Belly Fat In Men: Why It’s More Dangerous Than Ever

obese man eating whole pizza( — Two-thirds of African American men are over weight or obese. But this is one case where following the crowd is not the best idea, because extra weight—especially belly fat—can be risky. And while women often put on extra pounds in the hips, thighs and legs, men are much more likely to gain belly fat.

Why You Need to Lose It

Although the link between belly fat and health is not entirely clear, experts do know that people with a lot of belly fat are at higher risk of health problems than are people who accumulate fat in other areas—and men are more likely than women to put on weight around the waist.

You may think that belly fat is limited to the stuff out front that you can grab with your hand—but it’s the fat you can’t see that’s really a cause for concern. Visceral fat lies deeper inside the abdomen, surrounding the abdominal organs.

Gaining this type of fat has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other health problems. Subcutaneous fat, located between the skin and the abdominal wall, is more visible but also less likely to be a health risk.

Our bodies are designed to store fat for release during times when there is not enough food. But when we put on weight and never have these lean times, fat cells begin to release fat molecules into the blood at a higher rate. This affects normal metabolism and the way the body uses insulin. These metabolic changes can worsen or increase your risk of health problems, including:

• Heart disease
• Some type of cancers
• Diabetes
• Metabolic Syndrome
• Gall bladder problems
• High blood pressure
• Sleep apnea
• Abnormal lipids—High triglycerides and low HDL (good cholesterol)
• Insulin resistance

Age and Belly Fat

Men tend to put on more belly fat as they get older. While some men struggle with weight their whole life, a lot of men start to notice their increasing waistline in their 30s— and gradually put on pounds as the years go by. For many men, the eating and exercise habits that kept them thin in their youth are just not enough to keep the weight off as they get older. The solution? As you get older, you have to change the way you eat and how active you are to stay slim or loose weight.

Fight Back the Bulge

The only tried-and-true method to lose fat of any kind is to:

Reduce the amount of calories you take in. You can do this by eating smaller amounts of food, or stick to foods that have fewer calories.

Burn fat by making physical activity part of your daily routine. (This must be above what you already do especially if your work is that of a physical nature.)

To accomplish the above two fat-fighting goals:

1. Include a MUFA at every meal

Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs for short) come from the health oils found in plant foods such as olives, nuts and avocado. MUFAs have been linked to overall weight loss in studies published in the British Journal of Nutrition, which found that a MUFA-rich diet helped lose small amounts of weight and body fat without changing their calorie intake. Another report found that a breakfast high in MUFas could boost calorie burn for 5 hours after the meal, particularly in people with higher amounts of belly fat.

However, it’s the additional health benefits that make this type of dietary fat so unique. Not only can it prevent and control type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk or heart disease ( by lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and boosting the good HDL), but a Italian study found that the diets high in MUFAs  from nuts and olive oil also helped reduce markers for inflammation, a known trigger for aging and disease.

2. Have a Clear Calorie Goal

Consume four 400 calorie meals a day (at the same time each day). Significant weight loss requires calorie control and consistency. For the average women 1600 calories per day is ideal because it’s low enough to create weight loss while maintaining energy and preserving calorie-burning muscle.

3. Eat Often

Have a meal every 4- 5 hours to help control your blood sugar and hunger and keep your metabolism in high gear

4. Understand The Right Way to Think

What you put in your mouth is only half the equation. The other is your attitude toward food and eating. Put these tips into practice.

5. Manage Stress

This emotion causes a spike in the hunger-stimulation hormone cortisol, sending you straight for the sweets. And when cortisol is high, extra calories are deposited directly as belly fat.

6. Ask For Help

Among people who have lost weight and kept it off, 70 % reported having strong social support, compared with only 38% of those who lost and regain weight. Recruit others to join you (or encourage you).

7. Beat Emotional Eating

Keep a food diary, but don’t just record what and how much you eat. Journaling about your feelings can help you identify what triggers you to eat and why, so you can break unhealthy habits for good. The saying goes a flat stomach is made in the kitchen not the gym!

