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
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
Corn bread & muffins
Hard cheese (except for feta and
grating cheeses, such as Romano and Parmesan)
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
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
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
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
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
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
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.
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.
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
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 shown 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!