The Health Benefits of a Tighter Tummy

By Elana Pruitt © 2005-2009 Editor

We all want a lean body – toned, firm, and sexy. But in the midst of sitting in freeway traffic, meeting with clients, and picking up the kids from school, the temptation to stuff our face with feel-good food takes over. While most people opt to super-size, despite the occasional replacement of french fries with guilt-free, salad, our cravings are known to get regular, and unfortunately damaging, quick fixes.

A Toned Absomen Is A Healthy Abdomen“Belly fat – the fat that pushes your waist out – is the most dangerous fat on your body,” writes health enthusiast David Zinczenko, editor-in-chief of Men’s Health magazine, convincingly arguing that losing weight in this area means you’ll live longer. “Big deal!” you may even say to yourself, as you rub your stomach after a hearty, yet grimy, meal. But if you think a six-pack should only belong to people like A-lister Gwen Stefani and fitness mogul Denise Austin, think again.

In his first book, "The Abs Diet" (2004), Zinczenko offers more than his six-week plan toward getting a flatter stomach; he gives us a look at the science behind the benefits of a trim midsection, and the risks associated with a bulky belly. His witty arguments may make you think twice about picking up that double cheeseburger or fourth slice of pizza.

"The Abs Diet" introduces you to 12 “Powerfoods,” quick and easy meal plans, success stories, basic gym or at-home exercises, and 56 abdominal workout moves that target the upper abs, lower abs, obliques, transverse abdominis, and the lower back. According to Zinczenko, taking on this diet means focusing on, versus restricting yourself to, a handful of food types.

“Incorporating these Powerfoods into your six meals a day will satiate your tastes and cravings and keep you from feasting on the dangerous fat promoters in your diets,” Zinczenko writes. Almonds and other nuts, dairy, eggs, turkey and lean meats, peanut butter, and whole grain breads and cereals are among the power 12.

Obesity of the Abdomen

“Abdominal fat bears the blame for many health problems because it resides within striking distance of your heart, liver, and other organs – pressing on them, feeding them poisons, and messing with their daily function,” Zinczenko writes, acknowledging that many people tend to store fat in this area. He reports that an average American has about 30 billion fat cells which contain cholesterol-infested lipids, adding that, “As you grow fatter and double the number of fat cells in your body, you also double the difficulty you’ll have losing the lipids inside them.”

By pumping our body with greasy substances, Zinczenko says that these fat cells can possibly expand up to 1,000 times their size, and explaining that abdominal fat operates like a separate organ, it can release free fatty acids that may impair the body’s ability to break down the hormone insulin. With too much insulin in our bodies, the chance of developing diabetes rises.

“The calories you can’t burn are what converts into fat cells that pad your gut and leaves you with a disease that, if untreated, can lead to impotence, blindness, heart attacks, strokes, amputation, and death,” Zinczenko argues, purporting that diabetes commonly results from years of eating high-carbohydrate foods.

“According to the National Institutes of Health, a waistline larger than 40 inches for men signals significant risk of heart disease and diabetes,” he reports. “A woman with a flabby midsection is at risk for the same health problems.”

Still, unhealthy urges push their way out our doors every day, keeping drive thru’s and convenience stores booming in business. "The Abs Diet" may make its mark during a needy time: about 8 million Americans are morbidly overweight. According to the American Obesity Association (AOA), “lack of physical activity with high-calorie, low-cost foods” are its common contributing forces. While gastrointestinal surgery, or bariatric surgery, is designed to reduce a patient’s stomach size, thousands of American men and women seek cosmetic surgery as helpful belly-trimming techniques.

Plastic Surgery To Treat Obesity

Liposuction surgically sculpts the body by removing unwanted fat from specific areas of the body, and a tummy tuck removes excess skin and fat from the middle and lower abdomen, tightening the muscles of the abdominal wall. Yet, neither procedure is intended to replace the natural strength of dieting and exercise.

“An ideal candidate for liposuction should be someone who is physically healthy and has realistic expectations,” says Robert A. Guida, M.D., F.A.C.S., a New York plastic surgeon, mentioning that genes play a major role in determining who gets heart-related illnesses. He says men and women can still help to reduce their risks in developing heart disease and high blood pressure by eating healthy.

Stress And Weight Management

According to Zinczenko, stress can make us fat.“You should lower your caloric intake at a reasonable level – a sensitive level,” Dr. Guida advises, recommending more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, soy, and lean meat as important dietary elements.

So what happens to our bodies when stress hits, and overeating kicks in? According to Zinczenko, stress can make us fat.

“One of the first things your body does is jack up its production of adrenaline,” he writes, detailing that sleep and loading up on vitamin C may reduce your stress levels. “Adrenaline causes fat cells all over your body to squirt their stores of fatty acids into your bloodstream to be used as energy.”

Possibly the biggest lesson that can be derived from "The Abs Diet" is the importance of learning how your body works. Zinczenko delivers a humorously-honest approach on how to attain a tighter tummy, believing that firm abs will help to improve your sex life, strengthen your back, limit aches and pains, and provide core support during sport.

“How fast can you go from a stopped position at point A to stopping at point B?” asks Zinczenko. “Your legs don’t control that; your abs do. The stronger you are, the fast you’ll get to the ball.”

Especially for men and women on the go, a new nutrition plan may help you lose weight and reduce your naughty cravings. So turn around, exit that hamburger hut, and nip temptation in the bud.