The Flat Belly Diet…Busted!

Most likely you have seen the online ads for the “flat belly diet” or other diets promising to decrease your waist and “melt” away abdominal fat by eating and avoiding certain foods. Some of these adds show a picture of a banana and immediately get you questioning how healthy are bananas? Is there any truth to these diet claims? Can you actually eat certain foods to help flatten your tummy?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. There is no research to indicate certain foods cause you to have excess belly fat. Excess belly fat and fat all over the body comes from excess calories that are not used for energy by the body and become stored as fat. Extra calories can come from any food, no one in particular. Calories in excess come from over eating at one particular meal or taking in too many calories throughout the day.

Wondering why some people store fat in their stomach, while others store it in their hips? Genetics play a large role in where our fat is stored. If your mother tends to store fat in her midsection, chances are you will do the same. Menopause does play a role in fat accumulation, but researchers are still debating why this happens. Here are a few thoughts… Our metabolism slows down as we age, which means we burn calories at a slower rate. We also tend to lose muscle as we age, especially if we are not exercising. One study found that as women approach menopause, their rate of physical activity tends to decline. Decreased physical activity plus a slower metabolism is an easy way to gain weight, even if it comes on slowly.

The best things you can do to keep the weight off and slim down that tummy are the following:

  • Watch your caloric intake: Eating too many calories during the day or filling up on high calorie foods (think restaurant/fast food) can leave you with more calories than you need for energy. Those excess calories are stored as fat and depending on your genetics may be stored in your midsection.
  • Watch portion sizes: Overeating is a quick way to take on excess calories. When we consume too many calories in one sitting, they are stored as fat. Even if you go all day without eating, don’t make up for it in one meal, because that can lead to fat storage.
  • Eat the right kind of fat: As Americans, we tend to eat high amounts of saturated fat (the “bad” kind) and low amounts of mono and polyunsaturated fats (the “good” kind). Work on replacing those saturated fats, which include high fat meats, cheese, full fat dairy, butter and cream with mono and polyunsaturated fats, which include fatty fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocadoes.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercise is not only great to help burn calories, but it also helps build muscle, which we gradually lose as we age. Recommendations for exercise are 30 minutes, 5 days a week of moderate intensity exercise.

Main point; don’t believe the hype of the “flat belly diets”. Work on making healthier food choices and get in the exercise to live a long, happy, and healthy life!