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  • Everything You Need to Know About Belly Fat and Its Dangers

    If you’ve ever tried to get rid of belly fat, you know how difficult it can be! This article will help you understand why you should be concerned about belly fat and how you can get rid of it.

    We’ve all heard of a “muffin-top”–the fat around your midsection that makes up the dreaded love handles. This fat, along with other fat found in the midsection stands in the way of your dreams to get the chiselled and toned abs that you’ve always wanted.

    But fat around your midsection is not only aesthetically unappealing, but it’s also something that can cause you major health issues. In order to understand belly fat, we’ve first got to understand the role of the two type types of fat we have.

    All Body Fat Isn’t Created Equal

    You’ve got 2 types of fat:

    1. Subcutaneous fat, and
    2. Visceral fat

    Illustration 1.1, Source: Google images

    Subcutaneous Fat

    This type of body fat can be found directly under the skin throughout your body. It’s particularly common in the breast, stomach, hips, thighs and buttocks areas. Now the good news is that subcutaneous fat isn’t necessarily hazardous to your health.

    In contrast, subcutaneous fat in the lower body (such as in the thighs and buttocks) seems to put you at a lower risk for various illnesses. A study mentioned in the Journals of Gerontology compared two groups with the same body weight and found that people with more subcutaneous fat in their lower bodies are actually healthier than people with less subcutaneous lower body fat.

    Subcutaneous fat does not cover our internal organs and thereby leaves these organs unaffected. This type of fat is also easily available for the muscles to use as energy; hence, this is the fat that melts away first when you start to exercise and incorporate a healthy diet.

    Visceral Fat

    Go back to the illustration 1.1 and you’ll see that visceral fat (also known as belly fat or abdominal fat) is hidden and gathers around your vital internal organs such as liver, heart, lungs and intestines.

    This type of fat is also called belly fat because visceral fat’s primarily located in the midsection.

    Unlike subcutaneous fat, visceral fat is also harder to manage as it can be hidden underneath the muscles. To complicate matters, unlike subcutaneous fat, which is easily burned, this type of fat remains untouched when your body needs energy except as a last resort. From an evolutionary perspective this makes sense because if you were to experience a long famine, your body would need to use this fat to survive the period since you have no access to food. But in the current world where the food is ubiquitous and obesity is common, we don’t have any need for storing this type of fat.

    Now, this storage of fat also explains why it’s so hard to lose those last few inches off your midsection. If you have ever tried to lose weight, you’ll know that you’ll lose fat quite fast in all areas of your body except your midsection.

    The Dangers of Belly Fat

    You may have heard of the apple versus pear shaped body. People with apple shaped bodies have a higher amount of visceral fat. However, people who suffer from excessive amounts of subcutaneous fat have a pear-shaped body, meaning most of their fat is stored below the waist.

    Illustration 1.2, Source: Google images

    People with apple shaped bodies are more prone to cardiovascular diseases, type-2 diabetes and blood pressure than people with pear shaped bodies because the former group carry around a lot of visceral fat in their bellies.

    People with apple shaped bodies may have a higher rate of these type of diseases because a high amount of belly fat produces high levels of inflammation in your body and this inflammation, in turn, can trigger a wide range of diseases. Additionally, this fat also prevents healthy blood flow and the detoxification of toxins in the body.

    And remember since this visceral fat is present near your major internal organs, the accumulation of this fat increases many health risks. Here are some diseases associated with visceral fat:

    • type-2 diabetes, as was mentioned before,
    • blood pressure,
    • cholesterol,
    • insulin sensitivity,
    • metabolic syndrome,
    • obesity,
    • arthritis,
    • hormonal dysfunctions, and even
    • certain types of cancers!

    Looking at these dangers of belly fat, I understand, why Umar (RA) described a big belly as a punishment (adaab) of Allah! It’s indeed a major discomfort to lead a life with a bulging belly!

    Measure Your Visceral Fat

    Now that you know the dangers of belly fat (aka visceral fat), you may be curious to find out the amount of this fat in your body.

    There are a couple of ways to easily measure your visceral fat.

