Stubborn tummy fat can be very hard to shift. And it can also increase your risk of developing serious Covid by as much as 75 per cent, according to a new study that has resulted in scientists calling for Covid patients with abdominal fat to be closely monitored.
The Italian researchers found that carrying extra fat around the stomach puts Covid patients at greater risk of developing serious complications, compared to overall body fat, which didn’t appear to worsen the severity of the virus. And, it's not just a Covid issue: fat deposits around the middle have previously been linked to serious health issues, including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
However, due to our often sedentary lifestyles and stressful jobs, medicated with alcohol and biscuits, belly fat can easily build up. Here are 10 easy ways to get rid of it.
How to get rid of belly fat
1. Drink less alcohol
Yes, it can be very tempting to reach for the Merlot at the end of a particularly taxing day spent working at your kitchen table, but studies show that alcohol is one of the main offenders when it comes to storing belly fat. Consider this: if you consume just two glasses of wine an evening, that's an extra 72,000 calories a year, which equates to 20 pounds of fat.
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Alcohol contains a very high amount of “empty” calories which don't have any nutritional value. Women are more likely to store the fat created by these surplus calories on their hips, thighs and arms, whereas men store it on their tummy, hence the “beer belly”.
If you're keen on reducing your tummy fat quickly, it's advised that you cut out alcohol from your diet completely. If that sounds too severe, then aim to cut down your intake by capping your nightly intake to two glasses, and always having several alcohol-free days each week.
2. Eat a high protein diet
There's a good amount of evidence to suggestion that protein is key to losing tummy fat. Firstly, it releases the hormone PYY, which helps to send a message to your brain that you're full. A good portion of protein in a meal should help you avoid overeating.
Many observational studies prove that people with a higher protein intake have lower levels of belly fat. It also raises your metabolic rate, making you more likely to build muscle during and after exercise. Try to get a serving with every meal: breakfast, lunch and dinner.
3. Reduce your stress levels
Stress causes your body to gain fat because it triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn increases your appetite.
How do you relieve stress? To an extent, the answer is entirely personal – we're all different – but studies consistently show that getting out in nature and regular bouts of meditation work to reduce our anxiety.
4. Don't eat a lot of sugary foods
Calorie for calorie, sugar is different to other food groups such as protein, complex carbohydrates, and fat, because it confuses your normal appetite controls and causes your body to produce fat. Refined sugars are often hidden in a plethora of different products that you wouldn't expect such as fruit juices. Make sure to check the labels before eating the products.
5. Address food sensitivities
People often have food sensitivities that go unaddressed for years. If you think you may be suffering form an allergy, it's important that you report it to your doctor who may refer you to a dietitian.
Common food sensitivities include dairy and gluten, both of which can result in an inflammation of the gut, making it even more prone to developing more sensitivities. Addressing these allergies can have dramatic impacts on weight loss, and even mood and behaviour.
6. Lift something heavy
Everyone knows that regular exercise is necessary in order to lose weight; however not everyone knows that resistance training is one of the best way to do so.
Resistance training, also known as weight lifting or strength training, is important for improving and maintaining muscle mass. It also helps to spike our metabolisms, which means your body burns fat even after you've put the weights down.
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However, it's worth saying that the best possible training plan probably combines a variety of exercises. In one study of teenagers, it was proved that a combination of weight training and aerobic exercise was the most beneficial – which means that barbell curls alone aren't the answer.
7. Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is one of the most important aspects of your overall health and wellbeing, especially when it comes to managing your weight. In one 16-year study, it was shown that women who slept for less than five hours a night were significantly more likely to gain weight around their stomach than those who slept seven hours or more.
Easy ways to improve the quality of your sleep are by making sure you don't look at screens late at night and by doing some gentle yoga before bed.
8. Eat fatty fish every week
Omega-3 fatty acids are lauded with such attractive qualities as delaying ageing and fighting degenerative diseases. However, it's less well known that eating fatty fish is also excellent for weight loss (when accompanied by a balanced diet and regular exercise, of course).
Foods such as mackerel and herring are high in protein and “good fats” that help to break down some of the more dangerous fats in your body. Try to eat fish two or three times a week.
9. Replace some of your cooking fats with coconut oil
Put aside the butter and olive oil and try coconut oil. Studies show that the medium-chain fats in coconut oil boost metabolism and decrease the amount of fat you store in response to high calorie intake.
10. Eat plenty of soluble fibre
Soluble fibre is ideal for aiding weight loss because it forms a gel with the food in your digestive tract, slowing it down as it passes through. Studies show that this type of fibre helps you lose weight because you feel fuller for longer, meaning you naturally eat less.
Excellent foods to eat to increase your soluble fibre intake include avocados, legumes (try lentils, peas or chickpeas) and blackberries.