Fighting your own ‘Battle of the Bulge’ this winterThe general torpidity from the inactivity that tends to accompany the onset of winter brings to most of us an uninvited guest ― a bulging belly. As the weather gets colder our bodies react much the same as those of our early ancestors and tends to build up fat for insulation against freezing temperatures, despite our advances in central heating and building design. Even relatively fit people may notice their bellies gaining bulk, especially when sitting down.
Many think that gruelling workouts and constant sit-ups are the only solution to maintaining that svelte flat abdomen but this is not strictly true. There is a certain lifestyle that can prevent and reduce the build up of belly fat. Those people who have flat bellies despite not being obsessed with gym work outs, usually have a balanced life-style, including a healthy diet, physical activity and good sleeping habits.
Let’s take a look at diet. A healthy intake of fiber, which cleanses the body and reduces fat absorption, is good for flat belly maintenance. And a good thing to remember is that not only European style salads provide fiber. Seaweed, beans, and other ingredients in Korean side dishes contain lots of fiber, as do the dishes dwenjangjige and kimchjige. Cooking Korean food at home is one way to keep that belly flat.
Drinking tea after meals? Definitely yes! While many may regard it as a trivial habit, it can make a noticeable difference. Tea leaves, especially from green and black tea have abundant vitamin C and tannin, which help break down fats. That’s why greasy Chinese food goes so well with tea.
Other than diet, simple exercise can help keep the bulge at bay. People who naturally maintain their shape tend to walk a lot. Instead of taking a taxi or driving your car to an expensive gym where you walk on a treadmill, how about just walking for a certain amount of time everyday? It not only gives you the desired belly shape but also saves you money. Walking 10,000 steps daily helps blood circulate in your digestive organs, making them function better, and moving your arms and waist stimulates the flow of lymph, which is important for getting rid of accumulated fats. Liquid flow in your body is the key to a good shape, because it prevents fat from building up in certain spots. While doing sit-ups for at least 20 minutes a day is often stressful and tiring (and dangerous for those who have back problems), walking until your body feels warm every day can be just as effective.
Another important habit to keep the belly beautiful is sleeping early. During sleep we produce growth hormones between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., which speed up the metabolism of fat, so try to sleep by midnight at the latest. Also, stretching before and after sleep tightens muscles around your belly and waist. One more! While breathing from the abdomen is taught as healthy in many yoga centers, breathing from the chest increases lung capacity and the metabolic rate. If you just breathe from the abdomen, your metabolism slows down. So, why not do both?
Tips to get or maintain a flat belly
1. Remember to eat a lot of fiber everyday. (Korean side dishes provide abundant fiber, even though they are often cooked vegetables. Western style raw salads are also good as long as the dressing is not too oily.)
2. Drink tea (green or black) after meals.
3. Walk at least 10,000 steps a day. It will help blood circulation in general and especially to the inner organs.
4. Sleep before midnight. Fat digestion is most active from 1 a.m. to 2.a.m.
5. Stretch before and after sleep. This isn’t as difficult as sit-ups but is just as effective!
by Choi Sun-young