Losing weight doesn’t always have to be about deprivation and denial. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Successful, sustainable weight loss is far more attainable when you focus on the quality of food rather than the quantity. Eat wholesome, nutritious, (and even calorie-filled) foods and you’ll be far more satisfied and content on less. Many of the foods people think are off-limits when it comes to losing weight are the very foods that have the ability to actually help us reach our goal. Here are eight foods that cannot only help you reach your weight-loss goal, but help you keep it off for good.
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It’s every weight loss enthusiast’s dream to zap belly fat but, far from pure vanity, there’s actually a reason why having a lot of fat in the abdominal region can be dangerous. Fat is stored all over our body, but how does an expanding waistline grow your risk for chronic illness?
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Your body’s fat impacts your health differently depending on where it’s stored. While most fat found on other parts of our bodies (think arms, legs, buttocks) are considered “subcutaneous fat,” belly fat is more likely to be “visceral.”
PINCHABLE VERSUS PRESSABLE
“Subcutaneous fat” is the pinchable, squishy fat right between your skin and muscle that helps keep you warm, cushions you against shock, and stores extra calories. “Visceral fat” stores calories too, but isn’t as pinchable because it is located in and around your organs. It’s hidden deep within the belly region, which is what makes it firm (rather than squishy) when you press it.
Fat doesn’t just store calories—it’s a living tissue capable of producing and releasing hormones that affect your other organs. Because visceral fat sits near our organs, its release of these chemicals is poorly situated. Having more visceral fat can raise your LDL (a.k.a. “bad” cholesterol) and blood pressure. Visceral fat can also make you less sensitive to insulin, which increases your risk for Type 2 Diabetes.
TELLING BAD BELLY FAT APART
Even if you’re thin, you can still have visceral fat around the abdominal region—being “skinny” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re healthy. There’s no sure-fire way to tell visceral from subcutaneous fat short of an expensive CT scan, but it’s important for you to get a rough idea of what your visceral stores are. Here are a few tricks to figure out where your belly stands:
APPLES AND PEARS
You’re probably wondering, “What does fruit have to do with it?” These two fruits give a quick visual of where most of your fat is stored on the body. Pears tend to store fat in the lower extremities (hips, thighs, buttocks) as subcutaneous fat while apples tend to store fat in the upper region (belly, chest) as visceral fat. It takes a quick inspection, but this is an imperfect way to tell these two fats apart.
WAIST CIRCUMFERENCE (WC)
Feel for the top of your hip bone (it’s at the same level as the top of your belly button) and circle a tape measure around this point. Remember to relax and don’t suck in your gut (be honest!). Take 2-3 measurements and figure out the average. Men should have a WC of less than 40 inches (102 cm) and women should have a WC of less than 35 inches (89 cm).
The waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) takes the circumference of your waist (see above) and divides it by the circumference of your hips. To measure your hips, stand in front of a mirror then figure out the widest part of your butt and measure that circumference. Then use this formula:
WHR = (Waist circumference) / (Hip circumference).
Men should have a WHR of less than 1 while women should have a WHR of less than 0.8.
KNOW YOUR FAMILY HEALTHY HISTORY
If your parents or siblings have insulin resistance, heart disease or non-alcoholic fatty liver, you may be at a greater risk for storing visceral fat. Keeping an eye on your visceral fat may be beneficial, but know that the causes of these chronic diseases are complex. If you’re in doubt, it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider.
READ MORE > ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO FAT
BANISHING VISCERAL FAT
If you fall in the normal range for WC and WHR, that’s great! Keep working at your weight goals as you see fit. If you’re not there, don’t despair. Because of its proximity to the liver, visceral fat is usually the easier fat to burn. It’s the less risky subcutaneous fat that likes to stick around.
Unfortunately, you can’t forcefully spot reduce fat around your belly no matter how many crunches you do. The next best thing is to live a healthy lifestyle:
- Go beyond weight tracking. You can track your waist, hip and even neck circumference in the app. Use this feature to see how your measurements change over time as you lose weight.
