Sunday, May 5, 2013

Losing Belly Fat: A Summary

The combination of two decades (ages 18−37) of reckless eating habits with little exercise (after 1991), plus my metabolism slowing down around my mid-30s, has developed an unsightly paunch on me. I dress to hide it, or I tell myself I do and everyone else is too polite to confess they detect the illusion, but when I change for bed or shower there's no hiding my unsightliness from myself. I'm sure making my own beer hasn't helped things.

This is an entirely unacceptable situation. Not only do I make myself physically unattractive with these large adipose deposits, but belly fat poses several serious health risks. From WikiHow:
Image: TurboCharged
  • Belly fat is linked with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Specifically it's the deepest layer of belly fat —the fat you can't see or grab — that poses health risks. That's because these "visceral" fat cells actually produce hormones and other substances that can affect your health (e.g. increased insulin resistance and/or breast cancer risk).
  • The fact that they're located right next to and in between organs in your abdominal cavity doesn't help. For example, fat next to the liver drains into it, causing a fatty liver, which is a risk factor for insulin resistance, setting the stage for Type 2 diabetes.
From Wikipedia: There is a strong correlation between central obesity and cardiovascular disease. Abdominal obesity is not confined only to the elderly and obese subjects. Abdominal obesity has been linked to Alzheimer's Disease as well as other metabolic and vascular diseases.
Physical appeal is the least of the reasons to get rid of belly fat. I wanted to research how to modify my diet and how to exercise to begin slimming down, but I know quite well how health interests are fraught with gimmicks and hoaxes that range from completely ineffectual to potentially lethal. It should be able to "crowdsource" good information, however, by looking at some free resources and detecting consensus on certain points. To this end, I did a quick Google search for lowering my belly fat and found articles in STRONGLIFTS (muscle-building site), Forbes (business, finances, politics), the nearly copyright infringing MotleyHealth (health and fitness), and WikiHow (how-to encyclopedia written by the public).

EXERCISE

STRONGLIFTS and WikiHow stated crunches don't help. All articles but Forbes indicated more exercise (cardio/aerobics, resistance), though Forbes did suggest planking three times a day and going for more walks.
Every article said to reduce sugar and eat more protein and unprocessed foods, and to limit alcohol consumption. After that, they had their finer points to draw:
STRONGLIFTS—eat more food in general and more fat.
Forbes—eat more omega 3 fat, more vitamin C, more vegetables.
MotleyHealth—try the Caveman diet but avoid gimmicks (???). No late-night snacks (this has been disproven).
WikiHow—eat breakfast with protein and high-fiber content. Drink 64 oz water daily.

Specific foods: salmon, avocado, walnuts (omega 3); oats, brown rice, sweet potato; nuts/seeds, soybeans, chocolate. Try some cinnamon with your coffee or oatmeal in the morning.

LIFESTYLE

These tweaks represent self-monitoring techniques and ways to keep yourself interested in the above two categories. This is an important holistic aspect in personal improvement and health, so I'm pleased they bothered to touch on this. STRONGLIFTS promoted measuring and photographing yourself to help monitor changes and improvement. Weighing yourself the same time each day was WikiHow's advice, along with measuring yourself (hips, waist, limbs, neck) and calculating your waist-to-hip ratio.

Forbes and WikiHow both mentioned getting at least seven hours of sleep each night, and MotleyHealth pointed out turning off all lights (presumably includes mobile devices) when going to sleep. Along with that, WikiHow urged keeping the bedroom clear of stressors, preserving it as a sanctum of peace and relaxation.

The blogger at Forbes elaborated on the importance of breathing exercises, meditation and visualization, which also helps with lowering blood pressure and cognitive processes (what's good for the heart is good for the brain). The writer for WikiHow indicated the benefits of working out with a friend (accountability, motivation).

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