    Waist circumference:

    You can use a simple cloth measuring tape to measure your waist circumference. Measuring your waist size is one of the easiest ways to measure your visceral fat.

    Here is how to measure your waist: Measure at the navel. Stand upright and breathe normally with the abdomen relaxed.

    If you are shooting for a healthy waist circumference, here is a general guide to follow.

    Men: A waist circumference below 94 centimetres (or 37 inches) is healthy

    Women: A waist circumference of below 80 centimetres (or 31.5 inches) is healthy.

    Waist-hip ratio:

    You can find out the waist-hip ratio by measuring the circumference of your hips at the widest point, across your buttocks. Then measure your waist as described above. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement to get the ratio.

    Men: A ratio anything below 0.90 is good

    Women: A ratio anything below 0.85 is good

    Body fat percentage

    Your body fat percentage indicates the status of your current health. Hence, measuring it regularly gives you an idea of whether or not you are in the healthy range of body fat percentage.

    That being said, it’s not easy to measure your accurate body fat percentage. Many digital devices that are available on the market aren’t that accurate.

    One of the easiest and most accurate ways of measuring your body fat is by using skinfold caliper. But to use this caliper correctly, you need some practice to get an accurate reading.

    Here is a general guide to follow.

    Men: Anything above 20% or below 6% is considered unhealthy.

    Women: Anything above 30% or below 16% is considered unhealthy.

    How to Get Rid of Your Visceral Fat

    If you want to get rid of visceral fat and lower your risk for diseases mentioned above, I would advise you to initially focus on these four areas:

    1. Incorporate healthy eating – Focus on eating real food that is full of vegetables, protein, complex carbs and healthy fat at every meal. And minimize foods that are highly processed food, have lots of sugar, simple carbs and trans fat.
    2. Exercise intelligently – Follow an exercise plan that includes strength workouts at least 3 times a week, cardio 3 times a week and 2 high-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercises. Studies show that HIIT exercises burn more fat than traditional cardio.
    3. Get a regular 7 hours sleep – Sleep deprivation even for a single night can decrease calories burned by 5-20%. Now, imagine the long-term effects of low quality and fewer hours of sleep!
    4. Manage your stress levels – Just like stress can create havoc in your life, it can do the same for your weight loss. So, managing your stress is vital for a long-term lean & healthy life.

    When you incorporate these suggestions, your visceral fat (aka belly fat) will disappear twice as fast as subcutaneous fat.

    Here are four effective exercises to target your abdominal fat:

    1. Crunches
    2. Medicine ball twist
    3. Plank
    4. Cat vomit

    In order to make these abdominal exercises more effective, please do follow these suggestions:

    • Keep the abdominal muscles engaged throughout the exercise. You can do this by pulling your navel in.
    • Empty out all the air by breathing out when you engage in abdominal exercises.
    • Train your abs on an empty stomach. Or wait at least after few hours after a meal.
    • Do your cardio after your abdominal exercises. This routine is better for “fat flushing” or losing the fat at a rapid rate.

    Remember Your Intention and Be Patient

    Losing your visceral fat isn’t just about aesthetics or lowering your risk for certain diseases, rather the reduction of belly fat helps you to strengthen your core muscles. As you probably know, strengthening your muscles is essential to having good posture and for your everyday movements.

    So getting rid of visceral fat really means that you are also transforming the way you live your life.

    So, don’t forget to implement the strategies that I’ve provided. Remember to also lose the fat for the Sake of Allah (SWT) since the hadith of the Prophet (PBUH) cautions us by telling us:

    “A human being fills no worse vessel than his stomach” (Ibn Majah).

    And I would like to end this article with a beautiful Arabian quotation for you to ponder over: The stomach is the home of disease and restraint is the basis of the remedy.

  • 6 Reasons Why You Should Stop Counting Your Calories

    Counting your calories seems easy and effective, right? Wrong. In this article, I give you 6 reasons why counting calories is bad for your health and weight loss goals. Learn how you can take control of not only what you eat, but your life.

    If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, then chances are you’ve come across the idea of counting calories. Tons of weight loss programmes have an underlining strategy that’s based on counting calories (think of Weight Watchers).

