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Blowing the Myths on Belly Fat

One of the basic principles of Naturism is all-acceptance.  A true naturist understands that everyone’s body is unique and that bodies come in all shapes, sizes, colours, ages, and states of imperfection.  Nobody can, or ever will, escape the ravages of time and the effect that has on their body.  The secret is to learn to accept your body – warts and all – and to embrace it and celebrate it.

Having said that, though, that doesn’t give us reason or excuse to neglect our body and disregard its health! 


We should still keep a close eye on how it is functioning and take action if there’s something wrong that we have the power to fix.  We should take pride in our bodies and do what we can to keep them in good shape – not for reasons of vanity or just to look good, but primarily because your health is arguably your most important and valuable asset.


One thing that concerns everyone, both naturists and textiles alike, is belly fat – spare tyre, love handles, beer gut, middle age spread . . . call it what you like!  But getting rid of it requires some accurate knowledge of what causes it and the right way to deal with it.  It’s understandably confusing because the internet is loaded with hair-brained quick-fix diets and methods that are simply scams.


So – what’s the real deal on this important health issue?

Losing abdominal fat, or belly fat, is a common weight loss goal.  And it’s a particularly important one.

Abdominal fat is a particularly harmful type with strong links to diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease   So losing this fat can have significant benefits for your health and well-being.  This is because fat around your belly is a definite indicator of the amount of internal fat collecting around your organs such as heart, liver, kidneys.  It’s this internal fat, called visceral fat, that does the most damage to your health.

It can be difficult to target just belly fat alone, but some weight loss strategies can target the fat in the belly region and internal organs more than other areas of the body.

Here are seven ways to lose belly fat that I’ve found from a consensus of agreement from reputable medical papers.  I think this advice is sounder that all the other hype you find on the internet, and I’ve actually tried most of this myself in the past with noticeable results.  So, here goes . . .

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1. Avoid sugar and sugar-sweetened drinks

Foods with added sugars are bad for your health.  Eating a lot of these types of food can cause weight gain, along with harmful effects on metabolic health.  The common everyday sugar we use in tea, coffee, and sprinkled over your Weetbix is half glucose and half fructose. Excess sugar, mostly due to the large amounts of fructose, leads to fat building up around your abdomen and liver. When you eat a lot of added sugar, the liver gets overloaded with fructose and is forced to turn it into fat.  Some believe that this is the main process behind sugar’s harmful effects on health.  It increases abdominal fat and liver fat, which leads to insulin resistance and various metabolic problems.


Liquid sugar is even worse!  The brain doesn’t seem to register liquid calories in the same way as solid calories, so when you drink sugar-sweetened beverages, you end up eating more total calories.  So lay off those cordials and fizzy drinks!


And don’t give it to your kids.  One article I found reckoned that children were 60% more likely to develop obesity with each additional daily serving of sugar-sweetened drinks.  The article didn’t cite any references, but going by the amount of sugar in a can of Coke, I’d quite believe it!  As a general rule, there’s around 10.6 grams of sugar per 100ml of Classic CocaCola. This means that a 330ml can contains around 35 grams – which is about nine teaspoons of sugar!

Read the labels to make sure products do not contain refined sugars. Even foods marketed as health foods can contain significant amounts of sugar.  But keep in mind that none of this applies to whole fruit, which are extremely healthy and have plenty of fibre that mitigates the negative effects of fructose.

2. Eat more protein

Protein may be the most important macronutrient for weight loss by having the passive effect of reducing food cravings, boosting metabolism, and helping to reduce calorie intake.  But before we go


any further, let’s just throw some light on what this term “calorie” really means when talking about food.

A calorie, if you recall your physics lessons at school, is defined as the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 mL of water by 1 degree Celsius. It was defined by Pierre Antoine Favre (Chemist) and Johann T. Silbermann (Physicist) in 1852.  But it caused some confusion at the time because some 40 years earlier, in 1819, the calorie had already been defined by Nicolas Clément, a French physicist and chemist, as the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1,000 mL (1 litre) of water by 1 degree C.  To reduce the confusion we refer to the earlier unit as a “kcal” or kilo-calorie, and it’s this unit that is referred to in measuring the energy content of food and nutrition.  That’s a thousand times more energy than the calorie used in standard physics!

