I have a friend who is studying to become a personal trainer. She told me that one of her coworkers asked her today if she could recommend some gym exercises for getting rid of belly fat. She told her coworker no – and said that she looked kind of shocked. But it’s true: there is no magic exercise for losing belly fat.
To get rid of fat from any part of the body, you have to stop feeding your body stuff that it can’t use. This goes along with what I wrote earlier about how you can’t eat whatever you want and expect to be able to “work it off.” You can’t eat unhealthy foods, do a few crunches, and expect to get healthy – or thin.
Exercise is really important, and has loads of benefits. It can help reduce your risk of disease, strengthen bones and muscles, improve your mental health, and help keep your mental faculties sharp as you age. But when it comes to overall health, I firmly believe that 80 percent of your health is determined by your diet.
This can be observed in the lifestyle habits of Blue Zone inhabitants. Blue Zones are certain areas in the world where people regularly live to the age of 100. And they don’t just live longer lives – they live more vibrant, healthy lives, with much lower rates of degenerative diseases than the rest of the world.
How do they do it? Some National Geographic explorers set out to find out, and identified 9 lifestyle characteristics that Blue Zone inhabitants have in common. And only one has to do with exercise.
People who live in Blue Zones don’t buy expensive gym memberships, log a certain number of crunches, or run marathons. They simply move. They build regular, moderate activity into their daily lives to they don’t have to think about it. They spend time gardening or walk to the store.
When it comes to diet, however, there are three key habits practiced in Blue Zones:
- The 80-20 rule. Many of us are accustomed to eating until we are stuffed, and snacking constantly throughout the day. But putting your body into a constant state of digestion can overburden your system. And, it uses up valuable energy that your body needs for other processes – like removing dangerous toxins. Blue Zone dwellers are in the habit of putting down their forks when they are 80 percent full. They eat less, and they have lower rates of obesity. Try leaving at least 12 hours between your dinner and breakfast so that your digestive system can rest and your body can recharge.
- Plant-based diets. Many Blue Zone inhabitants are vegetarians, or save meat only for special occasions. Vegetarianism is associated with a 15 percent lower death rate from all causes, and a 25 percent lower death rate from heart disease. Make fruits and vegetables the focus of your diet, and snack on nuts. Note that a plant-based diet does not mean loading up on bread and other processed starches. These foods are converted by the body into sugar, which is stored as fat. You don’t need starchy food for energy – you’ll get enough complex carbs from a diet high in fruits and veggies. And don’t forget to include your healthy fats.
- Moderate drinking. Yes, you can drink alcohol and still be healthy! Blue Zone inhabitants regularly drink one to two glasses of wine in the evening. Just don’t overdo it, and don’t think that you can save up all your drinks and have 14 drinks on the weekend.
To learn more about Blue Zones, read my post Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.