Exercising to Burn Belly Fat

While calorie intake is the main cause of stomach fat, it’s only half the equation of the solution. The other half is exercise to lose stomach fat.
Most people are familiar with crunches and sit-ups those exercise that specifically target your midsection. The down side is these exercises don’t directly help you lose belly fat. They build up your abdominals underneath the fat.

You’ll want to concentrate on exercises that will burn belly fat, and build lean muscle. Building muscle at the same time you’re burning fat is a true “secret” to loosing belly fat. Routines such as circuit training, aerobics and other combo body work outs will do this for you.

How To Break Your Worst Eating Habits

bowl of fresh fruit( — A few too many sodas, a little too much candy…there are just so many temptations that are readily available to destroy just about anyone’s healthy eating goals, right? Well, thankfully, bad eating habits actually can be broken.

Let’s identify common bad eating habits, as well as easy solutions to help you eat better every day:

The Perpetual Snacker

The problem: You may end up overeating. A healthy snack or two between meals is fine. Snacks can keep blood sugar steady as well as allow you to rack up more servings of fruits and vegetables. “It’s when you snack in place of eating real meals that you’re more likely to lose track of how much you’re eating,” says Tara Gidus, R.D., an Orlando, Florida–based spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Of course, what you eat matters, too. Typical snack foods (chips, cookies, pretzels) aren’t that nutritious or satisfying, so it’s easy to overdo them.

The solution:
To keep your energy up and hunger at bay, allow yourself two snacks a day of 100 to 300 calories each. “Rather than a cookie or a candy bar, opt for something that feels like real food?half of a small sandwich, whole-grain crackers with cheese, a handful of nuts, baby carrots with hummus, or yogurt sprinkled with cereal,” says Gidus. Click here for more low-calorie snacks.

The Mindless Muncher

The problem: Television makes people particularly prone to spaced-out eating. In fact, “folks who eat while watching the tube take in 20 to 60 percent more than if they are focused on their food,” according to Brian Wansink, a professor of marketing at Cornell University and the author of Mindless Eating (Bantam, $11,

The solution: Figure out which situations trigger mindless eating for you, then consciously make an effort to eat only when you’re fully engaged. If you need a few snacks, set limits on what you’ll eat. Dole out a single serving before you sit down on the couch, or delay your snack until you can pay attention. Minimize damage by dipping into low-cal foods, such as cut vegetables, air-popped popcorn, rice crackers, and whole-grain cereal.

The Mood Eater

The problem: It may be soothing in the moment, but feeding your fears and frustrations, instead of confronting them, can lead to a cycle of more bad moods as well as steady weight gain. Many people turn to carbohydrates, in particular, which produce tryptophan, a type of amino acid that is used by the brain to manufacture serotonin. “When the brain makes more serotonin, your mood improves, but only temporarily,” says Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., a coauthor of The Serotonin Power Diet (Rodale Books, $25,

The solution:
Stop to think about what’s bothering you before reflexively open the cupboard. Then try a nonfood mood booster, such as taking a walk, seeing a movie, or calling a friend. “If nothing but carbs will do, get the serotonin boost without triggering a binge,” says Gidus. “Opt for a whole-grain treat so at least you get more fiber and less sugar.”

The Weekend Guzzler

The problem: It is possible to undo five days of good with regular weekend free-for-alls. In 2004, data from the National Weight Control Registry revealed that people who were consistent in their weekly eating habits, even if they weren’t perfect, were 1.5 times more likely to stay within five pounds of their weight over one year than were those who were vigilant on weekdays only.

The solution: Since much socializing around food takes place on weekends, it pays to strategize. “Have a mini meal before you go out to help you have more self-control, and offer to be the designated driver to limit alcohol intake,” says Gidus. (Alcohol has more calories than you probably think). And don’t restrict yourself so severely Monday through Friday that the weekend feels like your only time for indulgence.

The Processed-Food Junkie

The problem: Packaged foods, like soups, frozen meals, and rice mixes, can be sneaky sources of unhealthy fats, sugar, salt, and excess calories. Even a can of (otherwise virtuous) low-fat soup can contain more than half a day’s worth of sodium.

