Hello, Health

Your pot belly can cut your lifespan. Shake it off

It has to be a combined mind-lifestyle-food effort.

 |  Hello, Health  |  5-minute read |   20-02-2017
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Why do we see so many Indian men with pot bellies? That's because men genetically have a tendency to store fat first on their stomach, and only when they run out of space there does it get stored elsewhere in the body.

So, basically, too much food and drinks, and no exercise translate into a pot belly soon enough, and we Indians are notorious on all these counts.

The good news though is that when people reverse their lifestyle (that is, eat better and begin exercising), they begin losing the fat from their middle quickly too.

Women, on the other hand, begin scoring tubby tummies usually around menopause when their estrogen levels dry up, or if they have PCOD (Polycystic ovarian disease) - or some other hormonal irregularity. Otherwise, they tend to store fat on their hips and thighs more.

cool-balanced-moms.0_022017034733.jpg Keep stress away.

Whatever the reason, it's time to get rid of the belly fast, as those extra pounds packed in the midsection are not just ungainly, but are extremely harmful for health too.

In fact, new research points towards the thickness of the waist instead of just the weight for measuring your risk quotient (to ill health).

So get this right: waist circumference greater than 32 inches for women and 37 inches for men translates to increased risk of lifestyle disorders, irrespective of height and build.

There is enough evidence to show that people who have a potbelly are at risk of dying younger, and are more likely to die from illnesses such as heart disease, respiratory problems, and cancer.

That is because we now know that this type of fat, called visceral fat, churns out stress hormones like cortisol and inflammatory substances called cytokines, which affect the body's production of insulin and thus increase the risk of diabetes.

Belly fat also breaks down easily into fatty acids, which flow directly into the liver and muscle, and increase the production of LDL "bad" cholesterol and triglycerides. Plus, there is a heightened risk of COPD, fatty liver, hypertension, dementia and osteoporosis.

inverted-u_022017035109.jpg Discover pilates.

It is as worrisome for thin people with perpetually small potbellies, as they may also be at risk. So don't get comfortable with a pot belly. Try to shake it off as soon as you can.

How? It has to be a combined mind-lifestyle-food effort.

Exercise is, of course, important; half an hour of workout every day is imperative, and spot train-ing and strength training help too. Remember, fitness needs to be intelligent - you can't just work the abs in isolation.

Think whole-body exercise!

Also it will help to discover pilates; the series of stretching-like exercises done on the floor, with special equipment has proved very effective against the tummy bulge.

Next up, you need to get a grip on your stress level, because when stress hits, different brain chemicals are released to help our bodies handle the physical response.

One of those chemicals, cortisol, or the stress hormone, is a powerful appetite trigger. And guess what do we crave for when we feel stressed? Candy, ice cream, cookies, potato chips and the like, which reach our waist soon enough.

Plus, the extra calories consumed by the cortisol appetite trigger are usually converted into fat deposits, which gravitate toward the waistline. So learn to keep stress levels low, by hook or crook.

Count your alcohol grams. Drinking too much reduces the number of fat calories you burn - and increases the appetite.

beer-belly-500x313_022017034049.jpg 

Alcohol reduces the amount of fat our body burns for energy. Rather than getting stored as fat, alcohol gets converted into a substance called acetate, and a sharp rise in acetate puts the brakes on fat loss.

When acetate levels rise, the body simply burns more acetate, and less fat. And actually here too the culprit is the same - cortisol as alcohol also tends to raise cortisol levels, sending fat to the belly.

"It keeps me thin," say all smokers, but the truth is that smokers tend to have more belly fat than non-smokers (the stress hormone cortisol seems to be the culprit here too). And when people stop smoking, the amount of abdominal fat actually decreases.

peanut-oil_022017034720.jpg Adding MUFA to the meals is proven to attack fat around the middle.

Finally, it is important to consciously focus on monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA). Adding MUFA to the meals is proven to attack fat around the middle. Research has found that a break-fast high in MUFAs could boost calorie burn for five hours after the meal, particularly in those with higher amounts of belly fat.

Almonds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, olives, avocado, sesame seeds, cashews, flaxseed oil, olive oil, peanut oil, pesto sauce, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil and walnut oil are all good sources.

But be careful, while the MUFAS are healthy fats, they are still fats, with nine calories per gram.

The final takeaway thus is, instead of just standing on the scale all the time, it is better to keep a tab on your waist size too.

Also read: Foods smokers must eat if they can't kick the habit

Writer

Kavita Devgan Kavita Devgan @kavitadevgan

The writer is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don't Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa).

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