When it comes to losing weight, many people’s focus is directed primarily on their wobbly belly fat and trying to squeeze in to that old pair of jeans still hanging in the wardrobe. Belly fat or “subcutaneous fat” to give it its technical name, is the loose fat we grab from our midriff when we are testing to see if we can pinch an inch. We loathe it predominantly because of its aesthetic appearance, particularly when we are fed the flawless hard bodies shown on magazine covers and mainstream media.
The more worrying “Visceral fat” which can be found around the organs like the liver, pancreas and intestines is much more dangerous for our health, but because it can’t be seen, is not very well known about. You would need to undertake an MRI scan to see it. Visceral fat tends to be the fat that appears first when you gain weight and thankfully is the first to lose when you lose weight.
Some of my friends who are trying to lose weight have asked about how best to lose inches from their waist in a spot reducing type of remedial action, particularly if a holiday deadline is fast approaching and they want to look as trim as possible.
Now I’ve always said this is difficult, even impossible to achieve, although the muscles in a particular area can be toned by doing specific exercise to that area. For the stomach, you would need to do sit-ups to tone those mid-section muscles. This might help in tightening the muscles and as a result cutting some of the inches, but this would have to be part of a wider strategy of consuming less calories through diet and aerobic exercise to burn additional calories.
Belly fat reduction study
I then noticed a recent study conducted by the BBC “Trust me I’m a doctor” team who recruited 2 doctors who are experts in the field, Fredrik Karpe, a professor of metabolic medicine from the University of Oxford, and Prof Dylan Thompson, from the University of Bath, along with 35 volunteers. The volunteers would take part in a number of tests to see which was more successful in losing belly fat and provided other health benefits.
Before the six week study began, each person underwent health parameter checks and measurements, including undertaking a DEXA scan which gives detailed information about how much fat each participant had and where it was distributed in the body, along with resting heart rate, blood glucose, blood lipids, weight, blood pressure and of course waistline measurements.
Prof Thompson then took on two groups for two types of exercises, while Prof Karpe took two groups for two dietary interventions for a six week test.
Group #1 – volunteers were told to eat as normal but told to be more active in their normal routine, increasing their step count for instance.
Group #2 – volunteers were told to do sit-ups, including six exercises three times a day, every day for six weeks.
Group #3 – volunteers were told to drink milk 3 times a day (1 litre in total) as it has been suggested that milk prevents the body absorbing fat, instead excreting it as waste when you go to the loo.
Group #4 – volunteers were told to reduce portion sizes and stop snacking in between meals. They were given coping strategies for dealing with hunger pangs and supported by a dietitian throughout the study period.
At the end of the six weeks study all participants had their parameters tested again. The results were as follows:
Group 1 – who were more active. didn’t lose any fat but had greatly improved health measurements such as blood pressure and even blood glucose levels.
Group 2 – who did the sit-ups, didn’t lose weight or get any healthier but did lose 2 cm from their waistlines, which backs up my hypotheses that toning the muscles would impact waist size.
Group 3 – who underwent the milk test, didn’t lose weight or improve their health. However they didn’t gain weight either even though they had consumed an extra 400 calories a day from drinking the milk
Group 4 – who consumed smaller portion sizes and stopped snacking lost 35kg between them which was an average of 3.7kg each, over the six weeks. Their waistline also reduced by an average of 2 inches. The DEXA scan readings showed 5% less body fat and an impressive 14% reduction of the dangerous visceral fat inside the abdomen. This group lost overall body fat as well as abdominal fat. They also saw improvements in other health parameters. On the downside they also lost some muscle mass, due to muscle cannibalisation, which is common with weight loss.
So the BBC study provided a clear winner in group #4, who cut calories by reducing portion size and stopped snacking in between meals. So the lesson to learn is that if you want to lose that stubborn belly fat, cut your calories. You don’t have to go mad, just reduce portion sizes and keep away from snacking in between meals.
However to prevent muscle loss, which is an inevitable side-effect of dieting, undertake some muscle building or toning exercise in addition to your diet reduction plan.
If you want to tone your stomach muscles, which will help reduce your waistline, than exercising that region is the way to go, particularly using stomach crunches. To do effective stomach crunches…
- Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
- Place your hands on your thighs, across your chest or behind your ears.
- Slowly curl up towards your knees until your shoulders are about three inches off the floor.
- Hold the position for a few seconds and lower down slowly.
When doing crunches avoid…
- Tucking your neck into your chest as you rise
- Contracting your abs throughout the exercise
- Yanking your head off the floor
Hope you found this article informative, please share it with your friends and family if you did. Also check out my Weight loss ultimate guide for more health information.