Apples are great for your health, but having an apple-shaped body really isn’t. An apple-shaped body, describing those who store fat around their middle and have a larger than average waist size, is the unhealthiest body shape of all. But, beneath the surface of every apple is an apple core, the hourglass figure that we all want – here, we tell you just how to tailor your diet and exercise routine to help you bring out your very own apple core!
Apple-shaped bodies are characterized as having excess weight around the middle section, but storing fat here comes with some big health threats, including an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and breast cancer. This is because the type of fat stored around your abdomen is the more dangerous and toxic type of fat – visceral fat. Visceral fat surrounds your pancreas, kidneys and liver, and causes blood sugar levels to spike, while creating insulin resistance and inflammation. In other words, the body has an excess amount of sugar floating around and it’s no longer able to process it all. This combination is what can lead to chronic diseases as well as weight gain, which makes it crucial to trim your waistline in order to improve your health. The good news is, apple shapes find it easier to drop pounds than the typical pear shape, as abdominal fat breaks down more quickly than fat stored in the butt and thigh area, which is because belly fat is more mobile and tends to move around the organs more. What’s more, you can cut your risk of disease in half by shedding just two inches from your waist.
The Apple Core Diet
Apple shapes should include plenty of healthy fats in their diet, as heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) have been found to decrease the inflammation which has been linked to disease. MUFAs, found in nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocados and fish, have also been shown to increase your body’s ability to burn fat.
A diet rich in fiber has been shown to help avoid the development of belly fat; a study where people ate 10 grams of soluble fiber each day (equivalent to a cup of green peas) but made no other changes to their diet built up less visceral fat over time. The soluble fiber, found in foods such as apples, cherries and oats, lowers insulin levels which in turn can speed up the burning of belly fat, but you must eat the skin, as that’s where all the fiber is.
Carbohydrates should be eaten in moderation, as even the whole-grain kind raise insulin levels in the body, and as apple shapes are already prone to having high blood sugar, they need to watch their carb intake. A diet of about 40 percent carbs (so roughly 600 calories of carbs for a woman eating 1,500 calories daily) will help to minimize insulin levels and help your liver to process your calorie intake more efficiently. The best carbs to choose are fiber-rich complex carbs like beans, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
The antioxidants found in green tea also help to burn fat cells, so aim to drink two to four cups daily to get the ideal amount of these helpful antioxidants. Low-fat dairy and the calcium it provides also helps to burn fat, and lean meat, berries, beans, eggs and reduced-sugar dark chocolate have all been shown to aid the fight against belly fat.
Sugar is your number one enemy if you want to lose belly fat, as increased insulin levels result in fat being stored around your middle, so stay away from sugar and candy as well as refined carbs, like white bread, white rice and pasta, as these are all converted to sugar in the body and put pressure on your already struggling liver. Alcohol should also be avoided, as this slows down liver process for up to three days and has been directly linked to weight gain around your belly. Also stay clear of trans-fats, as these are the bad fats which distribute fat around your midsection, so step away from margarine, cookies and cakes, and anything made with partially hydrogenated oils.
Apple Core Exercises
Working out is also crucial to coax out your inner apple core, because it revs up your metabolism and increases calorie burn, plus visceral fat likes inactivity, so the message is to get active. It is a common assumption that crunches are the best way to get toned abs, and while these exercises build strong muscles, you might not see them under belly fat. To get rid of the extra inches around your middle, it’s recommended that you do at least three 40-minute cardio sessions a week, such as running, biking or swimming to help build lean muscles in your lower body and burn fat in your top half, and while no exercise can target solely belly fat, it’s usually the first to burn off when you do exercise. If you’re a member of a gym, you can make the most of your cardio by doing some time on the elliptical machine and resisting the urge to hold on to the bars. To increase the workout for your core while you’re on this machine, just do your normal workout but hands-free and you’ll soon feel how having to keep yourself balanced engages your abs more.
Pilates is a great exercise for strengthening your core, but there are some exercises you can take from Pilates and into your everyday life. One of these is the ‘stomach vacuum’, and is simply a breathing exercise which you can do literally anywhere. To do this exercise, breathe in for two counts and breathe out slowly in four counts, making sure you expel all the air and contract your stomach at the same time. Breathe in again and then the next time you breathe out in four counts and contract your stomach into a ‘vacuum’, hold it there and try not to breathe in or out for four counts. After four, breathe in for two counts and repeat the exercise. Once you get the hang of it, you can try to increase the time you hold your stomach in.
It may not seem like you’re doing much, but repeating this exercise for at least 15 minutes every day will encourage your apple core out of hiding without having to resort to crunches. Planking is another great way to strengthen your abs without having to do the dreaded sit-ups. There are many types of planks which work different core muscles but to start with, just try the standard plank and see how long you can hold it for. This isn’t something you can do anywhere but it’s certainly something you can try when watching TV, to keep yourself occupied and challenged while you’re waiting for the ad breaks to finish.
Are you an apple shape ready to release your inner apple core? Let us know if you’ve found these tips useful by commenting below!