    These diets promote calorie counting because of how weight loss works: when the calories you take in are lower than what you expend, you lose weight. Counting calories, in addition to other methods, is perhaps one of the most prevalent ways to achieve this “negative energy balance.”

    However, many weight loss newbies (or even some advanced weight loss “experts”) assume that counting calories is an exact science. But I’m here to tell you that it’s not.

    Knowing the pitfalls of counting calories and how calorie-counting is detrimental to your mind and body will help you to create a healthy relationship with your food. And yes, you’ll still lose weight while not counting your calories.

    Now, let’s look at some of these pitfalls. You’ll understand why counting calories isn’t a sustainable solution for your weight loss goals.

    #1. Not All the Calories That You’re Having Are Equal

    At Lean & Healthy, we coach Muslims around the world to become lean and healthy for life. We also teach our clients why the quality of a certain food is more important than the quantity. As part of this method, we teach our clients that not all calories are equal.

    When counting calories, people usually don’t take the quality of their food into consideration. They just want to make sure that they don’t exceed their pre-calculated “2000 calories a day.

    But that’s totally dangerous. Just think about it. If you had the choice of eating a 200 calories banana or 200 calories candy bar, which do you think is better for your health? You know the correct answer.

    Though both are equal in calories, the banana has all the beneficial nutrients that your body needs, whereas a candy bar has almost zero nutritional value.

    So, you need to be aware of the fact that not all calories are equal.

    #2. You Look at Life through a Restrictive Lens

    Research is clear about this: counting calories creates a mindset programmed to think only of restrictions.

    It puts your brain into counting mode and, therefore, restricts you to numbers. As soon as your brain perceives deprivation, it’ll start to rebel and want more of what it is being deprived of. So, that’s when you’ll start to notice issues such as binge eating!

    In this case, you achieve exactly the opposite of what you want to achieve. Yep, it’s totally counterproductive.

    #3. You Start to Obsess About Food

    Research shows that people who count calories think more often about food than those who aren’t counting.

    We surely have more things to do than always be thinking about food, agreed?

    Of course, obsessing about food also leads to a bad relationship with your food. You start to demarcate the food that you eat into “good” and “bad” foods. And all of these issues are destructive to your mind and body.

    I’m not saying that there aren’t foods that you should avoid (e.g. candy bars), but eliminating entire food groups or depriving yourself of certain foods is very risky to your health. Variety was created by Allah (SWT) for a reason.

    #4. The Way You’re Calorie Counting Is Largely Inaccurate

    The calorie counts on food labels can differ wildly from the calories you actually extract, which means that counting calories is very inaccurate. What do I mean by this?

    Well, researchers estimate that even meticulously counting your calories can lead your count being up to 25% off. This means, that while you’re trying to maintain a designed 2000 calories diet, you may be eating anywhere between 1500 and 2500 calories. That’s a whopping 500 calories that haven’t been accounted for!

    To give you few examples:

    • A calorie content of a medium-sized apple can be anywhere from 80 – 115 calories
    • A calorie content of a cup of carrot can be anywhere from 40 – 60 calories
    • A calorie content of a serving of steak (around 225g) can be anywhere from 350 – 500 calories

    This is due to the simple reason that foods in nature exhibit variations in composition, size and other factors. These differences show the wide gaps in caloric content.

    #5. How You Prepare Your Food Impacts its Caloric Load

    Let’s say for the argument sake, that you know exactly how many calories this piece of steak has. You used a scale and you know that it’s exactly 225g and has 400 calories.

    You certainly don’t eat the steak raw, right? I assume you most probably barbeque it. This simple way of cooking impacts the calorie load of your steak. Yep, your 400 calorie steak is now 500 calories (its calories has increased by 25%) just because you’ve cooked it. This is before you’ve even added anything else.

    So, here is what you need to know: cooking, blending or even chopping your food generally makes more of the calories available for absorption.

    Which leads to my next point…

    #6. How You Absorb Your Food Matters

    Ok, let’s say you’ve somehow created a super complex excel sheet and found out exactly how many calories your cooked steak has. You think the problem is solved, right? Nope!

    Here’s the problem, up to 10% of what you eat doesn’t get absorbed in your body. And just for the record, carbs are better absorbed than protein.

