By now you’ve probably heard the expression “Abs are made in the kitchen.” It may be discouraging to think that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, but studies and science seem to have proven that when it comes to flat stomachs, what you eat matters more than what you do in the gym.
If you consistently eat inflammatory foods, you could be unknowingly setting yourself up for dietary failure.
Inflammation is part of the body’s natural immune response. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to heal. But too much inflammation damages the body and leads to other health problems. It may even play a role in obesity, heart disease, and cancer. Certain foods can cause more inflammation in the body than what is normal, leading to an overactive immune system, joint pain, fatigue … and of course, a bigger belly.
The worst offenders
It probably comes as no surprise that foods high in sugar and fat, red meat, and vegetable oils are considered to be inflammatory. The good news is, most of these things are fine once in awhile.
But there are a few things you should avoid like the plague, and the fast food drive thru definitely tops the list. If you have yet to cut fast food out of your diet entirely, you may be dooming yourself to a lifetime of belly bloat.
The chemical cocktail
Of course, we have known fast food is unhealthy for many years, and nutritionists have been advising people to eat it sparingly (or not at all) for decades. A typical fast food meal contains 1,500 calories and more saturated fat than is recommended in an entire day.
But it’s not just the fat and the calories that make fast food so detrimental to a flat belly. Fast food is often full of the worst possible things you can put in your body if you’re hoping to stay slim: Trans fats, sodium, high-fructose corn syrup, and common cooking oils.
Belly fat and fructose
High-fructose corn syrup has a terrible reputation, and research indicates that it’s well-deserved. A study performed in 2010 at Princeton University showed that overconsumption of this sweetener led to a protruding stomach and excessive weight gain in the abdomen. And a prior study in 2009 showed HFCS consumers gained visceral fat in their abdomens at a higher rate than others.
HFCS is commonly found in soft drinks, condiments, baked goods, and even salad dressings. Avoid it as much as you possibly can.
The trans fat — belly fat connection
Traces of naturally occurring trans fats are found in some meat and dairy products, but typically, trans fat is formed through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil to help it become solid. This gives the oil a longer shelf life, but it’s considered by many doctors to be the worst type of fat you can eat.
In 2015, the FDA instructed all food manufacturers to phase trans fats out of the food supply. But many fast food restaurants still cook their food in these partially hydrogenated oils.
Sodium and belly bloat
Nearly every fast food meal is loaded with sodium. A high sodium diet has been linked to numerous health conditions, such as stroke and heart disease. And there is evidence that indicates it’s the top reason you can’t shed belly fat.
A recent study linked obesity and sodium intake so closely that it’s difficult to deny the connection. And since excessive sodium consumption causes your body to retain water, it’s best to watch your intake if you’re working towards a flat stomach.
Say sayonara to fast food
You’ve probably heard that some fast food is better than others. And in a pinch, such as when you’re traveling or absolutely need the convenience, there are some choices you can make that won’t do as much damage as others.
But even those menu items should be saved for emergencies. Since even the “healthy” fast food choices tend to have a lot of sodium and questionable oils, it’s best to spend some time meal prepping in advance so you won’t be forced to hit the drive thru. Your belly will thank you.
The one thing you should definitely skip if you do have fast food …
Skip the soda
If you do find yourself ordering fast food, the least you can do is skip the soda. Not only can drinking it regularly make you gain weight from all those extra calories, but carbonated drinks can cause excessive bloat — even those without calories can still cause gas to get trapped in you stomach. If you’re feeling bloated, drinking peppermint tea may help.