By David Saunders | UPDATED: 11:28, 20 April 2020
Are your jeans feeling that bit tighter and you have a ‘muffin top’ sitting prominently on your waistband?
You may want to lose those extra few pounds to feel more confident, but it is also important to realise that belly fat can in fact be dangerous.
Belly fat settles around your organs and can increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and other serious health issues.
We’ve rounded up our top tips to help banish that stubborn weight around the middle.
1. Not much of a sleeping beauty?
Studies have shown that a lack of sleep may cause us to eat 300-400 more calories the next day. And in order to keep energy levels high we tend to choose sugary or starchy quick fixes. Just one extra hour of sleep each night can increase leptin, the hormone which suppresses appetite.
2. You’re addicted to social media
Always checking Facebook and scanning your Instagram feed constantly throughout the day, ring any bells?
A large study found that if participants had a friend who became obese, it then rose their own chance of becoming obese by 57% and scientists suspect that this is because social networking can influence what people perceive as normal and acceptable. For example, if you see your friends getting heavier, then you may be more inclined to feel that is ok if you do too.
Nutritionist, Cassandra Barns looks further into how social media could be encouraging us to pack on the pounds, “I’d say that an addiction to social media could well increase the likelihood of weight gain.
Anyone who’s spending a lot of time on Facebook or Instagram is likely to be less active, and online connections, even for those who have a lot of online ‘friends’, are much less satisfying and fulfilling than real human contact.
This could increase the tendency to comfort eat, to boost levels of ‘feel-good’ chemicals such as serotonin that are lacking as a consequence’.
3. You don’t read food labels
Do you scan the shelves and select ‘gluten free,’ ‘sugar free’ or ‘low fat,’ in the hope that it can help shift those stubborn pounds? Unfortunately, that’s exactly what could be increasing our fat around the middle. If a food or drink is described as ‘low sugar’, ‘slim line’ or ‘diet’, it will usually contain an artificial sweetener.
These sweeteners have been linked to mood swings and depression, and it has been found that people who regularly use artificial sweeteners tend to gain weight because they can slow down the digestive process and increase appetite.
4. Your diet lacks probiotics
Our stomach is made up of good and bad bacteria, called gut flora, which has a controlling influence over many important body functions, including metabolism and fat reduction. However, our lifestyle habits (taking antibiotics, diet high in sugar, stress, alcohol) damage our gut bacteria. So how can we balance it?
A healthy gut is made by limiting the bad bacteria and encouraging good bacteria. ‘Feed the good bacteria with fibrous foods and plenty of probiotics, which you can find in fermented foods (Kombucha tea, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir and apple cider vinegar are all examples of probiotic-rich superfoods that balance your gut flora) or include a supplement in your diet.
ShapeLine from Pro-Ven Probiotics (£29.95) is the first probiotic with proven weight loss and wellness benefits. This probiotic provided weight loss of between 3 and 7lbs, reduction in waist circumference of 1-2 cm and a reduction in BMI by 1-4%.
The results are even more impressive as participants were not placed on a calorie-controlled diet and made no changes to lifestyle or exercise regimes, indicating that all of the weight reduction benefits were as a result of the probiotic.
Alongside impressive weight management results, the ShapeLine study also found that taking one probiotic capsule every day has impressive wellness benefits, which include a massive 40% reduction in upper respiratory tract infections (coughs and colds), 30% reduction in headaches and improved overall wellness.
As a result of these benefits, the ShapeLine group felt better, had more energy and better mood than the group not taking ShapeLine. The added Vitamin C, D and Zinc all help to boost immunity in those taking this probiotic! All while looking after your gut health, can your probiotic do that?
5. Are you an emotional eater?
Emotional eating never resolves the underlying issue and leads to guilt and shame. Always have a list of non-food related self-soothing activities to hand.
By having a relaxing bath, taking a walk or watching your favourite programme, you can lift your mood in a natural and healthy way. Another key to prevent comfort eating, of course, a healthy diet based on whole foods and avoiding processed and junk foods.
This is the best way to give our body the nutrients it needs and keep our blood sugar on an even keel, helping to prevent cravings for more food and the tendency to overeat.
6. You skip the protein
If your diet is lacking in protein then you may be more inclined to go back for seconds. Including protein in your meal helps slow down digestion, leaving you feeling more satisfied and fuller for longer. This in turn can help with weightloss, as you’re less likley to have as many calories.
To ensure you’re getting your daily dose of protein try a plant based protein powder. They are easy to digest and can be kept low-calorie. They can be used to make smoothies or shakes, and also added to savoury foods such as stews and soups. Try Natures Plus Sunflower Protein (£22.50)
7. You cut out all fats from your diet
Fat is an essential part of our diet and should not be avoided. We need to eat the right kind of fats: oily fish, nuts, seeds and seed oils in order to obtain essential omega 3 and 6 fats which are necessary for our health. What we should be avoiding are the processed fa
ts found in junk food and bakery products,
8. You’re constantly snacking
If you feel like you are constantly grazing through out the day, then you are likely to be adding unnecessary calories to your diet. “If you find yourself polishing off a whole packet of cookies, it may be time to eliminate them from your living space.
Processed foods can be highly addictive, so why torture yourself by keeping them within arms reach. If you want to snack, try a handful of almonds. “Almonds are rich in protein and healthy fats, giving you the energy boost you need whilst balancing blood sugar. This snack is exactly what we need to prevent carbohydrate and sugar cravings,” adds Lily.
9. You eat in front of the TV
Do you eat your meals in front of a screen? You can eat up to 70% more if distracted by watching the TV or in a cinema. Research has shown that eating lunch in front of your computer makes it harder to remember what you have eaten and then you don’t feel as full.
As a result, you will then be looking for something else to eat. In one study, computer users then ate twice as many biscuits half an hour later than the non-computer users eating lunch!.
10. You rush through your meals
Meal times shouldn’t be a race to the finish line. Take your time to chew and put your fork down between each bite. Remember it takes time for our bodies to register we are full, the slower we eat the less likely we are to go back for seconds.