Researchers aren’t sure why, but they think it might have to do with the fact that abdominal fat is mobile: It likes to enter the bloodstream and circulate around your organs, affecting their ability to function properly.
Belly fat comes with some big health threats, including an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and breast cancer. That’s because visceral (aka toxic) fat — the kind stored around your middle that surrounds your kidneys, pancreas, and liver — causes blood-sugar levels to spike while at the same time creating insulin resistance and inflammation. In other words, your body has an excess amount of sugar floating around, and it’s no longer able to process it all.
This combo is what can lead to chronic diseases as well as weight gain, Swift says, all of which makes it crucial to trim your waistline. The good news? “You can cut your risk of disease in half by shedding just two inches from your waist,” Dr. Savard notes.
The Apple Diet
This plan is a little higher in healthy fats and lower in carbs than the pear’s. Heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, found in nuts, avocados, and olive oil, has been shown to decrease inflammation, which has been linked to disease, while increasing your body’s ability to burn fat. Carbohydrates, even the whole-grain kind, raise insulin levels in the body. “Apples are already prone to having high blood sugar — which can be a precursor to diabetes and heart disease — so they need to watch their carb intake,” Cochran says. She recommends a diet of about 40 percent carbs, so roughly 600 calories for a woman eating 1,500 daily. Look for fiber-rich, complex carbs, like beans, fruits, veggies, and whole grains. “Fiber slows the digestion of sugar and lowers insulin and cholesterol levels,” Dr. Savard explains.
Working out is also crucial because it can rev up your metabolism and increase your calorie burn. Doing a lot of crunches, while great for strengthening ab muscles, isn’t going to get rid of any extra inches around your middle. To do that, Dorfman recommends at least three 40-minute cardio sessions a week — running, biking, or swimming — to help build lean muscles in your lower body and balance the top half. Twice a week, do some total-body strength training to help tighten your core and burn flab.
Apple Meal Plan
1,500 calories: 600 calories from carbohydrates, 525 calories from fat, 375 calories from protein
1 egg, scrambled with 1/4 cup spinach and 2 tablespoons mozzarella cheese
1 ounce lean ham
1 slice whole wheat toast with 1/2 teaspoon margarine made with canola oil
1 small apple
1 tablespoon peanut butter
Cobb salad: 2 cups mixed greens, 1/2 tomato, 2 ounces sliced cooked skinless chicken breast, 1 hard-cooked egg, 1/8 avocado, 1 tablespoon reduced-fat feta cheese tossed with 2 tablespoons reduced-fat Italian dressing
6 whole wheat crackers
1 small pear
1 piece string cheese
3-ounce sirloin steak marinated in 1 tablespoon each light soy sauce and orange juice and grilled
1 small baked potato, with skin, topped with 1 tablespoon each light sour cream and chives
1/2 cup steamed broccoli with 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup light yogurt mixed with 2 tablespoons bran cereal and 1/2 cup frozen blueberries