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Bloat On...

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Excess fat anywhere on your body can be bad for your health, so why ignore the infamous belly fat?! Yamini Walia & Sara Shah give you the low-down on midriff issues

There is often nothing we can do about our body type, but belly fat can be the most alarming type of fat that there is, since it can increase our risk of suffering from severe illnesses. The problem with belly fat is that it is not limited to the extra layer of padding just below your skin; it also includes visceral fat, which lies deep inside your abdomen, surrounding your internal organs. We spoke to nutritionists Krushmi Chheda and Shilpa Mittal, as well as fitness expert Althea Shah, to find out more.

According to Shilpa, there is a clearly defined difference between bloating and lower belly weight gain. She tells us, “Bloating occurs due to acidity, hormonal issues or constipation and may give your stomach a rounder, more swollen appearance that is similar to belly fat. You can distinguish a bloating issue by its symptoms — gas, an upset stomach or a change in bowel habits. These can be treated with a few simple lifestyle changes.”

When you talk about lower belly weight, you are referring to the fat that is present in your lower abdominal region. “Excess belly fat is unsightly and is also one the toughest types of fat to get rid of. Apart from this, belly fat is also one of the most dangerous kinds of fat and can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and cancer,” Shilpa says. She also tells us that lower belly weight gain is developed because of years of bad eating habits, excessive alcohol intake and a lack of physical activity. “Another reason could be that as you get older, you experience a declining metabolic rate (seen in both men and women), which results in fat deposits in the region,” she explains. 

To understand what bloating means, you need to know the reasons behind it. Krushmi tells us about a few:

  • Consuming too much refined sugar and food loaded with carbohydrates causes water retention and leads to bloating.
  • Eating a lot after a long gap between meals increases your body’s storing capacity rather than increasing energy expenditure. This results in slower metabolism.
  • Intolerance to foods such as lactose in dairy products and gluten in wheat can also cause indigestion, which ultimately leads to bloating and discomfort.
  • A high intake of sodium or processed foods that are high in preservatives, can also increase water retention and bloating.
  • Consuming too much alcohol (alcohol is high in calories) can also lead to bloating.

So, you aren’t bloated, and you are definitely eating more fruits and vegetables in a bid to stay healthy. But, the fat around your midriff refuses to budge! So, what are you doing wrong? We tell you about a few surprising reasons why losing the fat around your waistline is so tough.

You’re growing older
Unfortunately, age isn’t just a number when it comes to your weight. The reason your belly fat won’t budge is because as you get older, your metabolism slows down. Your body’s natural ability to burn fat slows down too and a need for fewer calories arises. This affects women undergoing menopause in particular, because when hormones begin to shift, your body begins to hold on to the extra fat.

You’re eating the wrong fats
Consuming too many unsaturated fats, usually found in meats and dairy, is also one of the reasons why you cannot lose weight, as this leads to an increase in visceral fat. Your body needs the monosaturated fats that are found in avocados, fish and nuts, which have anti-inflammatory effects on your body and won’t lead to belly fat gain. 

You aren’t challenging your body
Yes, you may have lost some weight when you first started working out, but you need to challenge your body to see consistent results. Your body gets used to a routine and so, it’s best to switch it up and try to do as many different exercises as possible.

You’re apple-shaped
As absurd as this may sound, people with this body type have a tougher time dealing with belly fat than most. So, ask your trainer to suggest workouts that are better suited to your body type.

Althea suggests a few workouts that can help eliminate belly fat.

Cardio exercise
If you have extra fat to lose near your stomach, you need to burn fat through cardiovascular exercise. If you exercise often, try high intensity interval training (HIIT) to help you burn more fat than moderate cardiovascular activities would. This is done by varying the power or intensity of your cardio workout or doing sprints several times in the session. This increases the calorie burn of your workout. The more calories burned, the more fat is lost. Interval training can be incorporated into any kind of cardio, including running, walking, cross training or even swimming.

Strength training
Focus on exercising your core. If your goal is to lose a protruding tummy, you will have to find strength training exercises that tone your core area. This is the area of your body that focuses on your stomach, back and waist. Pilates is one of the finest core toning systems of exercise. You could also try your hand at functional training, which involves using several core muscles. This will help to tone and stretch all the muscles of your core. Once the extra fat is gone, your abs will be more visible! Nobody will guess you ever had a beer belly! If you haven’t been exercising, start slow and gradually increase the intensity as an when your body is able to take it. Initially, work on duration and then increase the intensity.

The food that you consume can increase or decrease bloating. So, we tell you more about some foods that you need to avoid, as well as the foods that you can consume without worrying about bloating.

Foods that cause bloating

  • Carbohydrates Starchy, refined foods such as white flour, corn flour, white rice and bread.
  • Processed and high sodium foods Red meat, pickles, biscuits, noodles and cheese.
  • Drinks Alcohol, soda or drinks high in caffeine.
  • Full fat dairy Saturated fat from full-fat products.

Foods that reduce bloating

  • Fruits Watermelon, prunes, apples, oranges, mandarins, sweet lime, plums, papaya, pomegranate, strawberries and blueberries.
  • Vegetables Green beans, asparagus, garlic, onion, ginger, leeks, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, lettuce, celery, spinach, kale, lemons, green vegetables, avocados and peppers.
  • Low fat dairy Yogurt and skimmed cow’s milk.
  • Grains and starch Quinoa, amaranth, millet and baked potato.

Experts Krushmi and Shilpa help us out with a few useful tips to beat belly fat

  • Consume small, frequent meals through the day. This keeps your metabolism active and prevents fat storage. All your meals should include complex carbohydrates such as grains in their natural form — brown or red rice, quinoa, jowar, nachni and bajra. These carbohydrate foods should be consumed with a protein and some essential fats.
  • Include proteins such as milk or eggs in all your meals. Consume dal sprouts, fish or chicken for lunch and dinner. Dry fruits and channa make for excellent snacking options.
  • Exercise five days a week, for 45 minutes, at a moderate intensity in order to burn fat.
  • Your total caloric intake during the day should match your energy expenditure in order to maintain a balance.

You’ll be surprised to learn that some of the truths about belly fat are actually big, fat myths. Read on as we bust some of these for you

It protects your bones

Being overweight doesn’t mean that you have a stronger skeleton and will stay protected from weight loss as you age. Abdominal fat is not only bad for your heart and lungs, but several studies have proven that it’s detrimental to your bones as well!

Green tea reduces fat
Now, we don’t mean that you should stop drinking green tea altogether because it’s definitely good for you. However, if you think you can lose weight by making just one dietary change, you’re sadly mistaken!

Belly fat is fine
Although body mass index (BMI) is currently the best indicator of whether someone should be considered overweight, most experts agree that it’s not foolproof. Your waistline also plays a crucial role in health outcomes.

Ab devices are useful
You may have seen several advertisements telling you how useful ab devices are in reducing belly fat. While professional models make it look easy, it seems unlikely that anyone has ever achieved any fat loss with these products.

Only exercise
Some people believe that exercising is enough to help them lose excess belly fat. However, you need to realise that this depends on your metabolism. You need to exert regular control over your diet and exercise regime in order to reduce belly fat.

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