Belly fat is the fat around the middle of our bodies that makes up the waistline. Call it a pot belly, a spare tire, love handles, or whatever cute nickname you want — it is still belly fat. Most people seek a belly fat cure because they want a flat sexy stomach. Getting rid of belly fat means increasing your sex appeal and fitting into clothes you never thought you’d wear again. But there’s a dangerous side of belly fat that goes beyond the hit your physical image takes — doctors tell us that belly fat is seriously dangerous to our health, and that losing abdominal fat is key to remaining healthy throughout the rest of your life.
Why Is Belly Fat So Bad?
The more we learn about belly fat, the scarier it is. The most recent news on the dangers of abdominal fat is that it can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s in your older age. Sounds strange, but a team of doctors at Boston University have found that middle aged people who carry extra weight around their abdomen are at a significantly increased risk of developing some form of dementia later in life. Though it is still unclear what the exact link is between belly fat and dementia, the study found that brain volume was reduced in people who had belly fat.
Outside of the increased risk of mental health issues later in life, we know that people with fat abdomens have a much higher risk of heart disease and diabetes than people who carry their fat in the hips, butt, or thighs. There are myriad problems that come with excess belly fat, from severe acid reflux to depression and digestive issues. The bottom line — belly fat is bad for your health.
The Belly Fat Cure by Jorge Cruise
While many medical doctors are quick to attack Jorge Cruise and his new book as “bad science”, research recently published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism seems to support The Belly Fat Cure and the carb swap system. In this study, researchers compared two very different exercise and diet regimens, one of which just happens to align almost perfectly with Cruise and his carb swap system. Group one ate a diet based on the traditional “doctor approved” food pyramid, meaning they ate 50% carbohydrates, 15-20% protein, and less than 30% fat. This group also performed cardiovascular exercise at least four days per week, maintaining 50-75% of their maximal heart rate during exercise for 30-60 minutes. This is the traditional weight loss program suggested by most nutritionists and the FDA.
The second group ate a diet that almost perfectly aligns with the carb swap system — high in protein and low in carbohydrate and fat. This group’s exercise program was less strenuous, usually one or two days a week of resistance training or cardiovascular workouts. Admittedly, Cruise says that his Belly Fat Cure plan requires no exercise, so this study doesn’t perfectly match his claims. Still, this second group ate what is essentially the Cruise diet and exercised very little.
The results seem to back up claims made by Jorge Cruise. People in the second group lost on average 20% more fat than the first group. The second group also gained on average 2 pounds of muscle while the first group (eating a traditionally “healthy” diet) actually lost muscle mass. The final interesting stat about this study — abdominal fat dropped by as much as 40% in the second group, but by just 13% in the first group.
Put in simple terms, people who followed a diet and exercise plan similar to the carb swap system suggested by Jorge Cruise lost almost four times as much belly fat as those that stuck to a traditional weight loss program.
How to Lose Belly Fat
Armed with the knowledge that Jorge Cruise and his Belly Fat Cure may be onto something, how can you implement a plan to lose belly fat? While the system advertised by Cruise sounds ideal — no exercise, lots of hamburgers and pizza — it doesn’t seem to be that simple. The study we just looked at proved that some exercise may be necessary to losing abdominal fat. So the first part of your own personal belly fat attack plan will be exercise. The best exercise plan for losing belly fat seems to be a mix of cardiovascular and resistance training. Sure, you could skimp on the exercise and still lose weight, but to lose lots of belly fat quickly, you’ll need to hit the gym.
Why is working out important? You see people doing crunches and “ab exercises” in hopes of shrinking their waist line, but this tactic isn’t really effective. The only point of exercising when it comes to getting rid of belly fat is to improve your body’s metabolism and (surprisingly) to train your natural hormones to shrink belly fat. Believe it or not, belly fat is like a kind of energy storage. To get rid of that stored energy, you will have to burn more calories than you consume. Want “six pack abs”? All you have to do is get your body fat level low enough to let your natural abdominal muscles show.
Eating Your Belly Fat Away
Jorge Cruise and his book are popular because it seems like you can eat your way to a flat stomach. Cruise suggests that exercise and calorie counting are ineffective and that simply controlling your sugar and carbs will shrink your ab fat. While his method goes too far in the direction of encouraging laziness, there are foods you can eat that decrease the fat in your abdominal area.
