Love handles. Muffin top. Beer belly.
Call it what you want, belly fat is more than just an aesthetic nuisance; it can be a sign of real health problems. If you want to ban the belly for good, don’t fall for these five belly fat myths.
1. A Big Belly Is Fine If You Have A Healthy BMI
This belly fat myth earns the number one spot because it is dangerously wrong. Visceral fat, or deep belly fat, is more dangerous than subcutaneous fat found just below the skin or other fat that accumulates around the legs and thighs.
Visceral belly fat is found deep within your abdomen, where it wraps around your organs including your heart and liver. It’s linked to increased risk of heart attacks, high blood pressure, stroke, dementia, diabetes, and breast cancer. Also, some studies ahem shown that this particular kind of fat signals an inflammatory chemical in the body, leading to harmful inflammation that can lead to a host of deadly diseases. Unfortunately, carrying excessive fat around your midsection can be much more harmful to your health than having excess fat on your butt, arms, or thighs, which is why it gets so much attention.
2. Crunches Will Reduce Belly Fat
You can do abdominal strengthening exercises all day long, but if your abs are hidden beneath a layer of belly fat, you won’t be able to show off all your hard work. To reduce belly fat, you need to lose total overall body fat. Introducing cardio to your routine can help blast the fat away, and even walking has been shown to decrease belly fat.
Researchers at Louisiana State University found that as little as two and a half hours of walking per week could shrink belly fat by one inch per month, and Wake Forest University researchers found that obese women who walked 30 to 55 minutes three times a week were able to reduce the size of their abdominal fat cells by nearly 20 per cent. In addition, according to Rush University Medical Center, the first fat you lose when you exercise is visceral belly fat. If you are already a regular walker and want to see even more results, consider adding high-intensity tnterval training (HIIT) to your routine to really see some waist-whittling results.
3. A Low-Calorie Diet Is Best For Fighting Belly Fat
One pervasive myth about reducing fat, and especially belly fat, is the logic that a “calorie is a calorie.” Over the years, nutritionists and health experts have debunked this long-persisting myth. We know now that it’s the quality of calories, not the quantity, that matters most. Simply trying to reach a magic number of calories per day may not be as effective as eating the right foods to banish belly fat.
Multiple studies have shown that excess sugar, rather than fat, leads to belly fat. A 2008 study by researchers at the University of Minnesota, it was found that participants who drank the most sugar-sweetened beverages had more visceral fat and larger waists than those who didn’t. Another study from earlier this year confirmed that the Mediterranean diet — and particularly one whose daily calories came from plenty of fat (up to 40 per cent!) — was associated with a lower risk of “cardiovascular events,” a.k.a, heart attacks and strokes.
Calories are not equal, so save yourself the unnecessary counting. Instead, resolve to eat clean and avoid refined carbs and sugar to reduce belly fat.
4. Eating Less Fat = Having Less Belly Fat
Just like all calories are not created equal, neither are all fats. The cornerstone of a flat belly diet actually depends on eating fat — and more than you might think. Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) from plant foods including olives, avocados, nuts, seeds, and their oils have been found by the American Diabetic Association to reduce belly fat. The key to its effectiveness is to eat these belly fat blasting MUFAs in combination with a clean diet that includes plenty of high-fibre fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. Trans fats however — which are typically found in commercially fried foods and sugary, baked goods — should be avoided.
5. You Are Stuck With Your Belly Fat
Even if you are genetically predisposed as an “apple” shape and tend gain weight in your midsection, it doesn’t mean you are doomed to a life of visceral belly fat and the potential health problems associated with it. Anyone can lose fat all over with a combination of exercise and healthy eating. Get into a fitness regime that works for you and incorporate lean proteins, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and plenty of water into your diet. Cardio and strength training will get you the rest of the way to where you want to go.
Washboard, six-pack abs are the result of a ton of hard work and time at the gym, in combination with good genes. The truth is you may have super-ripped tummy, but that’s OK. Aim to move every day and eat cleaner, and you’ll see how easy it is to reduce excess belly fat.