Rid yourself of a stomach apron and fat, flabby belly with sensible dietary and exercise techniques. Your apron is likely a result of omental fat -- deep visceral fat encased in the flap of tissue known as the omentum that covers and supports your intestines. The visceral fat surrounds your internal organs and poses a serious health risk by causing inflammation and increasing the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. The flabby, pinchable belly fat is subcutaneous fat, which lies right under the skin. Both types of fat require significant effort to lose, but because it's metabolically active, visceral fat will reduce a little more quickly. The subcutaneous fat may take a bit more time to reduce.
Addressing Visceral Fat in a Stomach Apron
You can't truly target a specific part of your body for fat loss. Crunches, sit-ups and twists may tone muscle underneath your belly fat, but won't measurably change the amount of fat you have. Visceral fat is unique, however. Because it's metabolically active, it responds quicker than subcutaneous fat to dietary and comprehensive exercise efforts. When you start to lose weight, you may notice the apron appearance and circumference of your belly shrink long before the pinchable flab disappears.
To lose visceral fat, and eventually subcutaneous fat, create a caloric deficit between what you eat and what you burn. Determine your daily calorie needs using an online calculator or a formula or by consulting a dietitian. For every 3,500-calorie deficit, you'll theoretically lose 1 pound. Cut back 250 to 500 calories by eating less and burn another 250 to 500 calories through exercise to create a total 500- to 1,000-calorie deficit that yields 1 to 2 pounds of fat loss per week. For example, if you eat 250 fewer calories and burn 250 calories through exercise each day, you'd lose a pound over a week's time: 500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 calories.
Dietary Changes to Lose Fat
Strive to prepare whole-food meals at home using fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins as much as possible. Low-fat yogurt with oats and fresh berries or eggs with whole-wheat toast and an apple make quality breakfasts. At lunch and dinner, bake, broil or grill lean meat, poultry or fish and serve with green salads, quinoa, steamed vegetables, brown rice or whole-wheat pasta, including small amounts of healthy fats such as extra-virgin olive oil and avocado. Moderate your portion sizes so they don't exceed your daily calorie needs. Watch for hidden calories in creamy dressings, full-fat dairy and syrups.
Reduce, or eliminate, extra calories from foods such as sugar, fried foods, refined grains and soda -- all of which contribute to an expanding belly apron. These foods contain little nutrition but plenty of excess calories that contribute to pinchable belly fat. Choose snacks such as crudite, low-fat cottage cheese or an ounce of raw nuts. Have fresh fruit for dessert and water to drink. Stay accountable by keeping a food diary. Treat yourself to a healthy cookbook for inspiration.
Exercise and Your Belly
Targeted exercises are less important to losing your apron and flabby belly than is a physically active lifestyle. When you lose weight with exercise, most of the initial pounds that disappear are from visceral fat, which helps flatten out your midsection.
Work up to the weekly minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio, such as brisk walking, recommend the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Increase that amount to 250 minutes or more to lose significant weight. Adding in high-intensity interval training may also stimulate greater fat loss than going at a steady pace, notes a paper published in a 2011 issue of the Journal of Obesity. For example, plan a 30-minute treadmill session that involves 10 one-minute intervals at an all-out pace alternated with a low-intensity pace, sandwiched between a 5-minute warmup and cool-down.
Strength training is also essential to your efforts to lose both visceral and subcutaneous belly fat. When you build lean muscle mass, your body burns more calories at rest. This makes weight loss and healthy weight maintenance easier. You won't bulk up with a few sessions per week, but will improve your overall function, health and appearance. Perform one or more exercises for every major muscle groups at least two times weekly.
Subcutaneous Fat Loss
Visceral fat is more responsive to diet and exercise, but these same strategies work to fight subcutaneous fat, too. Your body doesn't discriminate from where it mobilizes subcutaneous fat when you create a calorie deficit, though. It may hold onto the subcutaneous fat in your belly longer than it does abdominal visceral fat or subcutaneous fat in other parts of your body, such as your buttocks, arms and face. How your body loses weight is determined by your genetics. Be diligent and patient with your weight-loss efforts, and you will eventually lose your belly flab along with the apron-like fat.
- Harvard Health Publications: Taking Aim at Belly Fat
- The Royal College of Nursing of the United Kingdom: Body Fat Percentage
- Rush University Medical Center: Is There 'One Trick' to Losing Belly Fat?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Position Stand on Physical Activity and Weight Loss
- Journal of Obesity: High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss
- National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Weight-Loss and Nutrition Myths