Updated: Mar 3, 2019
Fat. It’s just there, always on your mind, always tampering with an outfit that you want to wear. You check how you look in the mirror, and you don’t like what you see. Magazines and online searches tell you to take one supplement after another to get rid of it, you fail again, disappointing. You try dieting. This diet and that diet, nothing seems to work for you, even exercise. Let’s face it, fat sucks. And it’s unhealthy to have too much of it. So what do you do? How do you address the issues?
Let’s start this discussion by saying that overweight does not necessarily equal unhealthy. This is important to understand before we begin in order to make your quest a little less urgent, and a little more targeted and continuous. Fat is not lost overnight, at least not as much as we would like to lose. If we do it right, we can lose about ½ to 1 pound a week. But that’s just fat. We can lose water weight too, but that’s not fat! So forget the diets that tell you that they can create miracles. They cannot. And dump the scales that weigh your entire body including the fat. Look, if we could fill a one gallon milk jug with fat, it would weigh about 7.5 pounds. That’s right, 7.5 pounds of fat lost is equal to a gallon of milk! But 7.5 pounds of weight lost could be water, muscle, fat, and perhaps some of that dinner you had last night!
So now that we have a perspective on this, let’s look at 10 ways to lose weight effectively. There are other methods, but only a few proven strategies that have been shown to target the fat.
1. Don’t Eat Sugar
Added sugar is extremely unhealthy. Studies repeatedly demonstrate that sugar has uniquely harmful effects on metabolic health. Sugar is routinely added to everything to make it taste better, even things you don’t think have it. Moreover, sugar is often hidden under many different names, some sources have over 50 names for sugar.
The problem is, sugar is half glucose, half fructose… and fructose cannot be metabolized by the liver in any significant amount . When you eat a lot of refined sugar, the liver gets flooded with fructose, and is forced to turn it into fat in order to utilize it properly. Numerous studies have shown that excess sugar, mostly due to the large amounts of fructose, can lead to increased accumulation of fat in the belly.
Some believe that this is the primary mechanism behind sugar’s harmful effects on health… it increases belly fat and liver fat, which leads to insulin resistance and then to a host of metabolic problems.
Liquid sugar is even worse in this regard. Liquid calories don’t get “registered” by the brain in the same way as solid calories, so when you drink sugar-sweetened beverages, you end up eating more total calories.
Studies also show that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to a 60% increased risk of obesity in children… per serving. This includes sugar-sweetened beverages, soda, fruit juices, various sports drinks, as well as coffee and tea with sugar added to them. Keep in mind that none of this applies to whole fruit which (as a part of a balanced diet) is extremely healthy and has plenty of fiber that mitigates the negative effects of fructose.
Bottom Line: Excess sugar consumption may be the primary driver of belly fat accumulation, especially sugary beverages like soft drinks and fruit juices.
2. Eating More Protein
Believe it or not, protein is the most important macronutrient when it comes to losing weight. Protein has no added sugar! It has been shown to reduce cravings by as much as 60%, boost metabolism by 80-100 calories per day and help you eat up to 441 fewer calories per day.
If weight loss is your goal, then adding more protein to your diet and cutting down carbs is perhaps the single most effective change you can do. Not only will it help you lose fat… it can also help you avoid re-gaining weight if you ever decide to abandon your weight loss efforts.
There is also some evidence that protein is particularly effective against belly fat. One study showed that the amount and quality of protein consumed was inversely related to fat in the belly. That is, people who ate more and better protein had much less belly fat. Another study in Denmark showed that protein, especially animal protein, was linked to a significantly reduced risk of belly fat gain over a period of 5 years. The same study also showed that refined carbs and vegetable oils were linked to increased amounts of belly fat, but fruits and vegetables were linked to reduced amounts.
Many of the studies showing protein to be effective had protein at 25-30% of the daily calories. Indeed, 30% protein, 40% fat and 30% carbs (from vegetables) appears to be the sweet spot for weight loss. So… make an effort to increase your intake of unprocessed eggs, wild caught fish, seafood, and grass fed meats, and poultry. If you struggle with getting enough protein in your diet, then a quality protein supplement (with whey protein) is a healthy and convenient way to boost your total intake. But watch for the added sugar.