- Sweat for 30-60 minutes each day. Visceral fat responds well to regular endurance exercises, such as running, biking, rowing, swimming, that elevate your heart rate. As your body uses fat to fuel exercise, it’ll start using up your visceral stores.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Eat a diet high in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean protein with calories set for gradual weight loss (e.g. about 1-2 pounds per week). Cut way back on added sugars and alcohol since these nutrients will more likely end up as visceral fat.
- Sleep more, stress less. It’s easier said than done, but in order to take care of your physical body, you have to take care of your mental state. Sleep loss and stress can sabotage your health and fitness goals, so learn more about getting a quality night’s rest and use meditation or yoga to calm your mind. Remember, it’s not just about your health; it’s about your happiness, too.
JANUARY 19, 2018
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And any exercise is good for you, whether you go for a quick swim or jog or even if you are just walking to the store instead of driving.
If you are doing any or all of that, great.
But while a basic minimum amount of exercise does have huge benefits, there are still potentially even greater benefits from doing more.
If you really want to stay strong even as you age and your body starts to decline, there are two exercises that are essential, Dr. Michael Joyner, a physician and Mayo Clinic researcher who is one of the world’s top experts on fitness and human performance, tells Business Insider. And you can do both year-round, no matter how cold or hot it is outside.
But these aren’t easy: burpees and jumping rope. (He recommends trying a weighted jump rope.)
Why burpees and jumping rope?
No matter what, your body starts to lose strength as you age. Most people reach their strength peak around age 25, and some research shows marathon runners tend to be fastest at 28, though, of course, this is going to vary from person to person. If you started strength-training after 25 and hadn’t before, your peak would come later.
But if you want to truly stay fit, you’re going to need to keep building strength to combat your body’s natural loss of muscle mass. It’s worth it to do so, and it may be the thing that keeps you young longest. As Joyner wrote for Outside Magazine, “study after study is showing that simple tests of physical performance are highly predictive of future mortality.” To achieve peak physical performance at any age, you need to go beyond endurance to build strength.
You can build strength in a lot of ways — lifting weights and adding intervals to endurance workouts both work. But these two workouts will build both your endurance and your strength, all at once.
“On hard days, I’ll sometimes alternate a minute of burpees with sets using a weighted jump rope,” Joyner tells us.
How to do these workouts
Trainers love to recommend burpees, simply because they’re hard to beat in terms of single exercises that will work your whole body. Instagram-famous fitness trainer Kayla Itsines recently said a burpee with a push-up would be the exercise she’d choose “if she had to pick one” for a full-body workout; and if you want a real crazy challenge, you could try trainer Bobby Maximus’ “prison burpee” workout that he uses to challenge Special Forces soldiers.
But it’s worth starting slow with burpees just to make sure you get the form right. If you start standing, you’ll then squat down until you can put your hands on the ground. Kick back into plank position, do a push-up, then kick your legs back into your squat position. Then jump.
Here’s a GIF to show you how it works, from this YouTube video by ScottHermanFitness:
This video by XHIT Daily on YouTube is also useful, showing burpees done with a wider stance, which can be more stable for someone not accustomed to the exercise.
Jumping rope with a weighted rope is a more straightforward exercise, but the challenge is no joke. You can find a variety of recommended workouts, but generally (once you get up to speed), you’ll want to do a series of sets, perhaps alternating with another exercise. If you’re feeling tough, you can try alternating with burpees, like Joyner.
Just remember this, though: These workouts are going to be hard. It’s great to push yourself, and there’s plenty of research showing strong benefits for vigorous exercise. But it takes time to build up to these kinds of exercises (and practice to get them right), and you should talk to your doctor first if you’re worried you might injure yourself.
Anyone who wants to attempts these intense workouts also needs to remember to rest. Most trainers recommend alternating between hard days and easy days.
“Make your hard days hard and your easy days easy,” says Joyner. “Control your pace or it will control you.”
This post originally appeared on businessinsider.com.