As we get older, our body fat tends to increase, and usually the increase is around your midsection. A growing pot belly not only makes it difficult to zip a pair of jeans, but it's also not good for your health. Tummy fat may contribute to health problems, but you can lose the belly and improve your overall health by following a healthy diet and exercise plan.
What is Belly Fat?
The two types of fat in your body are subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat is the fat you can pinch. And, in addition to contributing to your pot belly, this type of fat is also the fat on your hips and butt.
However, visceral fat is the primary contributor to your growing mid-section. This type of fat is found deep in your abdominal area, surrounding your vital organs. Visceral fat is linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer in women and gallbladder problems. While extra fat anywhere on your body is no good for your health, visceral fat is especially concerning.
Portion Control to Get Rid of a Pot Belly
It's actually easier to lose belly fat than the fat around your hips and butt, says the Harvard School of Public Health. Gaining control over the portions of food you eat is a good place to start when trying to reduce the size of your gut because it helps reduce your total calorie intake. Use the nutrition facts label to help you determine an appropriate portion of food, and measure your portion using a measuring cup or spoon to help ensure you're eating the proper amount. Always eat from a plate instead of out the box, and use smaller plates and bowls to assist with portion control.
Some foods don't have a Nutrition Facts label, such as meat or produce. A typical portion of meat is 3 ounce, which is about the size of a deck of cards. A small piece of fruit or a 1/2 cup of a vegetables is equal to one serving and is about the size of a 60-watt light bulb.
You can save a lot of calories by eating the appropriate portion. For example, a healthy serving of pasta with sauce is about 1 cup and contains 265 calories. A restaurant portion may have as much as 4 cups of pasta, which translates into more than 900 calories.
Food Choices to Help Trim a Pot Belly
The food you choose is as important as portion control when you're trying to trim your middle. Fill your plate with more complex carbs such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins such as fish, poultry, beans, soy and low-fat dairy and healthy fats such as oil and nuts, instead of refined carbs and foods high in trans and saturated fat. Filling your diet with these healthier foods also helps reduce your calorie intake.
How you prepare your food is also important when looking for ways to shave calories for weight loss. Instead of frying, bake, broil, roast or steam your food. For example, swapping out a plate of 20 french fries for a small baked potato can save you 45 calories.
Eating foods rich in soluble fiber might help too. A 2012 study published in Obesity found that increasing your intake of soluble fiber decreased accumulation of belly fat. The researchers suggest aiming for 10 grams of soluble fiber a day, which means eating more beans, oatmeal, oranges, Brussel sprouts and flaxseeds.
Drink Choices to Trim a Pot Belly
Your drink choices may also contribute to a growing pot belly. Drinks like soda, sweet tea, fruit juice and alcohol are a concentrated source of calories. Instead, drink water, club soda, unsweetened tea or coffee or sugar-free drinks. Swapping a cup of sweet tea for a cup of unsweetened iced tea or a cup of regular soda for a club soda with lemon can save you more than 100 calories.
If you're not a fan of plain water, create your own spa water adding slices of cucumber and mint leaves or slices of oranges, lemon and lime to your glass.
Sample Meal Plan
A belly-trimming breakfast might include 1 cup of oatmeal made with 1 cup of nonfat milk, a handful of fresh blueberries and 1 tablespoon of flaxseed with a 6-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. For lunch, try a 6-inch whole-wheat pita stuffed with 1/4 cup of hummus, bean sprouts and shredded carrots with a fresh orange and a bowl of vegetable bean soup. A 4-ounce serving of grilled salmon with 1 cup of roasted sweet potatoes and 1 cup of roasted Brussel sprouts makes a nutrient-rich, low-calorie dinner to help you get rid of your pot belly.
Don't forget healthy snacks. Good options include a small handful of almonds or walnuts, a fresh apple, a small bowl of unsweetened whole-grain cereal with nonfat milk or baby carrots with Greek yogurt dip.
Exercise to Get Rid of a Pot Belly
Sit-ups alone won't get you the belly you want, but regular aerobic and strength-training exercises might. The 2014 Obesity study also found that moderately active people were less likely to get a pot belly. Aim for 30 minutes to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise most days of the week to help you trim the fat and lose the belly. Strength-training is also an important part of an all-around healthy lifestyle to help get rid of the pot belly; it should be conducted twice a week, engaging most major muscle groups. If your doctor gives the okay for you to exercise, consult a personal trainer or other exercise expert to help devise a safe, appropriate fitness plan.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- International Journal of Obesity: What Is the Role of Portion Control in Weight Management?
- KidsHealth: Keeping Portions Under Control
- Obesity: Lifestyle Factors and 5-Year Abdominal Fat Accumulation in a Minority Cohort: The IRAS Family Study
- Today's Dietitian: A Soluble Fiber Food Primer
- University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture: The Exchange List System for Diabetic Meal Planning
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- Wichita State University: Household Items
- Texas Christian University: Average Portion Sizes of Pasta From Italian Casual Dining Restaurants in Tarrant County
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database: Beverages, Tea, Black, Ready-to-Drink, Lemon, Sweetened