Belly fat, seemingly the plague of modern existence, and not to mention a notable sign of poor health. Subcutaneous fat can build up anywhere in the body, depending on how one is put together; however, the midsection usually attracts more than its neighboring regions. A staggering percentage of the world’s population is now overweight or obese, no longer limiting excessive body fat to the affluent countries.
Luckily, this is preventable, and simply requires education. So, why exactly is the belly so attractive for fat cells? What are the primary causes of unnecessary weight gain, and how can they be stopped before it’s too late? Explanations are forthcoming.
Why the midsection? Simply put, the human body has been developed for survival. The torso contains the vital organs, which require much more protection and warmth than the arms, or legs. There are two types of fat that can be found in this section of the body - subcutaneous, and visceral.
Subcutaneous fat is located just under the skin and is what we can see, and often disparage. On the other hand, visceral fat lies around the internal organs. This “deep fat” can be especially dangerous, due to its pension for igniting inflammation, storing toxins, and altering the endocrine system (hormones). An excessive amount of visceral fat is linked to: diabetes, depression, cancer, arthritis, stroke, sleep disorders, sexual dysfunction, and of course, obesity.
The human body is designed to carry small amounts of fat for emergency energy, and protection; however, certainly not the amounts of fat many in modern society now possess. One’s body attempts to regulate amounts of stored fat by signaling when they are full or hungry by way of hormones; however, as society has progressed, so has our food.
In recent decades, food manufacturers have developed products that are increasingly calorie dense, and often trick the body into thinking it needs more, when it is in fact already in a caloric surplus. Refined sugars, and saturated fats are mostly to blame, but that’s a story for another time. Processed foods are not the only reason obesity is breaking like a wave over humanity - there were small amounts of obese individuals in the past - but the numbers have spiked, and it’s killing us.
Fat deposition is also regulated by factors such as age, and gender. Luckily for men, testosterone is potent subduer of fat cell growth, rather promoting lean muscle mass, and strength; however, levels of this hormone drop with age, often taking men by surprise as their bodies change. Conversely, women tend to gather body fat in the buttocks and hips to support child-bearing; although these locations are seemingly more socially acceptable for curves than with men. Estrogen is a hormone that acts as the antithesis of testosterone, promoting fat deposition, and female characteristics. Interestingly enough, higher levels of body fat are linked to higher levels of estrogen, subsequently creating a vicious cycle. The more fat one possesses, the easier it is to acquire more. Troublingly enough, research has shown that on average, the levels of estrogen in men has risen.
In any case, one must be watchful of which stage of life they are in, and what demographic they fall into when managing body fat. Keeping an eye on fat levels early in life will create healthy habits, and prevent future health risks when age limits the effectiveness of fat loss programs.
Heredity of course has the potential to set one back a step when it comes to body composition; however, one’s health tends to be more nurture than nature. These choices lie in two categories: diet, and activity.
Starting with most important, and certainly most concerning - diet is the primary factor in the epidemic of our time. Weight gain is a simple equation of calories in opposed to calories out. When one consumes more calories than they expend in one day, the remaining nutrients will either be expelled or stored as fat; therefore the amount is just as important as the kinds of foods one eats.
Now, here comes sinister part of the story. As was stated before, food products are becoming increasingly dense, and packed full of refined sugars. The reasoning behind this could be thoroughly discussed for many pages; however, money and competition between manufacturers is the simplest explanation. Excuses can be made, but ultimately, it is up to the consumer to be informed and make the right decisions.
The world is ever expanding with endless options, and many healthy individuals have found that sticking to the basics pays the most dividends when preventing fat gain. Many of the overweight or obese individuals across the globe are simply suffering from a lack of information, and this has recently sent countries like Mexico, Brazil, India, and China into a spiral of poor health and oversized waistbands.
On the other side of the coin stands the factor of activity. Fitness centers, fat camps, and personal trainers are a very recent development when one thinks on history as a whole, very recent. The cause is simple, technology has adapted, now so must we. Automation has taken a fair amount of hard labor from us, which is nothing to disparage; however, many have not adapted properly.
Now, readers may be thinking, “I thought we were talking about belly fat?” They would not be wrong, but fat builds generally, and it is eradicated in the same way. No amount of abdominal exercises will make belly fat specifically disappear, the overall fat percentage will drop, from the arms, chest, thighs, and midsection. The catch is, combatting poor diet and sub-par activity levels to reduce overall fat in the healthiest, and most sustainable way possible. The belly fat will be no exception.