Now here’s another simple truth.  Food is our primary source of energy.  Eating equates to energy intake.  Your body burns energy through a variety of ways during the normal functioning of all its parts, including digestion, brain activity, respiration, general movement and exercise, and a host of other functions, many of which are involuntary.  That activity equates to energy output.  Now – do the math:

When energy in exceeds energy out, you gain weight because your body stores the extra as fat.

When energy out exceeds energy in, you lose weight as your body draws on fat reserves.

When energy in is equal to energy out, your weight remains stable.

But here’s the complication with that simple definition when it comes to fitness and fat loss.  Your body also is built of muscle, and muscle weighs 15 to 20 percent more than fat for the same volume.  That’s why weight loss needs to be closely examined, because you’re aiming to lose fat – not necessarily weight !!  You don’t want to lose muscle tone.  That's why the best way to monitor your progress is to measure around your belly with a tape measure - not to stand on the scales!

So let’s get back to protein.  Protein is the building block of your muscles. Therefore, eating adequate amounts of protein helps you maintain your muscle mass and promotes muscle growth when you do strength training.  And guess what! . . . Muscle activity burns fat!

If fat loss is your goal, adding protein may be the single most effective change you can make to your diet.  Not only can protein help you to

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lose fat deposits, but it can also help you to avoid regaining them.  Protein may be particularly effective in reducing abdominal fat.  One paper I looked at showed that people who ate more and better protein had much less abdominal fat.  And another study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition claimed that protein was linked to a significantly reduced chance of abdominal fat gain over five years in women. This study also linked refined carbs and oils to more abdominal fat and linked fruit and vegetables to reduced fat.

Many of the studies observing that protein helps with weight loss had people getting around 25 to 30% of their calories from protein. Therefore, this could be a good range to try:   whole eggs, fish, legumes, nuts, meat, and dairy products. These are the best protein sources for your diet.  If you struggle with getting enough protein in your diet, a quality protein supplement like whey protein is a healthy and convenient way to boost your total intake. 


Pancreatic Necrosis brought on by accumulation of fat around the pancreas and small intestine.  The pancreas then fails to produce enough insulin and type 2 diabetes sets in.

3. Eat fewer carbohydrates

Eating fewer carbohydrates is a very effective way to lose fat.

This is supported by a lot of research.  When people cut carbs, their appetite goes down and they lose weight.  It’s a common theme through multiple studies.  In actual fact it seems that people on a low carb diet can lose two to three times more weight in stored fat than those on a low fat diet.  This is true even when those in the low carb groups are allowed to eat as much as they want, while those in the low fat groups are calorie restricted.

One study I discovered on the NCBI website was most interesting.  The National Centre for Biotechnology Information is part of the United States National Library of Medicine, a branch of the National Institutes of Health. Their research comparing low carb and low fat diets indicated that low carb eating specifically reduces fat in the abdomen and around the organs and liver.  This means that some of the fat lost on a low carb diet is harmful abdominal fat – exactly the fat you want to lose!

Even just avoiding the refined carbohydrates, like sugar, lollies, and white

bread, should be enough to make a big difference, especially if you keep your protein intake high.  But some people who want to make a drastic change fast reduce their carb intake to 50 grams per day. This puts your body into ketosis, a state in which your body starts burning fats as its main fuel and appetite is reduced.

Low carbohydrate diets can also significantly improve health in people with type 2 diabetics   One research paper in Science Direct has this to say: “The benefits of carbohydrate restriction in diabetes are immediate and well documented. Concerns about the efficacy and safety are long term and conjectural rather than data driven. Dietary carbohydrate restriction reliably reduces high blood glucose, does not require weight loss (although is still best for weight loss), and leads to the reduction or elimination of medication. It has never shown harmful side effects.

