By Lavleen Kaur
Maintaining a trim waistline will benefit you in more ways than one. It can help you live longer by reducing the chances of getting heart disease, diabetes, and, in some cases, even cancer.
Abdominal fat, also termed visceral fat, is the fat that is stored deep beneath the muscle in the belly, around organs such as the liver, intestines, and stomach. The reasons for the accumulation of this fat may be many — poor diet, lack of exercise, and stress. Additionally, insulin resistance, hormonal abnormalities, and most importantly, a sedentary lifestyle also contribute to the same.
But, to lose this excess fat you don’t need to follow a rigorous diet plan; all you need to do is make some small yet significant lifestyle changes.
Seasonal vegetables are incredibly healthy and contain a lot of fibre and natural fructose. Some vegetables such as spinach, kale, and cabbage are not only fibre-rich but also contain iron, calcium, and vitamin K, which help melt belly fat. Carrots, radish, peas, French beans are a few other vegetables you should include in your meals. There vegetables can be included in the diet in three ways: the tastiest way is to make vegetable parathas but be cautious of what millet (atta) you use to prepare the dough. Best is to use millets such as jowar or bajra and using a little bit of ghee.
You can also eat the vegetables raw, as salads, or juice them. However, store-bought juices are high in sugar and deficient in fibre, which can increase calorie consumption and even lead to weight gain. So, always have juices that are made at home — they are healthy and sugar-free.
Eating a healthy snack in-between meals will help satisfy your hunger and you will also consume some nutrients. On the other hand, snacking all day, especially on foods with low nutritional value, may lead to overeating. Therefore, always pre-plan your snacks for the day so you’re ready when hunger strikes. Remember to choose a snack that has protein, fat, or fibre to satisfy your hunger and get energy.
Fruits are the best morning snack as they contain micronutrients and iron, which not only acts as an energy booster but also helps reduce bloating. Another great option is dry fruits, as they are low in calories and extremely filling. In the evening, you can treat yourself with sweet potato, peanuts, makhana, or herbal tea (with turmeric, ginger, black pepper).
Having a healthy gut health is crucial because it lowers digestive disorders. Furthermore, gut bacteria may also influence your weight by altering how certain foods are absorbed in the body. For example, certain kinds of gut bacteria break down dietary fibre, which aid in weight loss.
Having more probiotic items such as homemade pickles, chutneys, yogurt, kimchi, and so on, is one of the best strategies to promote good bacteria and healthy gut health. Along with probiotics, your body also needs an adequate amount of vitamin D, a deficiency of which lead to constipation, which can further increase toxicity in the body and lead to belly fat. On the other hand, a good amount of vitamin D helps absorb calcium efficiently while assisting tissue repair and muscle development because, as science explains, body fat can only be eliminated by replacing it with muscles.
Exercises such as weight training and cardiovascular activity will help you lose fat all over your body. Even aerobic exercises, such as walking, running, and swimming, can help you lose a lot of belly fat. Studies also demonstrate that exercise is important not just for belly fat reduction but also for weight maintenance, as stopping exercising after a long period of doing so will result in a gain in belly fat. Therefore, ensure you follow a consistent workout routine, even if it’s just for 15- 30 minutes regularly.
A higher cortisol level is a strong contributor to belly fat. Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is a vital hormone that is produced by the adrenal gland which helps in the regulation of blood sugar and metabolism, among other things. It is just another hormone-like adrenaline, which is an important part of your body’s “fight or flight” response. Studies show that an adequate amount of stress is good for our bodies as it may increase productivity and efficiency. However, when we are confronted with a crisis, this stress response limits unnecessary internal bodily functions so that our body can focus. Even though our body unfreezes after the stressor is eliminated, prolonged stress can keep stress hormone levels elevated, leading to high blood pressure and sugar levels, which is not good.
In a nutshell, most people can lose belly fat by making intelligent lifestyle adjustments such as eating a nutritious diet rich in protein and fibre, vegetables, fruits, and nuts, and exercising consistently while minimising unnecessary stress.
The author is Head Dietitian and Co-founder, Diet Insight