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Reducing belly fat is one of the most common goals of overweight people, because it is often in the abdominal region that the most fat is formed. Almost 50 percent of all Germans between the ages of 18 and 79 are overweight, and a quarter of them are considered obese. Being overweight promotes many diseases, especially in the cardiovascular system. Being overweight is not the same as being overweight. The so-called Body Mass Index (BMI) indicates how body weight relates to body size. However, that says little, because it is more important how the fat is distributed in the body.
Inner belly fat
Fat on the buttocks, hips and thighs increases the risk of metabolic disorders and vascular diseases. The situation is different with internal abdominal fat: this is a major cause of both cardiovascular problems and diabetes.
Belly fat releases fatty acids as well as messenger substances that promote inflammation. Too much belly fat increases blood pressure and blood fat and increases blood sugar levels. (See also: lowering blood sugar)
The apple type
We use the term apple type to refer to people with a body shaped like an apple. With them, the fat is deposited on the abdominal skin, the back and the sides as well as the internal organs such as the stomach, intestine or liver.
The “apples” have problems with the fat on the internal organs - the inner belly fat. We easily overlook this: Those who have a big but firm stomach often mistake it for muscles because they lack the buffing fat. The waist circumference is the most important indicator of inner belly fat. Mostly men suffer - older women are often affected. The fat in the abdomen is actively involved in the metabolism and often has negative effects on it.
The pear type
With the “pears”, the fat collects in the hips, on the rear and on the thigh. They suffer less from metabolic disorders than the "apples", but just as often from diseases of the knee joint. Overweight women are particularly affected (85 percent).
How does belly fat form?
If you want to reduce belly fat, you first have to know how it is created. That is why myths circle. So it is true that a lot of sugar and a lot of fat in the food promote fat collections in the body, but this does not say anything about why some people develop inner belly fat, but others develop lower fat.
Lack of exercise
Inner belly fat is certainly caused by a lack of exercise, as recent studies with computer tomographs have shown. After two weeks without regular exercise, the inner abdominal fat increases significantly. Conversely, it sinks quickly through regular exercise.
The body is producing inner abdominal fat right now in order to keep ready energy that is available during physical work and exercise.
Chronic stress increases cortisol levels. This hormone from the adrenal gland, synthetically known as cortisone, leads to excessive obesity. The belly becomes thick, but the arms and legs remain slim. The cells of the inner belly fat bind the cortisol to a high degree.
Those who suffer from stress often cram themselves with foods that contain a lot of sugar and fat, because this releases endorphins - happiness hormones.
How can belly fat be reduced?
Those who want to reduce belly fat and repeatedly submit to the latest diet fad usually fail, and the overweight is accompanied by frustration. However, there are simple rules that help immediately.
1) Have a regular breakfast. Those who do without it suffer from the cravings for hunger and greed for the sweet and fatty. It is good if breakfast also contains fiber such as minerals, vitamins and complex carbohydrates.
In particular for complex carbohydrates, for example in whole grain bread, the following applies: The body needs carbohydrates to provide energy. But we also have to consume this energy, otherwise it accumulates as fat.
2) Drink plenty of cold water. The body uses calories to bring the water up to its temperature. Water also fills the stomach. Therefore, drink water in between to avoid hunger attacks. Even more: thirst and hunger are close together, and we often eat a snack when we are actually thirsty. You should always drink water before eating, because you have less appetite because your stomach is already full.
3) Eat low calories. If you eat meat, give priority to chicken over pork, if you eat chicken, take the breast instead of the fat legs. Or grab the turkey, which is even less fat.
Avoid finished products and make your own soups, sauces and dips. Ketchup, for example, often contains almost 50 percent sugar. If you instead mix tomato paste with soy sauce and add herbs, only a fraction of it remains. Instead of chips, you can eat apple chips or kohlrabi strips on the sofa, and pretzel sticks are much less useful than potato chips.
MacDonalds, Burgerking etc. are NoGo: Hamburgers & Co are extremely high in fat and sugar and, in addition to the large supply of calories, also lead to cravings. So they easily take three to four times the calories
Eat "Mediterranean": lots of fruits and vegetables, olive oil and fish, little red meat and simple carbohydrates.
Protein-rich food saturates for a long time, while fat-rich food only soothes the feeling of hunger for a short time.
