Belly bulge (not to be confused with belly bloat, which is a temporary condition that’s usually caused by reactions to certain foods) is actually unwanted fat that is deposited around the midsection. The extent to which fat is deposited in this manner varies from person to person and is influenced by gender, age, hormones and genetics. Therefore, as weight increases, fat may collect in certain areas based on these factors. Abdominal or centralized fat is not only particularly challenging to get rid of, it also carries with it additional risk factors for certain chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (AHA, 2013). As you lose abdominal fat, you decrease your risk factors for those conditions.
Belly Fat Facts
Fad diets that claim to reduce belly fat seem to trend regularly. Unfortunately, these diets tend to distort some basic nutritional facts. One of the most important factors to keep in mind is that it is excess calories (not specific foods), coupled with insufficient amounts of physical activity, that causes weight gain. Just as we’re unable to determine where fat is deposited, we can’t lose fat in particular areas of the body based on the foods we eat. However, researchers continue to look for strategies to help individuals lose weight overall (including belly fat) for disease-risk reduction purposes and overall well-being.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that following a calorie-controlled diet that was rich in whole grains was inversely associated with centralized abdominal fat (McKeown, 2010). In other words, participants who ate more whole grains were less likely to have abdominal fat. Whole grains tend to be higher in fiber than their refined counterparts and, as a result, take longer to digest. This means that whole grains are better equipped to regulate blood glucose levels and keep you feeling full for longer periods of time. A few examples of whole grains include:
- Whole-wheat bread/crackers
Curious about the grains in your favorite products? Simply look for the word “whole” in the ingredient listing, which tells you that the grain used was kept in its unrefined, natural form.
Fruits and Vegetables
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps ensure adequate nutrient intake, while also decreasing the caloric density of a meal, which can make it easier to lose weight. Be sure to look for brightly colored produce for maximum nutrient value and aim to fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables to help balance out the rest of the meal. Some examples include:
- Bell pepper
- Salad greens
The American Diabetes Association is a great resource for additional information and ideas on balancing meals for overall better health.
Regular physical activity plays a major role in both weight loss and weight maintenance. The amount of exercise to successfully lose or maintain your weight may vary, but most adults should strive for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise each week for overall good health. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, ACE offers an extensive online exercise library that includes safe and effective workouts to help you reach your goals.
A well-balanced diet that includes plenty of whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, coupled with regular physical activity, is still the best way we know to fight the battle of the bulge and help keep it off for life.