It’s not just you, many Indians are cursed with a layer of fat wobbling over our midriffs. Even those who are thin by BMI standards probably have a nice little tyre around their middle. Everyday, we get hundreds, if not thousands of queries on our app Grow Fit, where Indians of all ages and sizes ask us: “How can I lose belly fat?”
Is this just vanity speaking? No, it’s not. Doctors across the world agree that a larger belly indicates all kinds of bad news.
- Increased risk of disease: Expanding waistlines are correlated with increase in heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, sleep apnea and colorectal cancer, says the Mayo Clinic.
- Insulin resistance: The little layer of fat around your belly may indicate that you may have insulin resistance. Insulin is a regulating hormone that triggers conversion of glycogen to fat. “Insulin resistance means that your body’s muscle, fat and liver cells don’t respond normally to insulin, requiring your pancreas to produce increasing amounts of insulin to help blood glucose enter cells so it can be used as energy,” says www.livestrong.com. Also watch our video on how to lose belly fat at: https://youtu.be/BDoG4h0cs4M
- Leptin resistance: Fat cells emit leptin, which help the brain understand whether the body is hungry or not. But all those fat cells emitting leptin causes the body to lose sensitivity to leptin. This leads the brain to think that the body is starving, triggering hunger.
Can liposuction help?
Short answer: not really. While you may admire the shapelier reflection in the mirror, your health risks haven’t gone away. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study where participants had 30% of their fat suctioned out. Yet there was no palpable change in the patients’ risk profile. The doctors concluded: “Abdominal liposuction does not significantly improve obesity-associated metabolic abnormalities. Decreasing adipose tissue mass alone will not achieve the metabolic benefits of weight loss.” (via NEJM)
10 Steps To Lose Belly Fat
Grow Fit is a set of evidence-based practitioners. We are working on solutions that work for us desis. Our research and experiments have led us to the following 10 steps to losing belly fat:
- Manage your stress: Meditate. Stress releases cortisol, which signals the body to store fat in the belly. Reducing your stress by meditative practices, breathing and relaxing where possible help move the belly fat. “We have found a combination of meditation and healthy diet to be most useful for tackling belly fat,” says Lalitha Subramanyam, Grow Fit’s head nutritionist.
- Manage your stress: Take Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps ease out the cortisol spikes, says Dr. Vinay Bhardwaj, Grow Fit’s resident doctor. A 1000 mg of vitamin C when you feel that things are going wrong can go a long way. You could either eat foods strong in vitamin C (like capsicum, surprisingly) or take a vitamin supplement. The ayurvedic medication, triphala, is known to be a good source of vitamin C. We plan to test it in future research.
- Eat regular meals and snacks. Skipping meals causes spikes in your insulin and you to overeat at your next meal. Where does this overeating go? That’s right, to your belly. Eat 3-5 meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels constant.
- Cut sugar. Totally. The Grow Fit team believes that sugar is one of the worst things anyone can eat today. Sweeteners and substitutes cause just as many insulin spikes as real sugar, so we advise everyone to just cut it out of their diet. Draconian? Perhaps. But you’ll thank us later.
- Reduce carbs. Vegetarians, in particular, tend to eat a carb-heavy meal. Unless one has a great deal of activity planned (which most of us do not), the dysfunctional insulin cycle kicks off, resulting in insulin resistance and belly fat. Substitute vegetables for grains where possible. Avoid biscuits and baked goods. Or ask the good people at Grow Fit for a diet plan.
- Eat fat. Yes, this is a shocker. But we believe that eating fats doesn’t make you fat. Eating carbs does. Also read Dr. Vinay Bhardwaj on this topic: http://blog.getgrowfit.com/burn-fat-eat-fat/
- Get active. Watching TV and becoming a couch potato may really turn you into a potato. Researchers have showed that just loss of activity was the biggest contributor to adipose tissue around the stomach. The good news: getting active reversed most of this adiposity in the same amount of time.
- Sleep well. If you’re working late at night, your biorhythms will be off, causing you to eat more. Getting the right amount of rest puts you on track to eat less, get active and battle stress.
- Don’t binge-diet. We’re a bit boring when our clients want to lose 5 kg in a week. We advise them to do it slow and steady. Binge-dieting would cause their hypothalamus to reset to their new, super-restricted calorie intake and when they do go back to eating normally, they gain even more weight.
- Short bursts of exercise. Instead of doing 150 crunches, try exercises that engage multiple muscles, like the plank. Getting up and going for a walk multiple times a day helps keep your metabolism purring. If you’re working at an office, try having your meetings over a walk instead of over a table. We do this really often at Grow.
In sum, belly fat can be unsightly and dangerous. Yet, if the journey to flatter abs begins with a single plank, we believe that you can be well on your way by making a few simple changes to your diet.