Last week I shared the first four proven strategies to reduce belly fat or visceral fat. Remember, this type of fat is different from other types on your body – and definitely more dangerous.
Here are the last six strategies. Remember, you aren’t seeking common strategies for weight loss as these will not remove the fat twisted around your internal organs. Instead, it’s important to support your body function, reduce cortisol secretion and protect your body from producing visceral fat.
Vitamin C is easy to buy, inexpensive and has multiple benefits. It’s a water soluble vitamin that is found naturally in some foods and added to others. Supplements in the store can be in pill or chewable form and it is an essential vitamin because we are not able to manufacture it in the body.
Vitamin C is necessary in the production of collagen (gives your skin that youthful appearance), in boosting your immune system, as an antioxidant to help reduce oxidative stress that leads to cancer and cardiovascular disease, improves the absorption of iron from foods and most recently has been linked to reducing physical and psychological stress.
People who have high levels of vitamin C in their bodies do not have the expected mental and physical signs of stress when subjected to challenges. And, vitamin C plays a role in stabilizing blood sugar levels, which also plays a role in the release of cortisol. [See #6 Glycemic Index below]
The amount of supplementation used in the studies was 1000 mg which is a far cry from the 60 mg recommended by the RDA. However, the RDA recommendations are to prevent scurvy while the 1000 mg dose is for preventive care. Before adding supplementation to your diet check with your physician and pharmacist to be sure that Vitamin C will not interfere with any other underlying medical condition or medication that you may be currently taking.
Vitamin C is found in fresh uncooked fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits and red and green peppers. Vitamin C cannot be found in animal food and is destroyed by heat and exposure to light. Fruits such as papaya, strawberries, broccoli and tomatoes are also high in vitamin C.
Carbohydrates are also necessary to fuel your body, but like all other things, you can get too much of a good thing. Foods that are high in carbohydrates will increase your blood sugar and spike your insulin production. This increases the release of cortisol as well. So, while you may be interested in foods that are low in carbs for dieting, it is actually the reduced production of cortisol that gives you the best bang for your buck when it comes to belly fat.
The glycemic index is actually a numerical value placed on food to indicate the degree to which it will increase your blood sugar and cause insulin production. The lower the glycemic index the lower the blood sugar value to the food.
ALCOHOL & CAFFEINE
There is a relationship between the release of cortisol in the body and alcohol and caffeine consumption. Alcohol stresses your liver, makes you sleepy and robs you of your motivation. It reduces your desire to eat the right foods and you are more tempted to eat and snack on foods that you otherwise wouldn’t.
There is also a relationship between larger amounts of alcohol consumption and activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) which can result in the excretion of cortisol. Researchers found that large amounts of alcohol consumption were associated with activation of the HPA axis in the days following the consumption and not on the day.
Caffeine will have similar results in the body. Repeated dosing of caffeine in a single day will markedly increase cortisol levels, regardless of the stress or sex of the individual. However, research has found that a tolerance develops to the amount of caffeine and reduces the amount of cortisol that is produced. However, they did not account for increasing amounts of caffeine to get the same stimulatory effect and whether that also increased the amount of cortisol secretion.
The take away here is to reduce or eliminate your intake of both alcohol and caffeine to reduce your body’s production of cortisol and reduce your belly fat.
THE FOUR FATS
There are four basic types of fats in the foods we eat . . . trans fat, saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat. And, each of the different types of fat has a different metabolic reaction in the body.
In a study published in Diabetes, researchers found that subjects who ate saturated fats [cheese, pizza, grain based desserts, dairy based dessert, burgers] built more fat and less muscle than those who ate polyunsaturated fats [plant based foods and oils]. The fat composition of the foods we eat influences where and how the fat is stored in the body.
Monounsaturated fats are the healthiest type of fat that you can eat. Your body and brain need fats to function, but you must eat the right kinds of fats. In research published in Diabetes Care, scientists found that people who ate 25% of their fats from monounsaturated fats gained no visceral fat over the course of the study.
Examples of monounsaturated fats include avocadoes, most nuts and seeds, olive oil, canola oil and peanut butter.
Feelings of loneliness and depression can elevate your stress hormones, both long term and short term. Loneliness and depression are symptoms of other parts of your life that are not in balance.
In a study released from Northwestern University, researchers found that adults who went to bed lonely woke up with a boost of cortisol, the stress hormone. In the short term these researchers theorize that the extra release of hormone may give these adults the boost they need to meet the demands of the day.
Unfortunately, this is true only on a short term basis. When we go to bed lonely and depressed more nights than not, it only chronically elevates our cortisol levels and then triggers the deposits of visceral fat.
If you are experiencing loneliness in your life it’s time to take action!
Join an exercise group.
Join a reading club.
Meet up with friends at a coffee house.
Join a gym and take classes.
Join the YMCA and take crafting classes.
Do volunteer work.
Join church group.
Volunteer at your church.
The more you get out and experience life outside of yourself, the faster you’ll meet people and reduce your loneliness. If you have feelings of sadness or depression that won’t go away with a good night sleep or visit with friends, strongly consider exploring the reasons why with a good psychotherapist. It could be just what your belly fat needs!
Herbal supplements have been used for centuries to do everything from cure the common cold to lowering blood pressure. Reducing stress levels and cortisol levels is not different.
Specific herbs have been used to help you balance and protect your body responses to many different kinds of stressors. But, although herbs are natural, they are not inert or inactive. This means that there can be interactions with any other drugs, medications or supplements you are taking. So before adding anything to your regimen you must talk with both your doctor about any underlying medical conditions and your pharmacist about any drug interactions.
Ginseng is the best known herb to help improve mental performance and reduce stress. Ashwaganda is also known as Indian ginseng and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 2500 years. It also helps to reduce your cortisol levels and deal with stress in your life.
Other herbs that help to buffer stress are Astragalus, Holy Basil, Rhodiola, Valerian and chamomile and lemon balm tea. Each of these herbal supplements have advocates and detractors. The important thing for you to do is your homework!
Take the advice of friends, relatives, homeopathic physicians and chiropractors – BUT do your own research into the effectiveness and side effects of the herbs before starting anything.
The only person responsible for your health is you.
You have to make the decisions about what you take and what you do in order to make changes in your lifestyle.
Now, it’s time to review the 10 different strategies you should use to reduce your belly fat, your blood sugar spikes and your health risks to achieve a new, leaner and more energetic you.
Make a list of things you need to do every day and then do them! These are small things that make big differences.
- Stress reducing practices
- Lots of water.
- 30 minutes of exercise a day.
- 8 hours of sleep.
- Vitamin C supplement
- Foods low in glycemic index.
- Reduce alcohol and caffeine.
- Monounsaturated fats in your diet.
- Get out and make friends.
- Consider herbal supplements.