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04.08.2018 Feature Article

Flat Belly, How To Reduce And Avoid a Pot Belly

Flat Belly, How To Reduce And Avoid a Pot Belly
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Adoption of healthy lifestyles help most adults to maintain a flat belly.

Most of us do not exhibit our "six-packs", due to abdominal fat covering our strong pack of rectus abdominis muscles.

As we grow older, we tend to lose our muscle bulk. Muscles help the body to burn calories faster and speed up our metabolism.

As the proportion of our body muscles decrease with age, so does our metabolism.

A slow metabolism allows the body to gain weight readily.

Most older people become less active and this increases their risk for gaining weight.

It is not uncommon to observe our friends who had looked slim/trim in their teenage years, suddenly develop big bellies in their adult lives.

Pathophysiology:
The body converts excess caloric intake into Fatty acids and triglycerides.

White fat is the storage forms of triglycerides and fatty acids.

In men, fat is stored in abdominal viscera and trunk.

In women, fat is stored in the thighs, buttock, hips and in the abdominal viscera.

The surest way to avoid chronic diseases like hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, cancers and arthritis, is to maintain the flat belly.

The surest way to accumulate visceral fat is to eat more food than the body requires.

The best way to reverse accumulation of visceral fat is to reduce food intake.

Role of Exercise:
Fortunately, high-intensity exercises have been found to target primarily, visceral fats and burn them off.

No one can lose visceral fat (belly fat) overnight, Loosing belly fat is a much slower process.

A combination of exercise and dietary modifications are the two best ways to reverse the accumulation of visceral fat.

These two factors (increase physical activities and lowering caloric intake) require lifelong lifestyle modifications.

  1. DIETARY MODIFICATIONS.

Reduction in Calorie intake is the first and very significant step in preventing and or, reversing visceral fat accumulation.

Foods and beverages provide us energy in the form of calories.

Dietary modifications are geared towards a Cut down in caloric intake

This could easily be done by replacing fattening foods (high-calorie-dense foods) with foods and beverages that are much lower in calories (low-calorie-dense). Low-calorie-dense food, can still fill your stomach up and make one, less hungry.

The foods low in calories, usually contain lots of fiber and water

LOW-CALORIE-DENSE BEVERAGES:
. Pure bottled water
. Sugar-free teas: Green tea, Tea, Coffee, Hibiscus teas and raw cocoa drinks, without added sugar and milk.

. Low- or fat-free milk
. Low – or fat free yogurt
. Vegetable-based soup such as cocoyam leaves (Nkontomire) soup, or Tomato soups with dry fish or skinless-chicken.

HIGH-CALORIE-DENSE BEVERAGES:
. Whole milk
. All sugary drinks including Soda: (Sprite, Fanta, Coca cola)

. Fruit juice: orange, apple, pineapple that have added sugar

. Milk chocolate drinks
. Alcoholic beverages, including beer. Beer and other Alcohols, in addition, stimulate cortisol release. Cortisol increases visceral fat deposition.

During exercise, cortisol levels are elevated. This burns fat.

Chronically elevated levels of cortisol, as seen in those who drink heavy alcohol regularly, burns muscles and stores fat.

By replacing fattening food with non-fattening foodstuff, we could maintain a flat belly.

HIGH-CALORIE-DENSE FOODS:
. Simple sugars including cube sugars and added sugar

. All foods prepared with oil or fried with oil: Fried fish, fried plantain/yam/cocoyam, fried stew. Fry oils have high calories. A tablespoon of oil has about 120 calories and all fried food absorb some oil (depending on the duration, between 10-25% the weight of the food being fried)

. Bread and bakeries including cakes, cookies, digestive biscuits, meat pie

. Animal fat: Meat from pork, cow, goat, sheep
. Chicken or turkey with intact skin
. Ice creams
. Doughnuts and all bakery products
. Commercially prepared peanut butter
. Ground nuts (eating more than a handful of peanut in a day, promotes weight gain)

LOW-CALORIE-DENSE FOODS.
. FRUITS (fresh, frozen or 100% fruit juice): Citrus, Berries, Melons, Pawpaw, mangoes, guava, apples, bananas

. VEGETABLES (fresh, frozen):
. Dark green vegetables (Broccoli, spinach cocoyam leaves)

. Red and orange vegetables (Carrots, red pepper, tomatoes, sweet potato

. Legumes: Beans and peas (similar to meat and poultry as excellent sources of protein}

. Non-starchy vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels, onions, lettuce, cabbage, green beans

. Starchy vegetables: green lima beans, green peas, corn (yellow, white), potato cauliflower

. Other vegetables: onion, mushrooms, green pepper, lettuce

GRAINS: Whole grains with intact kernels: oatmeal, wheat, cornmeal, brown rice.