    So, if you want to figure out how many calories of this steak is absorbed to your body, then you need to know that your body and your digestive process are far too chaotic to accurately churn out neat calorific numbers. Even if two people eat the same steak, cooked the same way, they will not get the same number of calories out of it.

    Depending on what type of bacteria your gut has, you could absorb up to 150 more calories than your own sibling.

    Now, go and calculate that 🙂

    Habits-Based Coaching: The Solution to Your Problem

    I can see you scratching your head. You’re thinking, “but Rushdhi, how do I then lose weight and maintain it for a lifetime?”

    To maintain a life-long lean and healthy body, don’t search for shortcuts such as calorie counting. Focus on building healthy habits. Results don’t come from how much you know, they come from how much you do consistently!

    And if you are wondering how to change your habits, join Lean and Healthy’s Premium Coaching Programme. This Programme will help you:

    • Learn the tried and well-researched methods to losing weight
    • Create and sustain healthy habits, and the most important…
    • Lose weight and stay healthy for life without counting calories!

    Don’t let your life be controlled by weight-loss methods that don’t work. Sign up for our Pre-Sale list and join the countless people who’ve lost weight and seen major transformations in their lives.

  • How to Hack Your Metabolism and Burn More Fat

    Metabolism has become a misunderstood catchphrase. While it’s true that your metabolism can impact your weight-loss goals, there’s more to it that needs to be addressed. In this article, you’ll discover the truth about metabolism and how you can hack it to burn more fat!

    If you were to ask people for some of the reasons why they can’t lose weight, some people would say it’s because they have a “slow metabolism.” They’d also tell you that increasing the “speed” of their metabolism would help them burn more calories and lose weight faster.

    But before I address these concerns, you need to know what metabolism is and how you can increase your metabolism so that you can burn more fat.

    What is Metabolism?

    Metabolism refers to the sum total of hundreds of biochemical reactions that are going on in your body. Put in simple terms, this means that metabolism is a collection of these diverse reactions.

    Based on this definition, any of the following scenarios can be referred as metabolic processes:

    • Your body converts food into energy
    • Your body releases hormones to regulate the body
    • You are moving your muscles to strengthen or tone your body

    In short, your metabolism is designed to keep you alive. So, it’s in the best interest of your metabolism to regulate the things that occur inside your body based on external information. Think of it as a thermostat: when it’s cold outside, the temperature rises inside your house and helps keep you warm. And your metabolism functions in a similar way.

    Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)

    To hack your metabolism, you’ve got to first understand what your resting metabolic rate (RMR) is.

    RMR refers to the number of calories your body burns during a 24-hour period in order to maintain your vital functions such as breathing, circulating blood, growing and repairing cells. Around 70% of the energy your body expends goes towards this! Yep, keeping us alive is hard work!

    But, it’s important to note that the percentage of RMR can differ from person to person. Some people’s bodies use up more calories to perform these basic metabolic processes compared to other people.

    Here are some factors that impact your metabolic rate:

    Age: If you don’t continue to workout, you’ll lose muscles as you age. As your muscle mass decreases, your body fat percentage increases. This then decreases your metabolic rate.

    Body size and composition: The more lean body mass you have, the higher the metabolic rate. So a muscular, lean person who is 90kg has a higher metabolic rate than a soft 90kg obese person.

    Gender: By default, men have more muscle mass than women. Hence, men have a higher metabolic rate than women.

    Extreme dieting: When you cut down your calories drastically to lose weight, your metabolic rate goes down. From the evolutionary perspective, your body presumes that you are going through a famine and it tries to do the same metabolic activities with fewer calories in order to keep you alive. So cutting calories drastically decreases your metabolic rate.

    Increasing Your Metabolic Efficiency

    Although we just went over the different factors that affect one’s metabolic rate, we see the recurring idea that muscle mass plays an important role in all these factors. The higher muscle mass you have, the higher the metabolic rate.

    So, if you want to burn more body fat by hacking your metabolic rate, then you need to seriously consider building more muscle mass, regardless of your age, gender and body size.

