The Best Way to Beat Belly Flab
Bad Habits That Make Your Belly Bigger
Now that you've got a clear picture of the enemy within, it's time to fight back -- and win. That means getting rid of as much abdominal fat as possible, no matter which type it is. "Subcutaneous or visceral, all fat in the abdomen can have negative effects on your health," says Dr. Hensrud. "It's important to target both."
The lifestyle choices you make every day directly influence the size of your tummy -- and we're not just talking about food. So...Stop being quite so happy at happy hour.
If you drink in moderation -- no more than one cocktail a day -- the calories from the alcohol will likely burn off. But when you overdo it, they end up turning into fat in your abdomen. Experts say this is because alcohol inhibits fat-burning in the stomach, although no one fully understands how or why. As a result, calories from alcohol are more likely to become part of your visceral fat layer, making the possibility of developing a beer (or margarita or wine) gut all too real.Stop lighting up.
Like alcohol, nicotine prevents fat-burning in the abdomen. So smokers are likely to have a greater amount of visceral fat than nonsmokers do, even if they're not overweight, says Dr. Hensrud. "Studies have found that smokers tend to have a lower body-mass index than nonsmokers do, but the dangerous abdominal fat they often carry cancels out any positive effects."Stop eating trans fats.
According to a new study, these artery-clogging fats are more likely to go straight to your belly than other types. Wake Forest University researchers fed monkeys the same amount of calories, but one group got some of its fat from trans fats and the other got all of its fat from heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. The monkeys on the trans-fats diet gained nearly four times as much weight and had 30 percent more fat in their abdomens than the primates who ate the healthy fat. "One theory is that the body doesn't know what to do with this man-made fat, and the abdomen is a quick place to store it," says lead researcher Kavanagh. "Another idea is that trans fats interfere with insulin and its job to distribute fat throughout the body." The American Heart Association recommends eating as little trans fats as possible -- less than two grams a day. Easy ways to do that:
Read the ingredients list on snack foods labeled "0 grams trans fats." One serving of these products may contain 0.49 grams of this unhealthy fat. "The higher that partially hydrogenated oils are on the ingredients list, the more likely it is that a product has close to 0.5 gram of trans fats a serving," says Lona Sandon, RD, an American Dietetic Association spokesperson in Dallas. So dole out just one portion of crackers or cookies and then put the box away.
Make your own muffins -- or cake or cookies. The baked goods sold at convenience stores and coffee-and-doughnut shops are likely full of trans fats, says Ellie Krieger, RD, host of Healthy Appetite on the Food Network. When you bake your own, using healthy ingredients such as canola oil and fresh fruit, you eliminate these fats.
Hold the fried foods. "It's not necessarily the oil that's unhealthy, but that the frying process changes the chemical structure of it, leading to an excess of trans fats," explains Sandon. Unless a restaurant boasts that it's serving trans-fat-free foods -- as do Wendy's, KFC, and Arby's -- you can assume you're getting a substantial side of it with those onion rings.
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