IMPORTANT TIPS:
A healthy and balanced food plan must include a variety of foods and beverages from each food group.

Choose foods and beverages with less saturated fats, little salt and no added sugars

The emphasis is on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat free milk and milk products.

Include skin-less poultry, fish, beans and nuts
All foods must be low in saturated fats, trans-fats, sodium and added sugars.

Aim at low-calorie-dense foods, that fill your tummy without packing lots of calories

Start by making small changes to your diet and build upon them.

COMMON GHANAIAN DISHES.
Jollof rice: Use brown rice instead of white rice to prepare jollof. Added oil makes jollof high-calorie-dense so limit your portion size

Waakye: replace white rice with brown rice
Banku and Tilapia: A ball of banku should be smaller than the size of your own fist. Fried tilapia is high-calorie-dense, so eat smaller portions of the tilapia

For all the starchy Ghanaian foods: Fufu, Kenkey, Akple, Tuo-Zaafi, Konkonte and Gari balls. the portion sizes should be no larger than the size of your fist, at each meal.

Red-red/Kelewele: Fried plantain have extra calories from the oil and therefore calorie-dense. Limit your intake of red-red and chew this food very slowly (chew each food in the mouth 25-30 times before swallowing them)

Fufu and light soup: The portion size of Fufu should be no larger than your fist. Prepare a Light soup of tomato with either dry fish or mushroom. Avoid red meat

Kenkey and fried fish: Again, a ball of kenkey should not be larger than the size of your own fist. Drink water simultaneously. Cut down the portion size of fried fish Roasted or steamed fish is preferred

Porridge: train you taste-buds to adapt to sugar-free porridge. The taste buds adapt easily. You may add a slice of whole wheat brown-bread pasted with non-commercially made unhydrogenated peanut butter.

Boiled yam or plantain with stew: Boiled plantain and yam are preferred to their fried counterparts.

The oil may be added to the finished stew. Do not fry the stew with the oil.

Use smaller-sized eating utensils, plates to serve meals. Humans have the tendency to consume more calories when served with larger portions

Instead of frying fish, chicken, grill them and use lemon for dressing

Stop drinking beer and alcoholic beverages
2. PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES
The inadequacy of activities coupled with consumption of excess calories lead to accumulation of stored fat in the anterior belly.

To prevent fat deposition, one must burn off the excess calories, daily.

Most weight loss occurs because of decreased caloric intake.

In addition to healthy eating plan, adding more physical activity to the daily routine would help to burn more calories and flatten the belly.

The benefits of physical activities
Lack of exercise causes muscles to lose their sensitivity to insulin and leads to type 2 diabetes.

In addition, regular exercise promotes health in many ways, including the following:

. Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol
. Lower the risk of stroke and heart diseases
. Strengthens the heart and improves circulation.
. Burns calories and help to prevent weight gain
. Raises energy levels for physical activities
. Strengthen muscles and bones and keep joints flexible.

. Improves balance and agility
TYPES OF EXERCISES
Vigorous Exercise(high Intensity): when you are breathing too hard and fast, making it hard to have a normal conversation. Vigorous intensity exercises burn abdominal fat, faster

. Jogging/running (>5mph)
. Skipping/Jumping rope (120 jump/minute)
. Playing competitive sports like soccer, basketball, boxing

. Swimming competitions
. Bicycling (>10mph)
For High intensity cardio, 75-150 (15-30 minutes each day 5 days a week) minutes each week is great.

For measurable loss of abdominal girth, aim at a minimum of 30minutes per day of high intensity exercise, 5 days a week

Moderate exercise: breathing and heart rates are fast, but conversation is normal

. Walking fast, walking a mile in 15 minutes or less.

. Light snow shoveling
. Actively playing with kids
. Dancing
. Light gardening work
. Bicycling (<10mph)
. Hiking
For moderate intensity exercises, between 150-300 (30-60 minutes each day 5 days a week) minutes each weak is great.

For appreciable weight loss, aim at 60 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise, 5 days a week.

Additional benefits occur when one exercises at moderate intensity, up to 90 minutes a day, for 5 days, giving a total of 450 minutes a week. There are no additional benefits when one exercises more than 450 minutes a week.

We need to tone our muscles with strength and resistant training exercises at least 2 days (2-3 days apart) each week. Strength training exercises preserve muscle bulk.

Alex Sarkodie MD
Alex Sarkodie MD, © 2018

Alex Sarkodie,MBChB has over 30 years experience in the field of MedicineColumn: AlexSarkodie

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