Health Canada states women with a waist greater than 35 inches and men with a waist greater than 40 inches have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and hypertension.

But, it is possible to fight — even win — the dreaded battle of the bulge. So, how do you say, "Sayonara, spare tire?" Read on to cut belly fat down to size.


A recent study at the University of Minnesota found the higher your vitamin D level when starting a fat-fighting regimen, the more inches from your stomach and the more overall pounds you'll lose. "It's not clear if inadequate vitamin D causes obesity or if it's the other way round," says lead study author Dr. Shalamar Sibley. But, "our results suggest the possibility that the addition of vitamin D to a reduced-calorie diet will lead to better weight loss." Consult your health-care practitioner about the best dosage for you.


Studies show a connection between sleep deprivation and expanding waistlines. "Tired people tend to eat more, and the food tends to be high in fat and carbohydrates," says Dr. Charles Samuels, medical director of Calgary's Centre for Sleep and Human Performance. And even though they're active and watch their diet, they don't lose weight. Why? "A well-rested person will consume appropriate amounts and types of calories for energy and activity." Translation? If you "don't get enough good restorative sleep, it'll act as a barrier to the maintenance of a healthy body weight and the ratio of lean-to-fat body mass."


Tackling "the abdominal region is the No. 1 request among my clients," says Toronto-based personal trainer Alisha Austin. Her strategy? Minimize over-processed simple carbohydrates and increase complex carbohydrates and protein. Next up? "Sweat-producing cardio five to six times per week" supplemented by a weight routine three to four times weekly to increase lean muscle mass." Both "turn up the burn on your 'furnace.'" Matt Young, a certified personal trainer and founder of Vancouver's Innovative Fitness, agrees. "Integrating a cardiovascular training program is key."


There's another reason aging plays a role in developing belly fat, says the Mayo Clinic. "Muscle mass gradually diminishes with age, and fat accounts for a greater percentage of your weight." That means "having less muscle mass decreases the rate at which your body uses calories, making it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight or lose excess pounds." All the more reason to hit the pavement running, lift those weights and do the plank!


"Storage of fat around the belly can be linked to hormones," says Carla D'Andreamatteo, a Winnipeg-based registered and consulting dietitian. "As we age and estrogen levels decrease, the greater the capacity we have to store fat viscerally," states D'Andreamatteo. Says Dr. Samuels: "Women are susceptible to weight gain at three critical times: onset of menses, pregnancy and menopause. And changes in total sleep time or sleep disturbance will definitely increase the risk of gaining weight and having difficulty returning to a stable, healthy weight.


Look at things in your life — skin-care and household-cleaning products, birth control pills, certain foods, rushing your kids to 10 extracurricular activities each week, disliking your job — and see how they could be contributing to toxicity. Often "our bodies become so overwhelmed, they begin to store the toxins in our fat cells," says Tannis McLaren, a naturopathic doctor in Toronto. Her solution? Simplify. "Strengthen your digestive system by removing 'dead foods' (white flour, sugar, processed meats) and adding in more water, vegetables and whole grains." And nourish your mind and body with self-care. "Do what you love to do, not what you think you should do," she says, be it "practising yoga, spending time with friends and family or going to bed earlier with a good book."


"I always suggest the 80:20 approach," says Krista Leck Merner, a registered dietitian in Halifax and owner of Bent Fork Nutrition "If 80 per cent of the time you focus on whole foods, water and exercise, the other 20 per cent won't outweigh all the good!" Eat every two to three hours "to keep your metabolism revved up." Combine three to four food groups at each of your three daily meals and two food groups at each of your two or three snacktimes. Include lean protein and hydrate mostly with water. "We often mistake thirst as hunger," she says, and remember that "your metabolism works like a bonfire; it needs constant sources of quality fuel to burn."


Of an apple, that is. It's no secret one of the best weight-loss weapons is feeling full. And a key to controlling your appetite is to eat fibre. One large apple contains a whopping five grams of fibre, keeping you feeling satiated. A 2007 Japanese study found apples significantly reduce visceral belly fat in overweight individuals, and the polyphenols (organic chemicals) in apples play a standout role in metabolizing all types of body fat.