Nine simple ways to take off inches for benefits way beyond your waistband
A firm tummy looks great in everything from bathing suits to jeans. But, a flat belly does more than make you look fit and sexy – it can actually save your life? Scientific research continues to demonstrate that a trim middle can protect you against life-threatening diseases, such as breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and more.
Unlike fat on your thighs – which may bug you, but doesn’t pose much health risk – the size of your belly is directly related to your risk of disease. Fat inside the abdomen is more likely to release fatty acids into the liver than fat elsewhere on the body. The result can be excessive amounts of cholesterol and insulin in the bloodstream, plus altered hormone levels, all of which play a role in the development of disease. But you don’t have to let that happen. Get started today, and you can see results in 2 weeks!
GET MORE THAN A SVELTE MIDDLE
You’re way past worrying about some ideal waist size, the likes of which only Barbie knows. If you do keep tabs on your measurements, it’s most likely to help you get the right fit in undies or order clothing from catalogs.
When it comes to health, however, there’s one simple measurement that can protect you in some very big ways, even if you’re not overweight. Studies show that a waistline of 32 inches (37 inches for men) or more may put you at greater risk for health problems.
Women with the highest waist circumferences – 36 inches or larger – were five times more likely to develop diabetes, compared to those whose waistlines measured in at about 26 inches. Abdominal fat appears to be related to insulin resistance. (That means that your cells don’t respond to insulin as they should. As a result, your blood sugar levels remain unusually high.) It’s likely that over time, this resistance causes your body to stop producing insulin, resulting in middle-age diabetes. Insulin resistance may also help create yet more abdominal fat.
Prevent Breast Cancer
Another disadvantage of abdominal fat may be its effect on hormone levels. Postmenopausal women with central fat patterns tend to have unbalanced levels of hormones, and that may be why they have higher rates of breast cancer.
Women with breast cancer had an average of 45% more abdominal fat than healthy women, according to one study.
Beat Back Pain
Women with larger waists have 20 to 50% more back problems than women with narrow waists. When you have strong ab muscles and little belly fat, the muscles work as an anatomical corset, strengthening your ability to support your upper body, improving posture, and relieving pressure on your back.
Belly fat can actually crowd organs, creating breathing difficulties. Even moderate amounts of abdominal fat can make you more prone to wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. It increases the likelihood of sleep apnea, a condition associated with stroke, high blood pressure, and heart attack.
NINE EASY STEPS TO SHRINK YOUR BELLY – FINALLY!
We scoured the latest scientific research and talked to leading experts to find out the best ways to get your tummy in line. Here are nine that will take inches from your waistline – and make you healthier all over.
EAT LIKE A VEGETARIAN. The best way to predict whether or not you’ll need larger pants is to look at your plate. Women who ate the most meat [more than seven servings a week] were 1 1/2 times more likely to expand their waistlines than were women who ate two or less.
This doesn’t mean that you have to give up meat. It’s about moderation. Limit yourself to one serving of meat every 2 to 3 days, and make up the difference with fruits and veggies – at least five a day. They act as “protection” from gaining weight.
EAT EARLY, EAT OFTEN. Many dieters develop the unfortunate habit of skipping meals, getting most of the day’s calories from just one or two large meals, one of which is usually in the evening. That’s trouble. Studies have shown that people who spread their food intake over the course of the day take in fewer calories overall and tend to eat more healthful foods (presumably because their snack choices weren’t driven by hunger). The best plan: Eat five or six small meals throughout the day.
WALK EVERY DAY. No matter how much you change your diet, ab fat isn’t going anywhere unless you get up and move. Specifically, it requires aerobic exercise. As you decrease overall body fat, you’ll end up with a leaner waistline.
Walking is among the best forms of exercise to keep belly fat in check. Women who walked regularly were 16% less likely to gain inches at the waist than those who didn’t. There’s a major, consistent effect from walking, but you need to walk 4 hours a week, or at least 30 minutes every day, to see it.
TONE YOUR TUMMY. Thin may sound good, but when it comes to abs, toned is what you really want. Thin people can end up with Pillsbury Doughboy tummies if they don’t train their ab muscles specifically. Even though they’re thin, they’re flabby. Ab-strengthening exercises are the key to getting a belly worth baring. Strong ab muscles also help protect your back.
BUILD MUSCLE. Resistance training is an important component of a belly-slimming workout because it increases muscle mass throughout the body, helping to boost metabolism. The more muscle you develop, whether in your arms, shoulders, back, or wherever, the greater your ability to burn calories before your body can turn them into fat. Building upper body muscles, such as in your arms and shoulders, can make your waistline look smaller!
TAKE VITAMIN E. We’ve been recommending vitamin E supplements for years to protect you from heart attacks, colds and flu, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Now there is preliminary evidence that vitamin E may be a potential fat fighter too. It may help prevent abdominal weight gain by protecting against insulin resistance. Aim for 100 to 400 international units (IU) a day.
CRANK UP THE MOZART, or take a walk, get a massage, talk to a friend, breathe deeply – do anything that keeps you calm. Studies have shown that women who don’t control stress tend to have larger waistlines. The culprit appears to be cortisol, a hormone released by the body during periods of stress. It’s believed that increased cortisol levels play a role in directing fat to the abdominal area.
ENJOY YOUR FRIENDS. Having a workout buddy is a great way to help stick to your fitness regimen. But some experts suggest that buddies – even those you don’t work out with – can help tone your abs. Those people who reported the most social support from spouse, family, and friends were the least likely to gain weight during a 3-year study. Researchers say that a wide social network may help reduce stress, improve self-esteem, and encourage better health practices.
CUT OUT COCKTAILS. Women who drank beer or liquor one to four times a week were more likely to put on abdominal inches than women who didn’t. If you do drink, stick to wine, which was not associated with waist gain and may offer heart-protective effects that beer and liquor may not.