Nobody wants the belly fat. But there are lots of things you need to know about belly fat. The great thing about belly fat is that the better you get to know it, the easier it is to make it vanish. Digest these stomach-flattening facts.

1. Stress makes you fat. The stress triggers the release of cortisol, a stress hormone. When stress becomes unrelenting, the omentum attempts to control cortisol flow by sucking it out of the bloodstream. Nice try, but cortisol fights back once it’s in the omentum and turbocharges fat there. That sets off other chemical reactions that leave you feeling hungry. . . and looking for the Haagen-Dazs again. Fortunately, any kind of stress reduction, especially exercise, will help short-circuit this stress / fat cycle. Feeling tense right now? Go for a walk the minute you finish this column.

2. All fat is not alike. Eat more calories than you burn and the extras get packed away in one of two places – a long-term storage depots beneath the skin (subcutaneous fat) or short-term bins deep in the abdomen (visceral fat). Visceral fat is what we call omental fat – that is, fat in your omentum, a piece of webbing that hangs off your stomach just beneath your ab muscles, sort of like a mesh apron.

3. Fat you do not see is the most dangerous. The soft, superficial stuff that ripples your thighs and tummy may be a bikini spoiler, but if you can pinch it, it probably will not kill you. However, if you have a solid “beer belly”. That’s because too much deep fat churns out supersize amounts of hormones and proteins, which can lead to big hazards. Among them: lousy LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels; high blood sugar and blood pressure; insulin resistance; and widespread inflammation. All are instigators of many diseases – including dementia, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

4. Whole grains scare away belly fat. If you and a friend go on a diet but you eat whole grains (meaning brown rice, steel-cut oats, and whole-wheat pasta, not whole-grain Pop Tarts) and your friend eats processed grains (anything made with white / enriched grains and flours, cupcakes to noodles), you both might lose the same amount of weight, but you’ll shed more belly fat and lower your levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of damaging inflammation. And your food will taste better, and you’ll feel full longer. AND you’ll have a flat stomach!

5. Blasting belly fat is not hard. If you’re not overweight but still have an oversized waist, the fastest way to shrink your omentum is by walking. Taking a brisk 30-minute walk each day will keep those fat cells from expanding. Pick up the pace some, walk a little longer, and you can give your omentum a makeover, turning a flabby apron of omental fat into sheer mesh again. After 30 days of walking, start doing resistance exercises as well to add muscle and lose inches – otherwise you’ll hit a plateau.

6. Fat you eat affects the fat you get. When monkeys munched on trans-fat laced diets for 6 years, they developed more deep-belly fat than those who went trans-fat-free, even though both ate the same number of calories. Physiologically, we’re close enough to monkeys to extrapolate that trans fat does not do anything good for your waist or your arteries.

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