4) Eat when you are hungry. This is not so easy. We are so over-saturated, crammed with energy drinks, sweets or fast food, that we can hardly tell the difference between hungry and full.
We eat because we are bored, because there is something to eat, or because we have a lunch break. Get in the habit of eating only when you feel hungry.
6) Avoid soft drinks with sugar. Cola, Fanta, Sprite or Red Bull contain an extremely high amount of sugar, as well as "iced tea" from the supermarket, sweetened nectar still contains a lot. It is best to drink water to quench your thirst. Mix spritzers of fruit juice and water, make your own iced tea.
7) Eat slowly. If you chew well and take your time eating, eat less. The body takes up to 20 minutes to absorb the information "full". It doesn't matter whether you put one or three plates in your stomach beforehand. See also: "Fletchern".
9) Move. Go on foot or ride a bike. In the parking garage, take the stairs instead of the elevator.
10) You can also ride a bike for 30 minutes every day, schedule jogging or strength training and integrate abdominal exercises into everyday life. A good exercise is push-ups where you push your abdomen to the floor, or when you lie on your back and repeatedly raise your torso as far as possible.
Fortunately, belly fat reacts very well to sports, which is why strength training is particularly successful in reducing the fat belly.
11) Use everyday life to move. Walk up and down while reading or talking on the phone instead of lounging on the sofa.
12) Work physically in the household: cleaning the windows, scrubbing the floor, dragging furniture into the basement, even washing dishes uses up calories.
13) You can easily expand or vary everyday activities that consume calories. For example, if you go to university by bike, take a detour. Or you drive as fast as you can. Or you can shift up a few gears.
14) Watch out for sweets. If you love Haribo, Snickers or Tofifee, cut down on the treats or do without them for a while. However, you should not be too dogmatic, because this leads to food cravings. It is better if you tie sweets to a ritual: a colorful bag at Mehmed's kiosk in the evening at eight, for example.
15) Plan your free time so that you burn fat and have fun at the same time: outdoor trekking instead of sightseeing with the double-decker bus; historical city walk instead of pub. Or do both together. Incidentally, walking through large museums also consumes calories.
16) Mental training. The more precisely we imagine something, the more subconsciously we work to achieve it. Imagine your body as you would like it to be. This will keep your goal in focus and the individual methods of achieving it will soon become a matter of course.
So train useful habits and end harmful habits. It takes some time, but it is very effective. For example, if you have got into the habit of drinking a liter of cola and eating a pack of chips in the evening while watching TV, switch to cola zero and pretzel sticks or spritzer and apple chips.
17) Get enough sleep because sleep is important to get fat metabolism going.
18) Avoid stress triggers, because we often try to compensate for stress by eating.
19) Do not buy food when you are hungry, but make a list and work through it systematically. This could include, for example: peppers, onions, carrots, wild rice, various types of cabbage, potatoes, turkey breast, low-fat fish such as cod or pollack, apple spritzer and flavored water.
Also, only buy what you really need, not what is cheap.
20) Prevent the occasional hunger, which also means that we devour a sandwich or get a kebab in the stomach. Eat some fruit like a stuffing banana at home or take small snacks like apple slices, cucumbers or grapes with you on the way.
21) If you shop less often, you are better protected against spontaneous purchases in the supermarket.
22) Eat at regular times, then quickly notice when you carelessly stuff calories into yourself.
23) Do not take delivery. An old rule. The more we eat, the more calories we eat. Therefore, refrain from filling the plate two or three times.
24) In the restaurant, you avoid sugar-rich desserts and prefer low-calorie fish or poultry dishes over pork and lamb.
25) Do not store fattening foods at home. Keep chips and chocolate under lock and key.
And finally: brush your teeth more often, because that dampens your appetite. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Nicole Schaenzler: Risk of belly fat: what makes it so dangerous and how you can get rid of it quickly (GU Health Guide), GRÄFE UND UNZER Verlag GmbH (February 6, 2016)
- Heike Kreutz: Apple and pear type: is hip fat better than belly fat? Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE), (accessed: August 12, 2019), BZfE
- Gerald M. Reaven et al .: Insulin resistance: the link between obesity and cardiovascular disease. Medical Clinics of North America Volume 95, Issue 5, September 2011, Pages 875-892, PubMed
- Abdominal fat and what to do about it Visceral fat more of a health concern than subcutaneous fat. Harvard Health Publishing, 2019 (accessed: August 12, 2019), Harvard Health Publishing