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How do you get rid of harmful belly fat?

According to the 13th Nutrition Report of the German Nutrition Society (DGE), 59% of men and 37% of women are overweight. And the trend is rising. It is well known that being overweight is unhealthy. The fat deposits on the stomach are considered particularly harmful. In today's blog post, you can find out why this is the case and what you can do about your belly fat.

Table of contents:

  1. Why belly fat is so dangerous
  2. At what point is the belly too fat?
  3. How to get rid of your belly fat
  4. The right diet
  5. Exercise and more movement in everyday life
  6. Stamina

Our fatty tissue has different functions. As subcutaneous fat (subcutaneous fat), for example, it has an insulating effect and protects against heat loss. At the same time, it provides mechanical protection and cushions organs or the sole of the foot, for example. The fat deposits also serve our body as energy reserves, which it can draw on in times of need. We store excess energy in subcutaneous fatty tissue or in the abdominal cavity. The latter is also known as visceral (viscera = viscera) or intra-abdominal (abdomen = belly) fat. It coats the internal organs such as the intestines or liver. The more excess energy the body has available, the more is stored here.

Why belly fat is so dangerous

Since hunger and deprivation are rarely part of our everyday lives, the body needs these reserves less and less. However, our belly fat is not just a passive energy store, but also active tissue. This means that it releases numerous mediators. Some of these have a negative effect on our health, for example by promoting inflammatory processes and influencing blood pressure and blood sugar levels. One of these messengers is leptin. The hormone is produced by fat cells and normally signals to our body that we are full. The more fat cells there are, the more leptin is produced. If too much leptin is produced, the regulatory mechanism eventually gets out of control and the brain develops a resistance to leptin. The body thus becomes immune to the hormone's appetite-suppressing effect.

Other messenger substances such as adiponectin influence the effect of insulin and therefore blood sugar levels and blood lipid values. The risk of diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack and diabetes increases, therefore, as the abdominal circumference increases.

At what point is the abdomen too fat?

The abdominal circumference (measured at navel height) is the most important indicator of the amount of visceral fat. Ideally, this should be less than 94 cm for men and less than 80 cm for women. From 102 cm (men) or 88 cm (women), the risk of certain diseases is considered highly increased. Although the BMI can also be used to determine overweight, it says nothing about fat distribution. The proportion of visceral fat can also be too high in slim people. In this case, the measuring tape is of no use either, only an MRI or a computer tomography scan.

Read more about "How meaningful is the BMI?" in our blog post.

How to get rid of your belly fat

There are two main factors in the development of belly fat: a bad diet and lack of exercise. They lead to a lot of excess energy being available to the body. The fat deposits grow and grow. Unfortunately, it is not possible to lose fat only in specific areas of the body. Where exactly the body loses fat when losing weight is individually different. However, the fat deposits on the stomach are usually lost first. With the right diet and exercise, success can therefore be achieved quickly.

The right diet

If the body is supplied with less energy than it needs, it has to tap into its reserves. A calorie-reduced diet is therefore unavoidable in order to lose belly fat. Ideally, you should cut back on 300 - 500 calories per day. A plant-based diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, potatoes, wholegrain cereals and pulses is recommended to lose weight. These foods have a low energy density and are rich in satiating fibre. They also provide the body with important vitamins and minerals. Due to their high water content, vegetables also have a high volume and fill the stomach more quickly. This is why at least half of a meal should consist of vegetables and/or salad.

White flour products, sugar, alcohol, sweet drinks and convenience products, on the other hand, should be avoided. They have a lot of energy, but at the same time provide few micronutrients and are only filling for a short time. A protein-rich diet can also help you lose weight. It is recommended to get 15-20% of your daily calories from plant-based proteins, 50-60% from complex carbohydrates and no more than 30% from plant-based fats (avocado, rapeseed oil, linseed oil, nuts).

Sport and more exercise in everyday life

Exercise is essential in the fight against excess fat. Two to three times a week endurance sport (e.g. inline skating, swimming, cycling or jogging) is ideal for burning calories. Strength training is also important, as muscle mass ensures that more energy is burned even at rest. Exercises that work the whole body are best. If you don't feel like signing up to the gym: Push-ups, crunches, planks and lunges can also be done at home. But it doesn't always have to be an extensive sports programme. More movement in everyday life can also have a positive effect. A walk during your lunch break, the stairs instead of the lift or lunges during a phone call. You can use a pedometer to record your daily activity. Experts recommend taking 10,000 steps a day. Every type of movement counts and every step brings you closer to your goal.