As most everyone knows, being overweight or obese comes with a price; but do people really think deeply on this? With mass movements of acceptance, and anti fat-shaming, it’s little wonder individuals are finding it increasingly comfortable to compromise their health in exchange for inactivity, and short term culinary pleasure. By no means should society participate in open ridicule, or a witch hunt of the obese; however, this lifestyle should by no means be catered to.
Being excessively overweight greatly increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, diabetes, and social exclusion. At an evolutionary level, humans are hardwired to respect signs of health such as, lean muscle, thin waists, healthy skin, and high energy levels because these are traits that lend to survival and strength, not to mention overall well being.
These risks are real, and pose an ever increasing threat to society. A thinner, health conscious populace would incur fewer medical expenses, and maintain better life quality, lending to a heightened sense of social harmony. Individuals should not only be conscious of the obvious belly fat, but the underlying visceral fat as well. There are plenty of ways to avoid fat gain, and maintain a great quality of life.
Fighting the fat is not so stressful or time consuming as some in the fitness industry would make one believe. Simple, slight changes over time will lead to healthier results than rapid, impulsive lifestyle redirections. Many attempt to lose unwanted weight, or specifically belly fat, and fail because the change was too radical to sustain; therefore, building healthy habits will deliver the best results.
Crafting a diet for weight loss can be tricky in modern supermarkets, but as was stated before - stick to the basics. Vegetables will provide vitamins and minerals, but also give a feeling of satiety that one cannot get from processed, calorie dense products. These plants contain fiber and give volume to the food one eats with a very insignificant amount of calories.
Vegetables may not be as enticing as cereal or pasta; however, they should be the cornerstone of everyone’s nutrition. Also, fat receives much worse press than it deserves. Healthy fats such as monounsaturated aid in energy production, and improved fat oxidation (fat burning). The best sources of beneficial fats can be found in avocados, nuts, fatty fish, and eggs.
The last piece of the puzzle is of course, consuming adequate protein, and staying hydrated. These two points are the most commonly forgotten by those who find themselves overweight. Much of the products pushed by grocery stores today are extremely carbohydrate dense, and can contain too much of the fats humans don’t need. Carbohydrates are the single macronutrient that the body does not need to survive. Yes, they are a potent source of energy; however, fat can be utilized for the same purpose, eliminating excess sugar intake and huge spikes of insulin.
Carbohydrates can of course still be consumed, but those eating should be careful to select the “right” kinds of carb sources. The glycemic index is a tool used to evaluate how much a certain food will affect blood glucose levels, and how quickly. Selecting carbohydrate sources that are low on the glycemic index will do wonders for stemming any oncoming tide of fat cells in one’s future.
Finally, the reasoning behind protein is simple, yet often disregarded. Consuming protein from eggs, fish, lean meats, and dairy products that are low in fat will prolong the feeling of fullness, and support lean muscle. Sporting muscle mass is not just for show, skeletal muscles are pivotal for a well-functioning metabolism.
The more muscle one has, the higher their basal metabolic rate (BMR) will be; therefore, they burn more calories from simply living than would another with less muscle. Protein is also important for many other important functions of the body, but consumers would be wise to conduct some independent research; subsequently empowering themselves to be able to smartly select foods, and have an idea of how these foods will affect them.
The second side of the solution is activity. Simply put, a large portion of society is lazy, and excess fat is the direct result. The past century’s renaissance of technology has left many with jobs that require little movement for eight to ten hours per day, leaving the workers tired and unmotivated. Humanity can of course not do away with such jobs; however, there remains a lack of encouragement to move, and push oneself physically whenever possible. The small act of taking the stairs instead of the elevator is a good start, but not enough. Thankfully, the internet is a great tool for finding fitness programs for those who have no idea on the nuances of exercise. Bodybuilding.com has become a reputable database for many that need motivation as well as guidance.
In any case, activity is paramount for removing belly fat, or fat of any kind. A combination of cardiovascular and resistance training is a tried and true method that will work, granted the participant upholds their end of the bargain with a solid measure of effort. The single most important aspect of physical fitness is finding something you enjoy. When the tasks presented are dreaded, or looked at with a feeling of total discomfort or disdain, the plan is doomed to failure. Discovering a form of activity that is physically demanding, yet enjoyable to the individual will ensure dedication, and frequency - two very important factors in success.
In summary, the quest for a thin waist is simply part of an overarching issue. Excess fat is an indicator of poor health, and poor health is of course bad news for society in every way. The reasons fat exists, the risks behind high amounts of it, and the building blocks of how to maintain a healthy life have been discussed. In light of this, one should know that information is the greatest tool for success, alongside motivation.
One should keep careful watch over the foods they consume, and make a concerted effort to find a form of activity that they can sustain. The pieces of the puzzle are coming together, the next step is simply committing.