Beat The Belly Bulge : Part 1
We all know that in the real world, perfection is rarely attainable. But in our fantasy worlds many of us, most of us, yearn for a washboard stomach - toned, tight, and, well, pretty perfect. Problem is our lifestyles and eating habits don’t help, but living a life more disciplined than the Dalai Lama is just not practical. Exercise more, eat properly - it’s too much effort. Nah!
Sometimes our stomachs look bigger due to bloating, sometimes it’s just plain fat magnetically attracted to our middle. Abdominal bloating not only looks bad but can also cause physical discomfort, and plain old fat is bad for our hearts and health. And there is positively nothing less sexy than an overhang tumbling listlessly over your sexy jeans.
With bloating, we’re talking about temporary abdominal distention that affects us all from time to time, particularly around periods or menopause. Unless the bloating is caused by a medical condition such as liver or heart disease, the only real cause intestinal gas, not ‘water weight’, say the experts at the Mayo Clinic.
Stomach fat is very different, and the most unwelcome visitor, stubbornly clinging to just about every woman, and man, I know. To follow, top tips which are not too strenuous, to help beat the bulge.
It’s a fact, salt makes your stomach bloat. If you have to use salt at all make sure it’s natural sea salt or kosher salt which is lower in sodium. The taste of salt is addictive, so you need to wean yourself off. Try to substitute salt with other spices or more pepper. Cayenne pepper is particularly good as it boosts the metabolism.
Use less sugar
We all know too much white sugar is bad for you. So if you must have sugar get it naturally from fruit. Substitute honey wherever possible, my favourite being Manuka, the healthiest of all.
We all get hungry, especially during the cold winter months. But, every time you want to pile a small mountain of comforting, calorific food on to your plate, or take a second helping, cup your hands together and say “I will not eat more than this”. Usually, the size of your two hands cupped together is the size of your stomach. In any three hours your digestive system can’t digest more than this amount. So portion control is the mantra, ‘flat stomach, flat stomach, flat stomach’.
Good fats and bad fats
Policing your portions doesn’t mean that you can eat the wrong foods.
Steer clear of saturated fats, those you find in some margarines and also butter and cheese. Replace these with vegetable fats and oils, like olive and sunflower, both rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids.
When it comes to choosing fats, monounsaturated fatty acids found in avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, soya beans, olive and rapeseed oils, are amongst the best choices. Coupled with a calorie-controlled diet, they can help shift belly fat and also have tangible health benefits.
But we should not forget that these are still fats. They are not heat seeking missiles capable of targeting belly fat, and with nine calories per gram, they have twice the calorific content of carbohydrates and proteins, which have four calories per gram. Feasting is not an option.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that a calorie-controlled diet rich in wholegrains helped reduce fat from the waistlines of obese subjects. Another bonus is that they are high in fibre, so they’re good grains all round.
Crazy about almonds
According to a study in the International Journal of Obesity (love these studies), people who nibbled on almonds, (about 70 a day), lost inches from their waists. But we are talking about obesity here, so losses for those of us who are not obese are likely to be more modest. Almonds are also a high source of protein, contain good fat, and are great for your skin. Keep it simple, and avoid the salted or honeyed ones.
Good news for us “chocaholics.” Yes, there is some. 170 calories for 28 grams is all the rationalization I need for satiating my desire for chocolate, but it has to be of the dark variety. So, dark chocolate rules.
Danish researchers, may they be blessed, claim that eating dark chocolate lessens the appetite at your next meal. Apparently, the compounds in dark chocolate slow down digestion and can actually make you feel fuller, longer. A piece of dark chocolate the size of a credit card can also curb your cravings for fatty and salted foods. So, start training your taste buds to give up sugary milk chocolate and move the dark side.
Don’t do it, it’s a simple as that. Carbonated drinks, even the diet variety, can cause trapped gas in your stomach. Packed with sugar or artificial sweeteners, they are verboten for anyone who suffers from bloating or is committed to project ‘flat stomach’. Bad for digestion and circulation, and associated with a variety of health issues, opt for water to flush and maintain a healthy system. Sex the water up a little by adding a slice of lemon or some mint. Peppermint tea, served hot or cold, aids digestion and helps reduce stomach bloat.
Blueberries taste delicious and they come with benefits – helping to stave off belly fat and they’re packed with antioxidants. Mix them with plain, unsweetened, probiotic yoghurt which is good for your overall health, and specifically for your digestion and bones.
It’s the word on everyone’s lips from London to LA – Coconut. You can barely sashay your way around the urban landscape without having to swerve to avoid a coconut laden drink or cosmetic preparation. Of course the Brazilians are no strangers to the innumerable health benefits of the coconut and its oil, and they use it for almost everything. As a body balm, face moisturizer, cleanser and to remove make-up. They drink it, cook with it – you get the picture. A few tablespoons of pure coconut oil, preferably organic and unprocessed, of course, can trim more inches from the waistline than diet and exercise alone. It tastes delicious and is the oil of choice for cooking healthily.
Try and eat half an avocado a day. This amount contains about 10 grams of monounsaturated fatty acids, which are known to halt blood sugar spikes. Sugar spikes? Well they’re the nasty spikes that tell your body to store fat around your stomach. Eat in small servings without overdoing it.
That’s not all. Stay with the programme and I’ll have more tips on Project Flat Stomach shortly…