Belly fat is simply the slang name for abdominal fat, otherwise known as ‘middle age spread’. Although there’s nothing serious with subcutaneous fat (the kind you can ‘pinch an inch’ with your hand), if it gets out of control (belly fat is not a natural consequence of getting older), visceral fat (deeper between abdominal organs) can cause heart disease, type-2 diabetes, breast cancer and gallbladder problems. Roast your vegetables without oil (Minimalist Baker)
If you are a ‘pear-shape’ body, most of the fat you gather around your waist may well be the less harmful subcutaenous, but in the abs area (‘apple shape) this usually due to weight gain (rather than genetics). But it’s pretty easy to get rid with less calories and more exercise.
These crispy Cajun baked fries (Minimalist Baker) boil the spuds first before baking with spices, for a treat straight from Louisiana. Ideal served with natural ketchup, y’all!
what is classed as too much belly fat?
Time to get out the tape measure. Measure around your stomach without clothes (level with your belly button) and pull till it’s snug but not tight. Breathe out and measure (without pulling in your tummy!) Over 40 inches (men) or 35 inches (women) is going into the danger zone, but visceral fat will respond just as well as with outer fat, if you follow the advice below.
This yellow chickpea cauliflower curry (Minimalist Baker) is ideal if you’re craving a curry, but has none of the saturated fat of a local takeaway or ready-meal version.
According to medical experts, abdominal fat cells act more like hormones and visceral fat secrets chemicals that can affect your heart, blood pressure, blood clotting and insulin (hence diabetes risk). It’s also near an important vein and linked to cholesterol. Rather than spend time on late-night shopping channels looking for expensive supplements or exercise machines you’ll never use, here are a few simple tips to help reduce all kinds of belly fat:
- Cut down on sugar. This is ‘hidden’ in cakes, breakfast cereals, smoothies, yoghurts, alcohol. Try eating a big bowl of porridge with plant milk and fruits (drizzle a little maple syrup for a sweet tooth). Dilute wine with soda water to make lower-calorie spritzers, and use fruits and dates over white sugar. Beware of ‘low-fat foods’ as most pack in sugar (for instance, buy plant natural yoghurt and add your own fruits. Swap apple pastries for homemade baked apples with cinnamon (Minimalist Baker), served with avegan vanilla ice-cream.
- Eat less calories. This is science. If you eat low-fat plant-based foods, you’ll be able to eat more food. So if you’re a greedy guts, swap steaks for cauliflower and up your protein with plant-milk smoothies, legumes, vegetables etc. Use less oil (more steamer, less frypan!)
- Don’t overindulge in too much gluten (white bread, pasta) or alcohol (beer belly!) If you don’t cut these down drastically, you won’t see big results (if any) from eating well and exercising more.
- As long as you are fit enough to do so, take 30 to 60 minutes exercise daily. This can be walking, strength-training on alternate days (muscle burns more fat, even when resting or sleeping). Or find local classes for something you enjoy (ballroom dancing?)
- Drink water over sugary drinks and tea. Or drink weak squash, hot water, herb tea or weak tea.
- Be patient! Safe weight loss is around a couple of pounds a week, so be prepared to take several months if needed, but then you’ll keep it off. If you eat salad all day, you’ll hit the cake trolley by mid-week! Just make small sensible changes and take regular exercise.
Got the choccy cravings? This one-bowl vegan chocolate cake (Minimalist Baker) is oil-free too. It’s made with applesauce, yoghurt and nut butters (keep chocolate away from pets).
Lucy’s 9-day belly fat workout
Lucy Wyndham-Read is a qualified trainer who has easy videos online to help you lose belly fat in a week, by targeting special areas, using safe effective exercises with no equipment needed. Try this (in combination with advice above) and watch your belly fat disappear.