Read an Excerpt
Abdominal Fat's Dirty Little Secret
Before you embark on my exciting 8 Minutes in the Morning to a Flat Belly program, let's first take a look at why you want to create a beautiful belly. Many people want to tone their bellies for visual reasons. Not a day goes by that one of my clients doesn't ask me how she can look better in a swimsuit. Some tell me that they desperately want to zip up a particular pair of jeans. Or they just want to be able to look down and not see a bulge!
Those are all good reasons. But there are a few crucial and even more important reasons to start my 8 Minutes in the Morning to a Flat Belly program.
Here's the real bad news about abdominal fat. Belly fat is worse for your health than fat in your butt or thighs. Yes, belly fat tends to trigger your liver to release its stored fatty acids -- raising your cholesterol levels. It also tends to alter levels of key hormones involved in appetite, fat storage, and heart disease. In fact, when you gain weight in your abdomen, and these hormones become altered, you tend to feel hungrier, you eat more, and your body tends to store more fat in your abdomen. It's a vicious cycle -- but you can break it!
Before we talk about how you will break your belly fat cycle, let's first take a look at all of the ways it erodes your health.
Diabetes. Research shows that women with a waist circumference of 36 inches or more are five times more likely to develop diabetes than those with smaller waist circumferences. When you gain weight in your abdomen, the fat throws off your insulin cycle. This important hormone, produced by the pancreas, is supposed to shuttle blood sugar into muscle cells so that those cells can burn it for energy. However, in people who have a lot of abdominal fat, insulin stops working properly. The muscle cells fail to respond to insulin and sugar remains high in the blood. This makes the pancreas release more and more insulin, which can eventually wear out your pancreas and develop into diabetes. At the same time, high levels of insulin trigger you to eat by making you feel hungry. They also encourage your liver to convert your blood sugar into fat -- for storage! High insulin levels have also been linked with certain cancers.
Heart disease. In Harvard's famed Nurse's Health Study of 4,470 women, those with a waist circumference of 32 inches or more were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack as those with smaller waists. Just as belly fat causes diabetes, it also raises blood cholesterol levels, contributing to heart disease. As your liver converts more and more blood sugar into fat, your cholesterol levels go up as this fat must make its way through your blood stream and into waiting fat cells -- usually in your belly! In particular, the unhealthy LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels rise, whereas the healthy HDL cholesterol takes a nosedive. Belly fat raises your risk for high blood cholesterol by 50 percent.
Breast cancer. The more body fat you have -- particularly in your abdomen -- the higher your estrogenlevels. Body fat produces its own estrogen, in addition to the estrogen produced by your ovaries. Usually, this doesn't cause problems. But when you have a large amount of body fat, you risk raising estrogen levels too high, increasing your risk for breast cancer. Also, as I've already mentioned, belly fat tends to raise insulin levels -- which also have been linked with breast cancer. Women with high levels of belly fat are 45 percent more likely to have breast cancer. Belly fat also raises your risk for endometrial cancer.
High blood pressure. Excess belly fat raises your risk for high blood pressure by 60 percent. Infact, each pound of extra fat can raise your systolic (top) blood pressure number by 4.5 points. It does so because your heart must work harder to pump blood to a larger body. It's the same as if you added many rooms onto an existing house but kept the same furnace. The furnace would have to work overtime to heat the larger house. In this case, your heart beats faster and more forcefully. This forces blood with more pressure through your arteries, causing nicks and dents to the linings of your arteries, raising your risk for heart disease.
Back pain. Fat in your belly acts like a heavy weight that pulls your lower spine forward, overly arching your lower back and causing pain. When you lose the fat and strengthen your abdomen, your belly muscles can better support your spine, improving your posture and reducing back pain.
Fatigue. Just as your heart can't grow larger to respond to the demands of a larger body, the same goes for your lungs. They now must work harder to supply more oxygen. Also, as your belly grows larger, it crowds out your internal organs, particularly the diaphragm muscle that's so important in breathing. People with a lot of belly fat tend to cough and wheeze more. Belly fat also raises your risk for sleep apnea, a severe form of snoring in which your windpipe repeatedly collapses throughout the night, causing your body to starve for oxygen.
Varicose veins. Excess body weight makes it harder for the blood in your legs to travel against the force of gravity back up to your heart. Belly fat also weighs down the veins in your upper thighs. Both problems cause the veins to weaken. Eventually they begin to leak and even allow blood to pool and travel backward, causing varicose veins.
Joint pain. The heavier your body, the more it weighs down your joints and the more impact you inflict on your joints with every step.
In addition, belly fat has also been linked to chronic pain, gallbladder disease, arthritis, low immunity, liver disease, skin problems, and poor sleep. It's time to put an end to this vicious health-eroding cycle once and for all!
The Benefits of a Firm Belly
Losing weight in your midsection will help you prevent all of those diseases and conditions. You'll live longer and feel better!
My special Cruise Moves (you'll learn more about them in chapter 3) will do even more. They will help strengthen the muscles in your abdomen, providing a number of exciting benefits.
Most important, stronger abdominal muscles help to automatically improve your posture. Strong abdominal muscles help support your spine, helping to keep it erect and long.They also help to hold your pelvis in the correct position, preventing the swayback so often seen after pregnancy and with increasing age. Once you eliminate that swayback, the rest of the spine tends to fall into line, allowing you to bring back your shoulders and head and stand taller and more upright.
In fact, even if you don't lose any weight, your appearance will improve dramatically. Stronger abdominal muscles will help you stand taller, creating a leaner appearance. You will feel as if you have grown an inch taller and slimmed an inch in the process -- just by improving your posture!
Better posture, in turn, helps you breathe more deeply. Your abdominal muscles help you to inhale and exhale, allowing you to take fuller, deeper breaths.
Your abdominal muscles were designed for endurance. They were made to work 24 hours a day without getting fatigued. The rest of the muscles in your body were not designed this way. When your abdominal muscles support your spine, other muscles don't have to work overtime to keep you upright. You will find that as you strengthen your abdominal muscles and improve your posture, headaches and neck and shoulder pain will subside.
Your abdominal muscles are your power center. The stronger they are, the stronger you are. You will find that, by strengthening your abs, you have the energy to do more. If you play sports, your movements will be more powerful. You'll be able to sit at work for a longer period of time without feeling fatigued. Strong abdominal muscles help you to more easily lift, bend, twist, balance, and coordinate all of your movements.
Indeed, your abdominal muscles help you do just about everything!
Excerpted from 8 Minutes in the Morning® to a Flat Belly (Rodale Inc., Paperback, $12.95). Printed with the permission of the publisher.
Copyright © 2004 Jorge Cruise, Inc