We all have belly fat. Every single person reading this article right now has subcutaneous belly fat, or the pinchable kind. Even people with completely chiseled bodies who look like they just fell off a page from Muscle magazine have small amounts of subcutaneous fat. But I don't want to dig into subcutaneous fat today. Nope! Today it's all about visceral fat - the fat that's around our organs and beneath our ribs. I want to jump right into the belly fat inflammation connection.
By the time you finish reading this article, I want you to easily understand the connection between the fat deep inside your belly and chronic inflammation.
I also want you to have a good idea of what you can do to start getting rid of it - today!
Belly Fat & Inflammation
Two types of inflammation you should know
Inflammation is known by two different types: acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation is good and helpful. It's the redness around a paper cut, the swelling after you sprain an ankle, and the pain you feel when you have a sore throat. Acute inflammation is your body's built-in defensive team that goes to work when you need immediate attention.
Acute inflammation can last from a few days to several weeks. After your body is well on the way to feeling good again, acute inflammation packs up and heads home until it's needed again.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, likes to pack a couple of suitcases and make itself at home for a while. It's like an unwelcome roommate that trashes your home, eats your food, and makes your life hell. Chronic inflammation affects your body on a cellular level and puts your body on high alert 24/7, 365 days a year.
Chronic inflammation happens when the body perceives it's under constant attack due to conditions like arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, an acute injury that goes untreated for far too long, or even visceral belly fat.
How Belly Fat & Inflammation Play Off Each Other
Things can get out of control if you develop too much deep belly fat.
Research has shown that deep belly fat releases harmful molecules that promote even more inflammation which causes more belly fat. The connection between belly fat and inflammation can quickly become a vicious circle.
Let's recap that last sentence:
- You develop belly fat (visceral fat)
- Belly fat sends out molecules that say "bring on the inflammation"
- Your body starts feeling the inflammation in some way
- Inflammation triggers more belly fat
- Things keep moving in this cycle until you stop it. If it goes unchecked, eventually inflammation begins damaging your body in very serious ways.
The top five reasons people start to gain visceral fat are:
- Lack of Exercise/Activity
The upside: losing belly fat is easier than you realize, and that fat loss naturally reduces inflammation.
The downside: people usually lack the patience to lose weight in a sustained way, desire to eat the right foods, or willpower not to indulge when they're stressed, out with friends, celebrating the holidays, etc. Sometimes, they have all that it takes, except knowing which foods to eat and which to avoid.
How Can You Lose Inflammatory Belly Fat?
A vast majority of my clients over the past 15+ years put weight on through their midsection because of the foods they were eating. The underlying reason for eating wrong might be due to stress, a crazy work schedule, not being able to get back into a routine after raising a couple of children, wonky hormones, etc. All of that and more. I've worked with all of those people.
Before you can get your nutrition or diet house in order, you need to address the underlying life habits that stop you from eating as healthy as you could, and learn how to manage them. Stress eating won't stop until you face the stressor that's making you walk back into the kitchen 20 times looking for something to eat. Telling yourself you'll meal plan better for next week's crazy work week won't change unless you actually sit down and make the plan.
Don't underestimate this step. You can't just wave a magic wand or follow some fad diet that swears off carbs for three weeks to change years of habits that are just waiting for you to meet them eye to eye.
Get into your headspace. I'm absolutely confident that you can lose inflammatory belly fat, but how confident are you? There is no doubt it is possible to reverse the effects of inflammation triggered by belly fat, but you've got to make some changes to do that.
After you address the issues in Step 1, write down exactly what you want to change in your life.
A few common changes include:
- I will make most of my meals at home instead of eating out all the time.
- I will keep healthy snacks in my refrigerator so I don't eat junk when I'm hungry.
- I will stop eating after dinner.
- I will have three (3) go-to snacks when I feel like I'm going to start stress-eating. Those snacks are (1, 2, 3).
- I will not eat fried food.
- I will stop eating the leftovers off of my kids' plates.
- I will plan 3 to 5 healthy meals for this week with enough for leftovers.
Set the goal. Where do you see yourself in six weeks? I like six weeks because it's a good amount of time to make a new habit, serious progress can be made and it's not so long that you lose motivation.
I highly recommend that your goal be based around inches, not pounds - especially for inflammatory belly fat. Go buy a measuring tape and write down your baseline measurement. Every week from that point on write another measurement.
Make the change. Your first week or so I want you to be rockin'. Yes, you might have cravings for foods that you would normally allow yourself. It's not easy denying yourself something that offers you immediate gratification. After all, we're human.
I don't know who wrote this, but I love this phrase: If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you.
The change you want to make is both mental and physical. Step 3 needs your mental toughness. You've got it, but you may need to dig a little to get there.
Stick with it.
Here's a common scenario: Julia wanted to lose belly fat, so she cleaned up her diet, made a huge effort, and made some serious changes. The inches came off around her belly. She felt amazing. Then she went on vacation, or out of town for work, or to a wedding or...I could go on and on.
It's easy to fall off the wagon, friends. Keep your eye on the prize and be a food snob. Your not cheap and easy, and your foods shouldn't be either.
You're probably wondering what you should eat, right? Everyone is a different, depending on what their lifestyle is like, their activity level, their motivation level, etc., which I why I try to get everyone who is serious about losing belly fat to consider my coaching services, but if you want a few quick and helpful resources to get you on the right track, here are a few places to start:
- The 12 Best Foods for Inflammation
- 50 Healthy Foods for People on a Budget
- The Belly Burn Snack Attack List (download)
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