I wanted to take a minute to comment on my perspective on a Flat Belly Plan prior to the airing of Dr. Oz’s show on this topic.
Importantly, where each of us deposits our fat stores is very much gene-dependent & is at least in part controlled by our hormone levels (i.e. men tend to deposit in the beer belly vs. women in the hips).
The concept of targeting fat loss to a specific is a challenging one. Just ask anyone who’s tried to accomplish this feat before!
However, there is evidence that including certain foods into your nutrition plan will help to clear out some of the omental (around the organ) fat preferentially, possibly by activating fat clearing enzymes in the liver that act to remove some of the fat. This is very beneficial because of this omental fat is the one that increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancers (to name a few).
Obviously, there are different theories out there, but here’s my perspective on the evidence at this time.
Dietitian Dan T’s Flat-Belly Plan
1. Initiate general fat loss in your body.
- Create a 20-30% calorie deficit, more than this can actually stop fat loss – see my video – on this topic
- Increase in intense exercise daily (both cardio & resistance based over the week) – see Trainer C video channel – Chizle Fitness YouTube Channel
2. Cut out most if not all pro-inflammatory foods
Many foods have been implicated in increasing the body’s inflammatory response, often because the body perceives them to be pathogens. Our gut cells evolved long before the onset of agriculture, so many of the products of agriculture tend to elicit an inflammatory response in many people.
- Breads, rolls, baked goods
- Candy, Cake, Cookies, Crackers
- Cereals (except old fashioned oatmeal)
- Corn bread & muffins
- Corn syrup
- Croissants, Doughnuts
- Egg rolls
- Fast food
- French Fries
- Fruit juices
- Fried foods
- Hard cheese (except for feta and grating cheeses, such as Romano and Parmesan)
- Hot dogs
- Ice cream, frozen yogurt
- Jams, preserves
- Pancakes, Pastry
- Pie, Waffles
- Pita bread
- Snack foods (i.e. potato chips, pretzels, corn chips, rice cake, etc.)
- Soda, Sugar
- Tacos, Tortillas
General rule is that the more highly processed a food is (i.e. refined carbohydrates, saturated fats), the more it will increase inflammation via cytokine release, so limit your exposure to processed foods.
Additionally, the fat from sick animals (conventionally farmed) is linked to a host of inflammatory conditions and other health challenges. So limit your exposure to fat content from conventionally farmed animals.
Omega-6 fats are also pro-inflammatory. Rich sources include corn, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed and soybean oils. These are essential fats, but the optimal ratio between anti-inflammatory (omega-3 oils) and these pro-inflammatory omega-6 oils is 1 part (omega-3):4 parts (omega-6). In North America, unless we are intentionally choosing more omega-3 fats, we tend to consume closer to 1 part (omega-3):10-20 parts (omega-6). This obviously imbalances the body’s inflammatory pathways to favor pro-inflammation processes. Over time, this can lead to diseases whose etiologies are likely due to inflammatory pathways (mentioned above). It could also aggravate said conditions (worsening symptoms).
3. Consume anti-inflammatory foods
On the contrary, there are many foods that have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. Many of these food items are those that gut cells and the body would recognize, because they were present during the bulk of our genome adaptation (i.e. hunter-gatherer span).
Aside from specific identified inflammation reducing foods, it is important to choose foods that provide energy and essential nutrients and do NOT increase inflammation. These follow:
Carbohydrate sources: Vegetables and Fruits mostly unprocessed; Quinoa, Wild rice and Old fashioned oatmeal (Scottish large chunks). These are the optimal choices. Next, if you consider whole grain products, there will be some inflammation, but less compared with highly processed foods (listed above).
Omega-3 fat rich foods including oily fish (Wild caught Salmon, Herring, Sardines, Arctic Char, Anchovies, Mackerel, Lake Trout are among the best). Meat and Eggs from exercised (truly free range or run animals) and fed their natural diet (i.e. cows = grass) also have more favorable fatty acid profiles compared to conventionally farmed ones that tend to be not exercised and sick.
Monounsaturated fats are also greatly anti-inflammatory and a great source for fat energy. Among the richest sources of these are olives, avocados, most nuts and seeds and their unrefined oils. Tip: the cheapest, extra-virgin version of olives and avocados are the whole fruits themselves, not the oils. You also get fiber with the healthy unrefined oils when consuming the whole olives and avocados.
- Wild caught salmon
- Shitake mushrooms
- Green Tea
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Sweet Potato
The optimal targets for fat intake are as follows:
A) Trans fats – None – check the label and be sure it states truly zero. Any increases risk of heart disease, so avoid.
B) Saturated fats – limit to < 25 g / day. Eliminate those from conventional animal products because often toxins are stored here and sick animals would have higher levels of bad fats. Whenever possible try to choose exercised, naturally fed animals and even certified organic if you can.
C) Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats. Choose somewhere between 1:4 or 1:1 ratio between these respectively. Decide where you will fall in that range based on your inflammation levels. If you have more inflammation in your body then target closer to 1:1 ratio vs. 1:4.
D) Monounsaturated fats – these will be the primary focus of your fat intake after you know that you’ve eliminated trans fats, are limiting your saturated and are getting your appropriate target for omega 3 and omega 6 fats. Most people require between 50 and 100 g of fat/day, depending on your calorie target and what percentage of your energy needs your fat will comprise. So these will make up the difference in your fat intake goal.
Sample Anti-inflammatory Meal.
Here is an example of an anti-inflammatory meal. You might have to adjust the portions in order to support your weight management goal.
3-4 oz Wild caught salmon – lemon, garlic & pepper seasoned + grilled (seared, and then cooked in tinfoil)
2 cups Steamed Broccoli + Spinach
2 Tbsp Olive oil + Balsamic vinegar dressing
½ cup steamed mushrooms + onions in 1 Tbsp Olive oil.
4. Cope Effectively with Stress.
We’re starting to better understand that emotional stress is intimately connected to our physiological (& psychological) health.
There is mounting evidence that when under stress, the cells of the immune system are not able to respond to hormonal control & therefore inflammatory levels are reached that promote disease.
Therefore, being able to not allow stress to reach a level that causes this effect is key to preventing risk of inflammatory-induced diseases.
Intense exercise, Yoga, Meditation, Martial arts incorporating focus & zen philosophy, support groups & therapy have all been shown to be great stress management tools.
Do these now. You can start by trying out some free online exercise session with Trainer C over at Chizle Fitness .
5. Get Adequate Sleep.
More and more studies have show
n lately that sleep is inversely associated with inflammation. For example, people who slept 6 hours or less per night, has higher levels of inflammatory markers fibrinogen, IL-6 and C-reactive protein.
It’s critical to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night as this has been associated with lower inflammation & lower disease risk in general. Furthermore, this sleep should be uninterrupted as much as possible. Try to sleep in absolute dark, have a wind down ritual that doesn’t involve a computer, sleep in a cool room & wake up as gently as possible.
Remember that it’s a holistic approach is needed here. If any of these components are off, then your inflammation will likely be higher & your belly fat will be “resistant” to being used.
Go and give your best! Try it for 3 months & see what these lifestyle changes can do for you!
Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel to start learning the truth about nutrition at home for free!
Dietitian Dan T’s Chizle Fuel Channel
Until next time!
Dietitian Dan T