If the answer is “yes” you are among 80% of Americans with a larger waist to hip ratio. This deadly ratio has serious health consequences including insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, arthritis, pain and inflammation. This ratio is not caused by genetics but rather a result of lifestyle habits and thereby completely preventable and reversible.
There are a number of dietary factors that lead a person down this lethal road including the consumption of high glycemic index foods, trans fasts and nitrosamine preservatives. High glycemic foods like soda, baked goods, white bread, pasta and fruit juices spike blood sugars and if consumed regularly lead to insulin resistance. You may be surprised to see fruit juice on this list as many people think fruit juices are very healthy. In reality, a glass of fruit juice has as much sugar as a can of soda. How can this be you ask? The truth is an eight-ounce glass of orange juice has an average of six oranges in it. When was the last time you sat down and ate six oranges at once?
Trans fats are partially hydrogenated oils that cause your waistline to grow. They are found in margarine, vegetable shortenings, cookies, candies, cakes, popcorn, most snack foods, chips and fast foods. Also many peanut butters, canned soups, and some “health foods” are made with trans fats. When consumed, trans fats are incorporated into the membrane of the cell and alter its shape. Within a healthy membrane, receptors can move easily around the membrane to bind to glucose molecules, hormones and other signaling agents. In an unhealthy membrane, full of trans fats, the membrane is very stiff and the receptors cannot move around easily to bind to the signaling molecules. As a consequence, conditions like high glucose in the bloodstream, insulin resistance and eventual diabetes can occur. There are countless receptors or docking sites that control other essential processes in our body that require this healthy membrane. Without a healthy cell membrane we set ourselves up for a host of chronic diseases.
Nitrosamines (nitrates and nitrites) have been researched and shown to contribute to a larger waist to hip ratio and many of the conditions that come with it. Nitrosamines are preservatives found in foods such as luncheon meats, bacon and smoked fish, some beers (usually inexpensive, low quality beers) and tobacco products. Look for luncheon meats and bacon that proudly advertise they are “nitrate/nitrite free”.
Reducing your waist to hip ratio can be easier than you think. With a few simple changes you can balance your ratios and reduce your risk. Start by changing your diet. Choose foods low on the glycemic index such as vegetables, low glycemic fruits, meat, nuts and avoid grains. Never eat foods containing trans fats or nitrosamines. Eat plenty of omega-3 rich foods including wild caught fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts. Many of the principles mentioned above are found in the Paleolithic diet, so give it a try and get the whole family involved. It is essential to incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine as well, try CrossFit, recreational sports leagues or hiking. Make it fun, stay motivated and you will be on your way to shrinking your tummy while expanding your life.