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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 69 percent of American adults are overweight and 35 percent are obese.
Aesthetics aside, obesity increases our risk for numerous conditions including heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer.
About 3.4 million adults die each year from being overweight or obese. Nearly all people who are overweight already have “pre-diabetes,” significantly increasing risk for disease and death.
Numerous hormones contribute to belly fat, but none proves more powerful than insulin, which tells our body to gain belly weight when it stays elevated. Insulin also drives inflammation and oxidative stress, creating myriad downstream effects.
Eventually we become insulin resistant, which leads our body to generate belly fat and hold on to that spare tire for dear life.
To reduce belly fat, we want to produce less insulin. More than any other food, sugar becomes responsible for hijacking our brain chemistry and our metabolism to create insulin resistance and all its repercussions.
Sugar is different from other calories because it scrambles our normal appetite controls so we consume more and more, driving our metabolism to convert it into lethal belly fat. Americans are overdosed, consuming an average of 22 to 30 teaspoons of sugar each day.
Over my decades practicing medicine, I’ve found when patients reduce sugar intake and apply these five strategies, they normalize insulin, lose that stubborn belly fat and finally gain abundant health.
- Eat real food. Real food contains many nutrients that keep us more satisfied, eat less and lose belly fat. Getting adequate vitamins and minerals helps us burn calories more efficiently, regulates appetite, lowers inflammation, boosts detoxification, aids digestion, regulates stress hormones and helps our cells become more insulin sensitive. Along with lots of green vegetables, include protein in every meal since it keeps us fuller longer so we lose more weight.
- Manage stress levels. Chronic stress causes our brain to shrink and our belly to grow. Chronically elevated levels of our stress hormone cortisol cause increased blood sugar, cholesterol, depression and dementia. High cortisol levels also promote the accumulation of belly fat we commonly see in patients with insulin resistance or Type 2 diabetes who crave sugar and carbs and seek comfort food. This blog highlights how stress impacts us and provides effective strategies to reduce stress levels.
- Address food sensitivities. We often crave the very foods we are allergic to. Getting off them is not easy, but after two to three days without them, we will have renewed energy, relief from cravings and symptoms and begin to shed belly fat. Gluten and dairy are two big food sensitivities, but many others can create roadblocks that make losing belly fat nearly impossible. This blog further describes how food sensitivities can make us fat and how to successfully eliminate them.
- Get sufficient sleep. Not getting enough sleep drives sugar and carb cravings by affecting our appetite hormones. One study found even a partial night’s poor sleep could contribute to insulin resistance. Poor sleep also adversely impacts fat-regulating hormones like leptin and ghrelin. A magnesium-rich Epsom salts bath is a perfect way to unwind and drift into sleep.
- Exercise regularly. Aside from changing our diet, exercise is probably the single best medication to prevent diabesity. Walk at least 30 minutes every day. For some, 30 to 60 minutes of more vigorous aerobic exercise four to six times a week may be necessary. Studies show interval training and weight resistance can improve fat loss.
I’m sure you have an additional tactic to banish belly fat and become lean and healthy. Share yours below or on my Facebook fan page.
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Boutcher SH. High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss. Journal of Obesity. 2011;2011:868305. doi:10.1155/2011/868305.
Donga E, et al. A single night of partial sleep deprivation induces insulin resistance in multiple metabolic pathways in healthy subjects. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Jun;95(6):2963-8. doi: 10.1210/jc.2009-2430. Epub 2010 Apr 6.
Willis LH, et al. Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2012 Dec 15;113(12):1831-7. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01370.2011. Epub 2012 Sep 27.
Author: Mark Hyman
Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: Phoney Nickle/Flickr