Bottom Line: Eating enough protein is a very effective way to lose weight. Some studies suggest that protein is particularly effective against belly fat accumulation.
3. Cut Carbs from Your Diet
Alright, you knew this was coming. Carb restriction is a very effective way to lose fat and keep it off, but also a great way to get fat if you eat them. This is supported by numerous studies… when people cut carbs, their appetite goes down and they lose weight.
Over 20 randomized controlled trials have now shown that low-carb diets lead to 2-3 times more weight loss than low-fat diets. This is true even when the low-carb groups are allowed to eat as much as they want, while the low-fat groups are calorie restricted and hungry! Just avoiding the refined carbs (white breads, pastas, flour products, etc) should be sufficient, especially if you keep your protein high.
Bottom Line: Studies have shown that low-carb diets are particularly effective at getting rid of the fat in the belly area, around the organs and in the liver.
4. Eat Foods Rich in Fiber.
What many do not realize is that dietary fiber is mostly indigestible plant matter which has a huge bearing on our gut health. It is often claimed that eating plenty of fiber can help with weight loss, true. But it’s important to keep in mind that not all fiber is created equal.
It seems to be mostly the viscous fibers that have an effect on our fat weight. These are fibers that bind water and form a thick gel that “sits” in the gut and gently moves everything out of the gut as we digest. This gel also dramatically slows the movement of food through your stomach and small bowel, and slow down the digestion allowing for greater absorption of nutrients. The end result is a prolonged feeling of fullness and reduced appetite.
One review study found that an additional 14 grams of fiber per day were linked to a 10% decrease in calorie intake and weight loss of 2 kg (4.5 lbs) over 4 months. In one 5-year study, eating 10 grams of soluble fiber per day was linked to a 3.7% reduction in the amount of fat in the abdominal cavity, but it had no effect on the amount of fat under the skin. But here’s the kicker. Fiber feeds the gut flora and makes our gut healthier. While most understand that our gut bacteria is responsible for over 80% of our immune system, few realize it is paramount for fat loss (more on this later). The best way to get more fiber is to eat a lot of plant foods like vegetables and fruit.
Bottom Line: There’s evidence that soluble dietary fiber may lead to reduced amounts of belly fat, which should cause major improvements in metabolic health.
5. Change your Gut Health
Fact: Our gut is home to approximately 100 trillion microorganisms. It’s the largest organ in the human body. The human gut contains 10 times more bacteria than all the human cells in the entire body, with over 400 known diverse bacterial species in it, of which more are being discovered each year.
So, we’ve only recently begun to understand the extent of the gut flora’s role in human health and disease. Among other things, the gut flora promotes normal gastrointestinal function, provides protection from infection, regulates metabolism and hormone balance, and comprises more than 75% of our immune system. Singularly it is one of the most important systems in the human body, although we actually could not live without any of them
The breakdown of this gut bacteria has now been linked to diseases ranging from autism and depression to autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity and type 1 diabetes to name a few.
Research has continually shown that the gut flora, and the health of the gut in general, plays a significant role in both obesity and diabetes. We see this at Revibe every day. Almost everyone who comes in with blood sugar issues, thyroid problems, chrome’s or colitis, celiac disease, yeast infections, or fibromyalgia also has a leaky gut, a gut infection, or some other chronic inflammatory gut condition.
This is what we now know. The composition of the organisms living in your gut determines – to some extent, at least – how your body absorbs the nutrients you eat, how easy (or hard) it is for you to lose weight, and how well your metabolism functions.
A study published in 2010 in Science Magazine found that mice without a certain type of bacteria in their gut gain excessive weight and develop full-blown diabetes and fatty liver disease when fed a high-fat diet. If we think of the gut flora as a community of synergistic bacteria we need a proper balance to keep everything working correctly. Too much or too little of one type of bacteria causes issues within the gut that leads to obesity and eventually disease. The study authors found that these bad bacteria caused a low-grade inflammation in the mice, which caused them to eat more and develop insulin resistance.