    And here are the three most important things you need to consider if you want to build more muscle mass that you’re lean and healthy:

    1. Eat more protein: Proteins are building blocks of your body. They build and repair your muscle tissues. So, there’s no way you can increase your lean muscle mass without sufficient protein.
    2. Lift weights: Make sure that you lift weights or do body weight exercises at least 3 times a week. Strength training should always be part of your workout routine.
    3. Ditch your chair and move around: Incorporate a lot of daily activities to your routine. Sit less and move more. Try walking up the stairs instead of taking an elevator, going for walk when you’d rather sit and watch a show on Netflix, or playing your kids (if you’re a parent).

    Strengthening Your Body = A Leaner, Healthier Body

    The key takeaway then is that yes, your weight loss goals are impacted by your metabolism. But you have the power to change your metabolism and thereby, change your life.

    If you’d like to discover the strategies that will help you get the body that you’ve always wanted, then sign up for my Online Coaching Program. I’ll not only help you get a fabulous and healthy body, but I’ll also use the Quran and Sunnah, science, and psychology to help you transform your life. It’s not just about your body; it’s about you!

  • Why Health is NOT Wealth

    We often hear that “Health is wealth” without really reflecting on what this means. While money comes and goes, health is something that’s valuable and a lifelong investment. This article will show you how you can improve your health before it’s too late, inshaAllah.

    Like me, you’ve probably heard this statement countless of times in your life: “Health is wealth!”.

    But, I beg to differ.

    • From the hadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), we know that health is the best thing you can have after imaan!
      The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) once mounted the pulpit, then wept and said, “Ask Allah for forgiveness and health, for after being granted certainty, one is given nothing better than health.” (Related in Tirmidhi)
    • Health isn’t wealth because it’s much more valuable than anything else you’ll ever possess
    • Wealth can be earned once it’s lost, but you can hardly regain your health once you start to neglect it for long (e.g. cancer, diabetes and heart-related issues, etc.)

    So, are you taking care of your health as you should? Is your health helping you to live a productive life? Is your health helping you to leave a legacy when you leave this world?

    Most importantly your health could be a pillar in answering these questions on the Day of Judgment:

    It was narrated from Ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (PBUH) said: The son of Adam will not be dismissed from before his Lord on the Day of Resurrection until he has been questioned about five things:

    1. his life and how he spent it,
    2. his youth and how he used it,
    3. his wealth and how he earned it, and
    4. how he disposed of it, and
    5. how he acted upon what he acquired of knowledge.”

    (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 2422; classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi, 1969)

    Take a moment to really reflect on this hadith. The way you spend your life, youth, wealth and knowledge are linked to your overall health.

    To give you an example, one of my relatives was very wealthy. But he never cared about his health. He would always say, “we’re all going to die one day, so I’m going to enjoy food and life as long as I live.”

    When he got sick, his family spent all of his money on trying to cure him. However, everything they spent was in vain, and he died without leaving a cent for his family. So much so that his family had to even sell the house for his hospital expenses!

    May Allah (SWT) protect us from such a test. Ameen.

    So, don’t wait for an ideal time in your life to reclaim your health. Now’s the time to take care of your health as you would take care of your imaan. Take care of it, as you would take care of your family.

    If you don’t prioritise your health, you’ll inevitably end up prioritising your sickness. And that’s certainly not a pleasant thing to prioritise, right?

    Invest in your health, before you are required to invest in curing for your sickness. The first one is cheaper and better for you the than the second option. Being sick is costly and preventable.

    Regain Your Health The Right Way

    Well, are you ready to make a move that will change your life forever? Join Lean and Healthy’s 6-month Premium Online Coaching Program. This Program will help you

    • improve your health
    • lose weight
    • live an energetic and productive life
    • learn strategies that will remain with you for life

    And of course, all in the framework of simplicity, Islam, and research! Take advantage of the time you have to reserve your spot before the Program begins, inshaAllah.

  • 5 Scientifically Awesome Ways to Fight Your Winter Lethargy

    Hot chocolate over a book. The landscape covered with snow. These moments remind us of why winter is beautiful. But… gloomy skies and the cold weather can knock out even the most resolute and productive person. If you’re living in the northern hemisphere and are experiencing the typical lethargy that’s associated with this season, you know what I’m talking about. In this article, I discuss five scientifically awesome ways to kiss good-bye to winter lethargy.

