Belly fat is common phenomena in middle-aged men and women and makes for a not-so-pleasant sight in the form of accumulated fat around the abdominal area. It not only targets obese people; men and women with an otherwise proportiionate body can fall prey to this condition. According to expert guidelines, a waistline above 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women rings warning bells.
Fat can be categorized in two: subcutaneous and visceral fat.
While subcutaneous fat is located just below the skin (seen as flab in areas such as arms and thighs), visceral fat houses itself deeper beneath the skin, around the internal organs. Though fats of both kinds are detrimental to health, visceral fat is associated with more serious health problems.
The reason of concern about belly fat is that it falls in the category of visceral fat. Excess fat accumulated in the abdominal area is linked with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, stroke, some cancers (chiefly, colon cancer), high triglyceride levels and sleep apnea in men.
What Causes Belly Fat?
Accumulation of fat in the abdominal area can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as:
Age: Belly fat is linked to age, particularly becoming visible during middle age, when hormonal changes take place leading to slowdown in metabolism.
Heredity: There is a tendency to gain weight in this area due to hereditary factors, particularly if your parents have been prone to belly fat.
Stress: Another factor which influences belly fat is stress. Stress leads to release of a hormone called cortisol, which stimulates the accumulation of fats in this region.
Consumption of excess calories: An unbalanced diet comprising of high calorie and trans-fat laden foods can result in belly fat. Consumption of alcohol and beer can also aggravate this condition.
Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of exercise and sedentary lifestyle also contributes to deposition of fat in the body.
Childbirth: Childbirth and pregnancy affect the abdominal muscles and increases the chances of belly fat.
According to Ayurveda, imbalance in kapha dosha is responsible for belly fat. This dosha is aggravated by consumption of sweet, oily and heavy foods.
Why is Belly Fat so hard to get rid of?
Putting on belly fat is easy, but getting rid of it is quite a challenge. Burning off fat accumulated in arms and thighs is relatively easier as the body favors these areas when it comes to burning calories. This implies that the body loses fat from these regions first, while fat burning in the belly region commences only later.
The reason for belly fat being so hard to lose is that it is visceral fat, located deep under the skin. Losing belly fat requires you to burn calories with exercise, and be careful about what and how much you consume.
Hormones also play an important role in accumulation of belly fat. Cortisol, which is the stress hormone, is secreted during stressful situations and this disrupts several normal physiological mechanisms in your body, including metabolism of fats. A slowdown in metabolic rate leads to accumulation of fat in the belly area.
Also, in menopausal women, there is a drop in the levels of hormone called estrogen, which alters the body's fat reserves, making the abdomen more susceptible to accumulation of visceral fat. Moreover, hormonal imbalance during menopause can lead to hunger pangs and sleep disorders, which can increase the chances of weight gain.
How to Get Rid of Belly Fat Naturally?
Ayurveda follows a three-pronged approach to weight-loss – Diet modification, regular physical exercise and treatment with herbs that fine-tune the physiological processes governing weight gain.
Exercises of the abdominal region such as sit-ups and crunches help tone up muscles, but hardly affect the fat deposits. Conversely, aerobics, brisk walking, dancing and cycling may be beneficial. Weight training may raise metabolic rate and help burn off visceral fat. At Wellscience we recommend the EEE (Exhaustive Exhalation Exercise) technique to burn excessive abdominal fat.
Trans-fat is the major culprit for deposition of fat in the abdominal region. It is found in packaged foods, cookies, pastries and fried foods. On the other hand, MUFAs (mono-unsaturated fatty acids) found in olive oil, nuts and seeds act as fat busters. Sugar and salt play a key role in increasing visceral fat.
One should have more fiber-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables as they can regulate blood glucose levels and shrink fat cells. Drinking plenty of water is also beneficial to flush out excess fats from the body and it also satiates appetite, reducing cravings for food. Use of spices such as ginger, cinnamon and pepper can regulate blood sugar and also boost metabolism.
One of the most effective herbs for weight loss is Vrikshamla (Garcinia cambogia). Hydroxycitric Acid (HCA), the active ingredient in Garcinia cambogia extract has been shown to help suppress appetite and reduce fat accumulation in the body. Pure Garcinia cambogia extract can help lower cholesterol levels and improve the body’s ability to burn fat, a finding corroborated by scientific research.
Other herbs that have been proven to support weight managment are: Piper nigrum (kali mirch), Zingiber officinale (Sonth), Tribulus terrestris (Gokshur) and Piper longum (Pipali).
One should try out de-stressing techniques such as meditation and yoga in addition to regular exercise and balanced diet. Getting plenty of sleep is equally important. One should, however avoid sleeping during daytime.
Natural weight management is a combination of several factors that you need to incorporate into your lifestyle. It requires discipline but also yields visible results.