There is no question that the easiest place to gain fat, as well as one of the hardest to lose fat is our belly. Our belly is an area that gets used the least but is most affected when we eat the wrong foods, snack on too much salt or sugar and drink too much alcohol. The problem with alcohol is that not only is it loaded with calories, but we tend to eat more when we drink as well.
We have all heard by now that “sitting is the new smoking”. What we put into our bodies will certainly be a precursor to how much weight we gain, but if we do not move we will be at a higher risk for gaining belly fat. The area that affects us the most when we move less is the belly. Why? There is less muscle in that area than we have in our legs for example, and when we walk or carry things in our day to day we use our extremities, but the belly lies inactive. Add stress to this and your belly gets hit even harder. Research has shown repeatedly that women with high cortisol levels due to stress have an increase in their abdominal body fat.
Does your day look like this? You get up, sit to eat, get in your car or bus and sit again to get to where you work or study, sit at a desk all day, sit again to home, sit to eat dinner and then lie on the couch and watch TV? Perhaps it is, but when you actually see this pattern in writing, it is scary, right? How can we change that? Perhaps you can walk part of the way to your workplace, make a point of getting up from your desk every few hours, and choose to do some exercise for part of your lunch hour. Working out late in the day can work for some, but I have seen time and time again that getting to the gym late or trying to do your workout at home after supper may not be the best option. Fitting it in at lunch will also give you more energy, and get the oxygen flowing making it easier to get through your day.
Is belly fat really fat? As a naturopath, I can tell you that most of the time, the belly holds on to a lot of waste that the body has not been able to eliminate. Poor digestion leads to bloat, and water retention that can be stubborn and hard to get rid of. Pay attention to how you feel after you eat. Are you more tired, have some acid reflux, or stomach cramps? These are signs that you may not be digesting your food properly. Some foods that cause bloat and belly fat include processed foods like deli meats, which have a lot of salt and nitrates, as well as refined flours and sugars. Cereals that claim to be healthy are usually loaded with sugar. These are complex sugars which must be broken down in order to be digested properly and frankly not worth the effort. They are just not good for you! Rice, pasta, white potatoes fall into this category as well. Beware of these foods and eat them less often. Fruit, on the other hand, is a simple sugar, and are cleansers to our body. Fruits provide you with the energy and vitamins you need. They do not have to be broken down and are absorbed easily.
If you plan properly for your day, you can avoid this problem of making poor food choices and be ready for success. Take some fruit with you to snack on at your desk. This will help you avoid cravings and the food truck! Have water beside you at all times. Often, when we’re hungry, we’re also really thirsty. Aim to get those 3 liters in a day! Adding some lemon, lime, or chlorophyll to your water will get your lymphatic system moving a bit more as well. Green tea and other herbal teas are good options too. Do not drink while eating, however, as this may dilute your enzymes and also contributes to bloating.
If you do not have a blender, now is the time to get one. It’s very easy to throw a smoothie together that is both satisfying and refreshing to take with you. You may drink it slowly throughout the morning. Here is my favorite recipe that keeps me satisfied. It is loaded with vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and a great source of energy!
- Water or coconut water
- A handful of frozen berries
- A frozen banana (very ripe)
- Couple of spinach or kale leaves
- Plant-based protein powder (Vanilla)
- Dry coconut flakes (1/4 cup)