From The Straits Times    |
How to lose belly fat fast THUMBNAIL

If we had our way, most of us would choose to have flat, washboard abs. But, let’s face it: a little paunch is cute. Of course, “a little” is subjective. There is a difference between having a tiny bit of padding around your abdomen and rolls of fat that you can actually grab with both hands. The latter is unhealthy, not to mention, uncomfortable to carry around.

Belly fat, according to Dr Shanker Pasupathy, a general surgeon in bariatric surgery at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, is also known as “visceral fat” in the medical world. This term refers to fat that is found in and around our viscera, or internal organs such as our stomach and intestines.

How to lose belly fat fast DECOR

Some body fat is essential, but too much can be dangerous. The toxins in our body are mostly stored in our fat cells, so the more fat you have, the more toxic your body. These toxins are associated with a range of problems, from an increased risk of heart disease and hypertension, to cholesterol disorders and insulin resistance, which can bring on diabetes. The toxins can also raise your risk of developing certain cancers, including cancer of the colon, oesophagus and pancreas.  

The scary thing is, you need not even be overweight to be in the danger zone. Visceral fat is sneaky because it is hidden inside your body. However, you can tell just by measuring your waist if you need to be concerned. If this part of your body measures 89cm or more, then it’s an indication that you need to trim down your midsection.

The best way to get rid of belly fat is with a combination of healthy eating and exercise. Unfortunately there is no quick fix to make that spare tyre disappear – liposuction or a tummy tuck are not the answer to shedding the dangerous fat that lies in the spaces between and around your internal organs. Dr Pasupathy says that such fat removal treatments only get rid of the fat from underneath the skin, which, paradoxically, is healthy fat.

If you want to trim down, ditch the fad diets once and for all or you’ll just be setting yourself up for failure (so, there’s no reason to eliminate carbohydrates from your meals, and don’t bother with juice or raw food detoxes). “The best way to shed fat is not to diet at all,” says Dr Pasupathy. “Most people who go on diets develop a weight ‘yoyo’ problem, which eventually results in net weight gain. A better idea is to eat healthy, fresh, balanced meals, and to avoid trans-fats and other chemically altered compounds, which are often found in deep-fried, refined and processed foods.” You should also avoid foods that are high in sodium, because they make your body retain water, causing bloat.

What your diet should contain:

  • Fibre-rich foods – Green, leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, whole grains like oats, wild rice and quinoa, beans and legumes, fruit like bananas, peaches and apples, and fresh berries, are all loaded with fibre. Not only do they keep your digestive system healthy, they also provide “bulk”, thereby helping you feel full for longer so you consume less calories overall. Nuts are high in fibre too, but as they are quite fattening, you’ll want to eat them in moderation (no more than 30g a day).
  • Foods that prevent blood-sugar spikes – When your blood sugar rises sharply, it triggers a reaction in your body that promotes the storage of fat in your belly. You should therefore stay away from foods that cause this reaction, like refined and simple carbohydrates. Instead, choose healthy fats and protein-rich foods, such as avocado, eggs, salmon, olive oil, coconut oil, and nuts like walnuts and almonds. As these foods are digested more slowly, they are less likely to cause your blood sugar levels to spike and crash.
  • Thermogenic foods – Some foods have been found to boost your metabolism and encourage your body to burn fat. Green tea, spices and chillies are all believed to have thermogenic properties. Of course, you will need to consume large amounts of these foods for them to have any real fat-burning effect, but every little bit counts, so add them to your meals as often as possible.

Regular sessions of cardio exercise will help you shed fat all over, so long as your diet is healthy, too. Cardio includes anything that gets you moving, elevates your heart rate, raises your metabolic rate, and makes you break a sweat. It is good to vary your routine to keep from getting bored, so include a mix of low-intensity and high-intensity cardiovascular activities – think swimming or walking a few days a week, and dancing, cycling, hiking, circuit training and/or running on the rest of the days.

If you want a taut, defined stomach that you’d be proud to show off, you will also have to do specific exercises that target this area of your body. Try these exercises that strengthen all your core muscle groups.  

Planking: Targets your lower back and core muscles

  1. Lie on your stomach with your elbows beside your chest.
  2. Push yourself up onto your elbows or hands, as if you are getting ready to do a push-up. Tuck your toes inwards.
  3. Make sure your back is straight. Your head should be facing forward. Hold this position for 60 seconds. You should feel the muscles in your midsection tighten as they prop your body up.
  4. Revert to the original resting position and repeat the plank 15 to 20 times.

Bicycle crunches: Targets your lower abdominals

  1. Lie on your back. Position your hands behind your head and lift your shoulder blades off the ground.
  2. Lift both your legs about 20cm above the ground. Bend your right knee in towards your left shoulder, but keep your left leg in the air.
  3. Now move your right leg back into position and then repeat the movement, pulling your left leg in towards your right shoulder. Try 15 to 20 reps for each leg. The trick to this exercise is to perform the movements quickly, as if you are “cycling” in the air.

Oblique crunches: Targets your oblique muscles

  1. Lie on your back, keeping your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Your feet should be hip-width apart from each other.
  2. Slowly roll your knees to one side of the floor. Cross your arms over your chest and raise your body off the floor towards your hips. Your shoulders should be about 10cm off the ground.
  3. Hold this position for a few seconds and then lower your body back down slowly. You will feel some tension in the sides of your body.
  4. Do 10 to 15 reps and then repeat with your legs resting on the other side of the floor.

If you want more exercise tips read our stories 5 ways to exercise without any effort and 4 quick exercises to help you lose weight

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