Guys who carry extra weight in their bellies don’t need another article berating them for their physical condition — they’re quite aware of what they look like, thank you, and many have developed enough self-confidence to not care.
What they (or, potentially, you, since 33.7 percent of US adults can be classified as obese) should know is that there are some legitimate medical reasons to consider losing some of that weight, specifically from the gut. There’s more cause to be concerned than how you look in the mirror.
Belly fat is is different from fat elsewhere in your body. The extra weight some people carry around their waists, arms, and love handles isn’t the same — that’s subcutaneous fat, which sits beneath the skin and is relatively harmless, according to Harvard Medical School. The stuff in your belly, visceral fat, lodges deeper down, around your abdominal organs. It’s metabolically active tissue that actually functions like a separate organ, releasing substances into the rest of your body that, in excess, can increase your risk of disease.
Yeah, you got it: Your own belly could be poisoning you.
The notion that abdominal obesity is the most dangerous kind isn’t new. Back in the 1940s, the French physician Jean Vague observed that some obese patients had normal blood chemistry, while some moderately overweight patients showed serious abnormalities that predisposed them to heart disease or diabetes. Almost always, the latter patients carried their fat around their middles. And, almost always, they were men.
Multiple studies since then have shown that belly fat can be an insidious threat, not just the harmless byproduct of a sedentary lifestyle or genetic predisposition. It’s a sign that your body chemistry is out of whack.
There are a number of substances your larger belly secretes to your heart, liver, and other vital organs. Among them:
• Free fatty acids. Released directly to the liver, they impair your ability to break down insulin, which over time can lead to diabetes.
• Cortisone. High levels of this hormone are associated with diabetes and heart disease.
• PAI-1. This blood-clotting agent increases your risk of heart attacks and strokes.
• CRP. This protein inflames blood vessels, making them more susceptible to artery-clogging plaque.
The upshot of all these chemicals floating around is big trouble for big-bellied guys. In a study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, researchers took 137 men of all ages and sizes and used seven different measurements to determine their risks of cardiovascular disease. The single best sign of multiple heart-disease risks? No, it wasn’t the guys’ family histories or their cholesterol profiles. It was the amount of abdominal fat they carried.
By the way, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are only three of the ways belly fat can ruin your health. If you count them all up, you’ll find at least 39 different diseases associated with abdominal obesity.
If you’re looking to cut some of that dangerous belly fat after learning about the risks, never fear. Follow this advice, and you’ll start losing the pounds — and the dangers from visceral fat — once you can make it your daily routine.
The Food Plan
Diets generally fail for one of two reasons: Either they’re too restrictive about the kind of food you put in your belly, or they too frequently leave you feeling as if you haven’t put any food in your belly. In either case, it’s usually not long before you break from the plan and go back to your old bad habits.
You won’t be sabotaged by either of those problems with the Belly-Off Program Diet, which was created for us by the trainer and nutritionist Thomas Incledon, Ph.D., R.D. Incledon built our program around three simple weight-loss principles built around the three types of macronutrients:
Pack In The Protein
If you want to shrink your gut, get enough protein in your diet. In this case, about 25 percent of calories. Why? For starters, protein makes you feel full and helps you build muscle (which increases metabolism, thereby making it easier to lose weight). Just as important, high-protein diets have been shown to be the best way of attacking belly fat. In one study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, Danish researchers put 65 people on either a 12 percent protein diet or a 25 percent protein diet. The low-protein dieters lost an average of 11 pounds, which isn’t bad. But the high-protein subjects lost an average of 20 pounds–including twice as much abdominal fat as the low-protein group.
Fat Isn’t All Bad
Get enough fat — about 30 percent of your calories. First, fat helps you feel more full between meals, slowing your appetite. Second, it provides essential fatty acids needed for optimal health. Above all, fat makes you feel that you’re eating real food, not starving in the land of plenty.
Count Up The Carbs
If you get enough protein and fat, your total calorie intake should take care of itself. Because you feel full, you won’t binge on a can of Pringles and blow your calorie count for the day. The remaining 45 percent of calories in our plan comes from carbohydrates — enough to give your palate a full range of tastes and your body a combination of fast- and slow-burning fuel.
How To Use The Diet
The meals shown here are “templates” that you can vary any number of ways to please your tastebuds and avoid eating the same old thing every day. Follow them and you’ll get between 2,400 and 2,800 calories per day. That should provide plenty of calories for all but the most severely obese, while allowing most guys to lose fat around their middles at a steady pace. (Don’t worry about hitting the numbers on the nose every time. If you exceed your fat quota during lunch, for instance, just cut back a little during dinner.)