4. Eat fibre-rich foods

Dietary fibre is mostly indigestible plant matter.  Eating plenty of dietary fibre will help you remove belly fat. However, the type of fibre is important.  It appears that it’s the soluble and viscous fibres that have an effect on fat loss. These are fibres that bind water and form a thick gel that “sits” in your gut.  This gel dramatically slows the movement of food through your digestive system, slowing down the digestion and absorption of nutrients. The end result is a prolonged feeling of fullness and reduced appetite.

One five year study reported that eating 10 grams of soluble fibre per day was linked to a 3.7% reduction in the amount of fat in the abdominal cavity.  It concluded: “Increased soluble fibre intake was associated with decreased rate of VAT (visceral fat) accumulation, but not SAT (subcutaneous fat).”


This implies that soluble fibre is particularly effective at reducing harmful belly and internal fat.

The best way to get more fibre is to eat a lot of plant foods, including vegetables and fruit. Legumes are also a good source, as well as some cereals, such as whole oats.

5. Exercise regularly

Exercise, especially aerobic exercise (also called cardiovascular) is among the best things you can do to increase your chances of living a long, healthy life and avoiding disease.  Helping to reduce abdominal fat is among the amazing health benefits of regular exercise.

Now this doesn’t mean doing abdominal exercises like crunches and sit-ups.  Those are great exercises for toning up abdominal muscles, but they do not, and cannot, target belly fat.  Spot reduction (losing fat in one spot) is not possible just by exercising the muscles there.  In one study, 6 weeks of training just the abdominal muscles had no measurable effect on waist circumference or the amount of fat in the abdominal cavity!

You can substitute the walk / jog routines for other aerobic activities such as cycling, swimming, rowing, etc.  using the same pattern.

Weight training and cardiovascular exercise will reduce fat across the entire body, including belly and internal fat deposits.  Aerobic exercise, like walking, running, and swimming, encourages major reductions in abdominal fat.  And it not only helps to remove it.  It also helps to keep it off!


The best and most effective aerobic exercise is interval training.  A study in the International Journal of Obesity revealed that when compared to women who cycled at a consistent pace for 40 minutes, women who worked out for 20 minutes but alternated between eight-second sprints and 12 seconds of low-intensity cycling lost more belly fat after 15 weeks.  Work out half as long and lose more fat? Sounds good to me!

Exercise also leads to reduced inflammation, lower blood sugar levels, and improvements in other metabolic problems associated with excess abdominal fat  It’s also really good for your mental heath.  According to the New Zealand Ministry of Health, evidence shows that at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week can improve mood and decrease anxiety and stress. Physical activity is also thought to have a role in preventing serious mental illness such as depression.

6. Track your food intake

Most people know that what you eat is important, but many don’t know specifically what or how much they’re eating.  A person might think they’re eating a high protein or low carb diet, but without keeping track, it’s easy to overestimate or underestimate food intake.


Tracking food intake doesn’t mean you need to weigh and measure everything you eat. Tracking intake every now and then for a few days in a row can help you figure out the most important areas for change.

7. Get enough good quality sleep.

Skimping on sleep sets your brain up to make bad decisions. It dulls activity in the brain’s frontal lobe, the centre of decision-making and impulse control.  You don’t have the mental clarity to make good decisions - especially those to do with eating.

Plus, when you’re overtired, your brain's reward centers rev up, looking for something that feels good.  So while you might be able to squash comfort food cravings when you’re well-rested, your sleep-deprived brain may have trouble saying no to a second slice of cake!

Research tells the story.  A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when people were starved of sleep, late-night snacking increased, and they were more likely to choose high-carb snacks.  In another study done at the University of Chicago, sleep-deprived participants chose snacks with twice as much fat as those who slept at least 8 hours.

A second study found that sleeping too little prompts people to eat bigger portions of all foods, increasing weight gain.  And in a review of 18 studies, researchers found that a lack of sleep led to increased cravings for energy-dense, high-carbohydrate foods.

Try to aim for eight hours of quality sleep each 24 hours.  Yeah, I know - we spend a third of our precious lives asleep!

The bottom line

Abdominal fat, or belly fat, is linked to an increased risk of certain serious diseases.  But most people can reduce their abdominal fat through taking on key lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet packed with lean protein, vegetables and fruit, and legumes, exercising regularly, and getting a good night's kip!


7 December 2020

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