The cliche you hear in the gym (“a flat stomach is made in the kitchen”) is true. Consuming high amounts of protein, “good” fats, and vegetables that are naturally low in sugar and complex carbs will reduce the amount of belly fat on your body. What foods should you avoid? Processed foods with added sweeteners (especially artificial sweeteners) are forbidden, as are cocktails and most candies. Don’t feel like you have to get on the wagon to lose belly fat — according to Cruise, wine, beer, and champagne are just fine for your belly. It is those sugary cocktails that can ruin your waistline.
In his book, Jorge Cruise suggests five very specific meal plans that are aimed at five very different eating style. This is one aspect of his book that I really appreciate — not everyone likes to eat tons of dense protein, and some people just don’t want to eat carbs. Cruise provides belly fat reducing meal plans for people of all eating types, including those of us with serious carb cravings.
Here’s an example of Cruise’s suggested diet. This is his “no excuses day” meal plan — the strictest eating plan in his book. You’ll notice that even this most strict of diets includes things like butter, cheese, and steak, making the Jorge Cruise carb swap system easier to follow than more monastic carb-cutting diets.
- Breakfast — 3 eggs, 2 slices of buttered toast
- Snack — Handful of walnuts, buttered popcorn
- Lunch — Tuna salad on whole wheat pita bread
- Snack — 1 cup of cottage cheese with honey
- Dinner — Grilled chicken or steak, sauteed veggies and 1/2 cup to 1 cup of brown rice
In addition to these meals and snacks, people on the Cruise diet are supposed to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day — a suggestion that any doctor will get behind. Surprisingly, the Cruise belly fat cure requires that dieters avoid almost all fresh fruit (except those with low sugar content) and even otherwise “healthy” foods like skim milk or fruit juice. This is because of the carb swap system — you must get rid of sugars and complex carbs in order to lose belly fat under the Cruise Belly Fat Cure.
Fruit lovers, have no fear. There are two fruits that Cruise specifically mentions as “belly good” — blackberries and blueberries. In fact, Cruise goes so far as to say that these are the only fresh fruits you’re allowed to eat on his plan. How do you get fiber and nutrients without eating fresh fruit? Cruise says that eating the right vegetables gives you all the minerals you’d find in fruit without the sugars. More good news — once you stick with the Cruise diet plan long enough to reach your ideal weight, you can add a few pieces of fruit per day as a reward.
How Does the Carb Swap System Work?
Though most nutritionists will tell you simply “it doesn’t”, Jorge Cruise claims that his carb sway system works by balancing sugar and carbs to reduce belly fat. Each day, dieters on the Cruise plan eat no more than 15 grams of sugar total. That’s a huge cut from the sugar intake of your average person. Where this sugar comes form is another important part of the Cruise diet — you must get your sugars from no more than six servings of “smart,” fiber-rich carbs. There’s no complex math or charts to keep up with, you simply calculate the sugar and carb ratio by comparing the grams of sugar to the number of servings of carbs in the foods you’re eating. That information is now mandatory on food labels here in America.
Cruise’s theory is that this “carb swap” system controls your body’s natural insulin levels. We know that diets high in sugar increases insulin, a side effect of which is the creation of fat cells. As an added bonus, Cruise suggests that lower levels of insulin will also reduce your body’s wrinkles, amp up your energy, and reduce pain from inflammation and sore muscles. The Belly Fat Cure sounds more and more like a one stop shop for all your body’s ills.
Why are you allowed to eat so much fat and protein on the Cruise plan? Fat and protein don’t increase your body’s insulin levels, so there’s simply no need to limit your intake or track how much of these nutrients you consume. What about Cruise’s suggestion that exercise isn’t necessary for belly fat loss? Cruise’s book claims that an optional 20-minute power walk will add toning and strength to your body, but that exercise simply isn’t necessary to regulate insulin levels. Most doctors say that the benefits of exercise aren’t just belly fat reduction — general health and well being come from getting regular exercise, and there are plenty of nutrients that your body absorbs naturally from the sun while you exercise. Your best bet on the Cruise plan is to ignore his suggestion that exercise isn’t necessary and get your heart pumping a few times a week. You’ll feel (and look) much better for it.
The science behind belly fat is fascinating. We now know, for instance, that breastfeeding mothers lose belly fat at a stunning rate and without doing any exercise at all. In fact, women who breastfeed their children have a decreased risk of belly fat for the rest of their lives. Why this happens and why the belly fat stays away for life is still unclear. As doctors do more research into belly fat and its affects, there are new surprises and lessons to be learned. We also know that a workout of as little as ten minutes a day can have a positive impact on the amount and the makeup of belly fat, reducing your chances of diabetes, heart disease, and dementia. The science of belly fat is emerging and constantly changing — so be careful about putting your faith in Jorge Cruise and his carb swap system. We just don’t know if he’s right yet.