such as peanut butter, nuts, sauces and salad dressings. And if you’re hungry, research suggests that you’ll miscalculate portion sizes to a greater degree than you would after eating a meal. Studies have also revealed that dieters who measure their food are more successful at losing weight compared to those who don’t… If you’re embarking on a meal plan to lose weight, using a digital food scale will ensure you’re not consuming more calories than you think you are. If you’re logging your food intake on an app, weighing food portions will allow you to accurately track your calorie intake.”
Are you getting at least seven hours of sleep a night? Because if you’re not, that belly is here to stay. “Inadequate sleep appears to redirect fat to the more dangerous visceral compartment,” says cardiologist Virend Somers, MD, Ph.D. “Importantly, although during recovery sleep there was a decrease in calorie intake and weight, visceral fat continued to increase. This suggests that inadequate sleep is a previously unrecognized trigger for visceral fat deposition, and that catch-up sleep, at least in the short term, does not reverse the visceral fat accumulation.”
If you hate cardio, loathe gyms and get upset at the mere thought of a steep hike, resistance training might be your new best friend. “My favorite thing is to put a barbell in a woman’s hands for the first time,” says personal trainer and competitive weightlifter Sarah Carr. “One of the biggest benefits is the confidence of realizing you’re capable of that…As soon as you stop doing cardio, you stop burning calories. When you lift weights, once you stop, your body starts to recover, and continues to burn calories for a long period of time. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism is going to be.”
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more