    I just love winter. I love going for a walk in the woods while it’s covered by inches of snow. And I also find it easier to devote myself to reading and i’badah since I spend most of my time indoors.  These are also a few reasons why winter is one of my favourite seasons.

    But let’s be real.  Winter has its negative side too. The gloomy sky and cold weather can make it very difficult to be motivated and productive. Although it’s discouraged in the Deen, it’s very easy to find excuses to be lazy during this season.

    That’s why different scholars over time have repeatedly told us to take advantage of this season. Hassan Al-Basri (rahimahullah) used to say: “The best season to a believer is the winter; its nights are long for those who wish to pray and its days are short for those who wish to fast.” (There is a similar hadith, but many scholars differ about its authenticity)

    So, winter is the time for us Muslims to be more productive in our i’badah. The increased productivity in our i’badah will certainly motivate us to achieve more in our Dunya-related pursuits as well.

    To make this winter the most productive one for you, I’ve decided to share the 5 strategies I personally use to combat the winter lethargy. Believe me; they work like wonders, Alhamdulillah!

    #1. Optimise Your Vitamin D Intake

    If you’re living in the northern hemisphere, you know that sunny winter days are rare. And that’s what makes those days special. Have you ever noticed how being out on a sunny day changes your mood?

    This is because your body produces vitamin D when you are exposed to the sun.  Vitamin D is excellent in boosting your mood.

    I highly recommend you get your daily dose of vitamin D either by sunlight exposure or by taking a high-quality vitamin D supplement. Read more about this topic in my previous article.

    #2. Get Indoor Blue Light

    Getting enough blue light exposure is essential for fighting your winter lethargy. Studies have shown that blue light exposure improves alertness, elevates mood and even improves mental performance.

    Now getting this blue light is quite easy. All you need to do is to step outside your home/office and expose yourself to the sun. Sunlight is the primary source of blue lights.

    The fact that the sun is the primary source doesn’t make getting blue light in the winter easy for two reasons:

    1. Most winter days lack sunlight
    2. During the winter, a majority of people spend most of their time indoors

    To fix this and to fight winter lethargy, research shows that replacing your ordinary light bulbs with blue-enriched white light bulbs are a practical solution. Blue-enriched light bulbs are bulbs like LED and Fluorescent light bulbs.

    The participants in this study who were exposed to artificial blue lights demonstrated improvement in the following areas:

    • Increased alertness,
    • Better performance,
    • Positive mood, and
    • Ability to concentrate better.

    If you need a short-cut to get your blue light during the winter, go for this beautiful portable device: Philips goLITE BLU.

    Exposure to this device for 30 minutes first thing in the morning helps combat lethargy.

    #3. Engage in Physical Activities

    Yeah, you read that right. This one doesn’t need any investment smiley.

    Hundreds of research studies clearly show that physical activity improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negativity. Exercise can also improve your self-esteem, attitude and even your cognitive function.

    If you want to fight lethargy, go for a jog or the hit your gym for at least 30 minutes! Nothing beats exercise when it comes to boosting your mood and motivation.

    #4. Eat the Right Food

    You are what you eat! This means, the food you eat has an immense impact on your body and mind. Eat the types of whole foods I’ve described in my free course. Also avoid processed foods as much as possible. These two aspects will boost both your physical and mental health.

    Because it’s cold, it might be tempting to indulge in a warm pizza, a sugar-laden doughnut, and a super creamy coffee on a cold winter day. But the sugar in these foods increases lethargy and can negatively affect your mood (e.g. feeling guilt after eating what you shouldn’t have).

    Sugar, including the high fructose corn syrup in your soda or ketchup, has a harmful impact on your mood and brain functions.

    #5. Refresh Yourself by Going for A Walk

    Go for a walk. Whenever you feel tired and drowsy, just go for a short walk. Even a 10-minute walk in the cold weather can be refreshing.

    Use This Season to Your Advantage

    By following these tips, you can surely combat all the negatives associated with this season, bi’idnillah!