What I Tell My Patients About Belly Fat + How To Get Rid Of It
Belly fat impacts more than just how you look in a swimsuit. Today, about 69% of American adults are overweight — leading to an increased risk for numerous chronic illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer.
Many hormones contribute to belly fat, but the most powerful is insulin: Elevated insulin levels signal your body to store belly fat. Eventually your cells become insulin resistant, and your body starts to hold on to that spare tire for dear life.
So in order to trim belly fat, you need to produce less insulin. And the number one way to do that? Reduce your sugar intake.
Sugar — especially in processed, junky foods — hijacks your brain chemistry and metabolism to create insulin resistance and all its repercussions.
Plus, unlike other calories, sugar scrambles your normal appetite controls. It's one reason why you can’t stop reaching for your favorite comfort food.
Unfortunately, Americans are overdosing on sugar, consuming an average of 22 to 30 teaspoons each day — and the repercussions are showing up as lethal belly fat.
The good news is you have the power to reverse belly fat and diabesity. I’ve seen thousands of patients do just that.
By dramatically reducing sugar intake and applying these five strategies, you can normalize insulin, eliminate stubborn belly fat and promote optimal health:
1. Eat real food.
Nutrient-rich foods—the kind nature produces, not a big factory—keep you satisfied. And as a result, you’ll eat less.
Aim for lots of green vegetables, and include protein in every meal since it keeps us fuller longer.
Getting adequate vitamins and minerals will also help your body burn calories more efficiently, regulate appetite, lower inflammation, boost detoxification, aid digestion, regulate stress hormones, and make your cells more insulin sensitive.
2. Manage stress.
Chronic stress causes your brain to shrink—and your belly to grow.
In fact, chronically elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol can lead to increased blood sugar, cholesterol, depression and dementia. And high cortisol levels also contribute to the stubborn belly fat in people with insulin resistance or Type 2 diabetes who crave sugar and carbs.
3. Cut out food sensitivities.
You often crave the very foods you’re allergic to. And while eliminating them isn’t easy, after a few days without them, many patients discover renewed energy, reduced cravings and symptoms, and shrinking belly fat.
Gluten and dairy are two of the big ones, but many other sensitivities can also make losing belly fat a real challenge. Read more about how food sensitivities can make you fat—and how to successfully eliminate them.
4. Get eight hours of deep sleep.
Lack of sleep actually drives sugar and carb cravings by affecting your appetite hormones. In other words, when you haven't had sufficient sleep, those cookies your coworker brought in become impossible to ignore.
And one study found that even a partial night of poor sleep could contribute to insulin resistance. Poor sleep can also adversely impact fat-regulating hormones like leptin and ghrelin.
Getting a good sleep requires preparation. So if you'd like to catch more zzzs, try meditation, a relaxation CD or a hot bath with magnesium-rich Epsom salts before bed.
5. Work out regularly.
Combined with a nutritious diet, exercise can become powerful medication to prevent diabesity and trim your belly. After all, studies have shown that interval training and weight resistance can improve fat loss.
If you’re a beginner, start with simply walking at least 30 minutes every day. And if you’d like to take that up a few notches, consider 30 to 60 minutes of more vigorous aerobic exercise four to six times a week.
If you’ve lost belly fat and regained your health, what was your big “why” that kept you going? Share yours on my Facebook page.
Ready to learn more about how brain health and your diet are intimately connected? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman.