What’s the one area of the body most people are unsatisfied with the most? There’s a very good chance most will say their waistline. Why? Both men and women who carry excess weight from the hips up known as excess belly fat (called visceral fat), can accumulate with age creating serious health risks, even if you are only mildly overweight.
Why an out-of-shape waistline can harm your health
This is not about vanity; this is about your long-term health and why visceral fat, packed deep inside your abdomen, below the layer of subcutaneous fat just underneath the skin, is harming your health. Visceral fat, intertwined with and surrounding important abdominal organs such as the intestines, pancreas, and liver, is setting the stage and pulling the trigger for the development of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Excess belly fat also takes a toll on your back and posture. The excess weight strains your back muscles and ligaments, causing back pain. Even the spine is affected. When you are able to stand up with proper posture, your stand with your chest out and your chin up, while your stomach is tucked in and you should have a slight curve in your lower back keeping your hips straight. But excess abdominal visceral fat can lead to an unnatural curvature causing your neck to bend forward and your head to lean over your chest instead of upright between your shoulders.
How to trim your waistline
You can’t spot-reduce your waist or any part of your body. Doing crunches will strengthen your abdominal muscles, but to lose inches around your waist, takes a multipronged approach. For it to be successful, you need to focus on shrinking visceral fat.
First, it’s important to know what your current waistline measurements are. All you need is a cloth tape measure and the following instructions to accurately measure it:
- Start at the top of your hip bone, then bring the tape measure all the way around your body, level with your belly button.
- Make sure it’s not too tight and that it’s straight, even at the back. Don’t hold your breath while measuring.
- Check the number on the tape measure right after you exhale.
For your best health, your waist should be less than 40 inches around for men and less than 35 inches for women. If it’s larger than that, you may want to talk with your doctor about what you’re next steps should be to reduce it.
Now that you know what your waistline measurement is, it’s time to work on the following steps leading you to a slim and trim waistline:
This should be no surprise as one of the best moves to burn off calories and trim your waistline is with becoming more physically active. Do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity five or more days each week. Better yet, aim to get 45 to 60 minutes of exercise each day. Even if you don’t lose weight, you are still losing visceral fat as well as gaining muscle mass and core strength. Examples of aerobic exercise include brisk walking, bicycling, jogging, swimming, hiking, playing tennis or basketball.
This means strength training or lifting weights. You do not need to lift heavy weights; even using free weights of five to ten pounds helps whittle away your waistline as you burn calories. Other types of resistance training include using exercise bands, exercise stationary machines (typically what is found at fitness gyms or centers) or using your own body weight by doing push-ups or pull-ups.
Choose carbs wisely and eat more fiber
Carbohydrate choices matter and that means bypassing simple, highly processed and refined carbs – sugary beverages, cakes, cookies, pies, pastries, sugary breakfast cereals or cereal/granola bars, chips, and crackers. Instead, choose unprocessed, natural complex carbohydrates high in fiber such as whole fruits and vegetables, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
Avoid foods containing high fructose corn syrup
Of all foods to avoid, foods containing high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener commonly added to many foods and beverages to enhance their flavor. But beware – it’s no friend to your waistline. High fructose corn syrup may add inches to waistlines as it can trigger cravings and overeating. Not sure what foods have had high fructose corn syrup added to it? Read the Nutrition Facts Label ingredient list and look for “high fructose corn syrup” in the ingredient listing. Here are examples of foods that commonly contain this additive:
- Pancake syrup
- Fruit preserves, jams, jellies, and fruit syrups
- Candy bars such as Hershey’s cookies ‘N’ cream bars
- Packaged cookies like Oreos
- Packaged sweets like cupcakes (e.g. Hostess cupcakes) and pastries
- All soft drinks and other sugary beverages – lemonades, juice drinks, and sports drinks
- Fast food such as sweet dipping sauces served with chicken nuggets or desserts like McDonald’s Apple Pie a la Mode
- BBQ sauce, ketchup, and other sauces
- Ice cream and ice pops
- Sweetened applesauce
Adults should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Too little sleep or too much both are associated with a greater accumulation of visceral fat. Practice sleep hygiene for your best night’s sleep.
Chronic stress raises your cortisol levels which stimulates the formation of abdominal fat. Make time every day for activities that help with relaxation.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911.