Turns out belly fat is no joke. Can't get rid of that extra weight around your middle? Unaddressed physical and psychological behaviours might be to blame.
If you're a bloke who hits the gym but loves their booze and burgers, chances are you'll be holding onto a bit of belly fat.
What's the harm in a little pudge? Plenty, actually.
With belly fat first comes subcutaneous fat, an additional layer of padding just beneath your skin. Then there is visceral fat; associated with belly fat, it's found deep within your abdomen, where it forms around your internal organs. Visceral fat ups your risk of everything from heart disease and hypertension (high blood pressure), to type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.
Australian men are currently fatter than ever. 71 per cent of us over 18 fall under the overweight or obese category, the most recent men's health data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows; that's a big jump from 1995, where 64% of us were in this category.
What if I have some belly fat, but am not overweight?
You're not off the hook. Whether or not you're in the healthy BMI range, visceral fat is visceral fat, its presence significantly raising your chances of developing lifestyle-related disease.
If you've tried to lose your belly fat time and time again but with little success, chances are you're trying to lose it the wrong way.
Let's not waste any more time.
Tips for Getting Rid of Your gut
1. Go for a physical
Your first job is to head to your GP for a complete physical screening, so you have a better understanding about what's going on with your body, and the workout programs that will best target your needs. For a more comprehensive fitness-related physical, it might be worth seeing an exercise physiologist, who can also create an individualised workout program for losing that belly fat.
2. Cut back on booze and sugar
You don't have to give up the grog entirely, but we all know that alcohol contains calories. And because it's a toxin, the body will break down the alcohol you've consumed before it metabolises the food you've inhaled…any excess energy will be stored as adipose tissue – that's fat, and your beer belly.
It's not just alcohol that's to blame for your belly…you probably know that sugar plays a part. The WHO guidelines on sugar tell us that ideally, we should be keeping our consumption of free sugars (that's added sugars) down to 5% of our daily energy intake; that's 25g, or six teaspoons of sugar a day. ABS stats show that in 2011-12, males 19+ were consuming an average of 59g of sugar on a daily basis.
...It might be time to go see that dietitian.
3. Get your health screenings
Speak to your GP about the conditions you should be getting screened for at your age. Genetics can also dictate the screening required.
Getting your health screenings won't get rid of your belly fat, but the test results might motivate you to get the ball rolling when it comes to making positive changes to your health – not just for the summer, but for good.
4. Consider seeing a sport and exercise psychologist
A tip you probably haven't heard before, but if you've hit a wall with your workouts and diet, this is the kind of professional you might like to work with.
Something that blokes should be talking more about, ongoing negative internal dialogue ("I can't do this", "I'm overweight and unattractive") won't get you anywhere. A sport and exercise psychologist will provide doable strategies for the particular diet and lifestyle challenges you have - be it work/life balance, friends and family who pay you out for your efforts, or the negative body image that can come with all the #fitspo on our social media feeds.
Find a health practitioner near you at Healthshare. Read more about the writer here.