While everyone is genetically predisposed to different body shapes and sizes, there are some ways to decrease visceral (belly) fat. There is reason to recommend this given that abdominal fat is typically associated with metabolic syndrome and increased risk for heart related events. Below are some items to consider:
- 30 minutes of high intensity cardio 3-4 days a week. It seems that higher intensity and short duration workouts mobilize belly fat more effectively than other types of exercise. But remember, be sure to plan exercise around your ability, fitness level, injury or structural concerns and definitely what you find enjoyable.
However, if you feel that level of exercise would be too intense, it could do more harm than good. If it overstresses your body (see last bullet point), it could encourage fat storage. In that case, restorative exercise like yoga, walking and pilates may be more effective.
- 10 grams of soluble fiber per day, found in: berries, sweet potatoes, beans, peas or legumes, oats and barley. Aim to include one of these foods with each meal and snack each day to meet recommended intake level.
- Replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats. Reduce butter, margarine, high fat animal products (meats, milk, cream, ice cream and cheese), fried foods, packaged foods, bakery items. Emphasize nuts, nut butters, seeds, olive oil, canola oil and avocado.
- Sleep! Aim for 7-9 hours a night.
- Decrease emotional and physical stress. This is a big one. The flight or fight response increases cortisol, the stress hormone, which enourages visceral (belly) fat storage. It’s a survival mechanism – it insulates vital organs in the abdominal region when you feel threatened. When you constantly feel on edge, anxious or overly stressed, the body feels the need to defend itself against possible danger. Eating well as described above will minimize physcial stress.