The solution:
Don’t feel guilty about relying on packaged foods; just be smart about which ones you choose. Frozen entrées?especially lower-calorie, lower-sodium versions?can provide a quick, portion-controlled meal. Compare labels to find the healthiest ones?that is, those that are higher in fiber and lower in salt and that have whole grains and nutrient-rich vegetables at the top of their ingredient lists. Frozen vegetables, cooked chicken, and a whole-grain rice mix can kick off a healthy almost-home-cooked meal, particularly when you serve them with fresh vegetables or a leafy green salad. Finish with a piece of fruit or low-fat yogurt for dessert.

The On-The-Go Gulper

The problem: Eating while on the go (driving, walking down the street, shopping) means you’re probably not paying much attention to what’s going into your mouth. Leslie Bonci, R.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, says this “grab, gulp, and go mentality” can leave you dissatisfied and unsure of what you ate, and sometimes even give you an upset stomach.

The solution:
Build time to eat into your day. “If you have to, schedule it on your BlackBerry, just like you do everything else,” says Krieger. When you have no option but to dine while dashing, be prepared. Stock your purse, glove compartment, or office drawer with a few healthy choices, such as low-fat granola bars, nuts and dried fruit, and single-serving packages of crackers. “Even fast-food restaurants are offering healthier, satisfying choices, like salads and wraps with crunchy vegetables and lean meats,” says Bonci.

The Speedy Eater

The problem:
Gulping food may set you up for stomach troubles. “You take in excess air, which can lead to bloating,” says Bonci. You also might not be chewing well. “Saliva begins to break food down, and too little time in the mouth leaves more work for the rest of the digestive tract. This may contribute to indigestion,” says Krieger. Finally, speed-eating doesn’t give the brain time to catch up to the stomach; it needs at least 20 minutes to get the message that your stomach is full. A recent study found that women who ate a meal in 30 minutes ate 10 percent fewer calories compared with those who wolfed one down in barely 10.

The solution:
Slow down. Avoid finger foods, and instead choose items you have to put on a plate and eat with utensils, such as stir-fries and salads. Pause often, and drink water throughout meals.

The Breakfast Ignorer

The problem:
You’ll probably have a lousy morning, as well as a higher chance of overeating later on. “Blood sugar usually drops overnight, so your brain is running on empty until you eat in the morning,” says Krieger. Studies have shown that cognitive skills and memory improve once you’ve fueled your foggy morning brain. Recent research shows that breakfast skippers tend to eat more calories during the day than do people who don’t skip. Eating breakfast may actually help you achieve and maintain weight loss.

The solution:
Breakfast doesn’t have to be a drawn-out affair, but try to eat about an hour or two after you get up. “Aim for 250 to 400 calories, and include at least one serving of whole grains, a source of protein, and one serving of fruit,” says Gidus. If you’re habitually short on time, stock the kitchen with easy-to-make breakfast foods, keep packets of oatmeal at the office, or place a standing order at a café so you can make a pickup on your way to work.

The Sugar Monster

The problem: A package of candy may give you a burst of energy, but then you’ll be smacked down by a post-sugar slump. What’s more, “a sugary snack is usually empty calories, providing few of the nutrients you need,” says Ellie Krieger, R.D., host of the Food Network’s Healthy Appetite. This, she says, may explain why it’s possible to be both obese and undernourished.

The solution: You don’t have to go off the sweet stuff completely?just find some good substitutions now and then. Unsweetened dried fruit (like tart cherries or mangoes), peanut M&M’s (a little protein mixed with sugar can help fend off the energy dip), and even a handful of lightly sweetened whole-grain cereal are all good swaps for candy or cookies. And since added sugar sneaks its way into many foods?including bread, cereal, and yogurt?read labels and seek out versions of your favorites with less sugar. Buy unsweetened drinks and add your own sugar. (Presweetened iced tea can contain as much as 10 to 12 teaspoons per bottle.) Or opt for sugar-free.