Combating Our Belly Fat
It seems like most women, after turning 40, begin to have issues with belly fat. Many blame it on taking estrogen or the lack of estrogen, as they near or pass menopause. In reviewing the world-wide literature, there is no difference if women are on the birth control pill or post menopausal estrogens on the development of belly fat. The main factors are our diet and exercise. Of course, this means we have to admit that our life-style makes a difference.
Many small lifestyle choices an adult makes, such as individual food choices, quantity of sleep, alcohol intake, and even TV watching habits, can each contribute to or attenuate the gradual weight gain many people experience in their middle years. Most of the foods that are positively associated with weight gain are starches or refined carbohydrates; no significant differences were seen for low-fat and skim milk vs. whole-fat milk, and the consumption of nuts was inversely associated with weight gain. The wonderful thing is that the diet that is associated with less weight gain is the same diet that is associated with less diabetes and less heart disease.
As women age, our estrogen levels drop, our thyroid and metabolism slow, our cortisol or stress hormones increase, and our distribution of fat also changes. The fat in our arms, legs and hips lessen while our tummies get bigger! We can do something about it. Let’s start with diet. My opinion is that diets do not work! Dr. Oz had a recent program about belly fat and I have summarized some of his thoughts below.
What should you eat? In looking at all of the weight loss programs and diets, the balanced diets win out over the long-term. The Mediterranean Diet, Weight Watchers, and other programs that include quality proteins, monounsaturated fat, complex carbohydrates, and increased fiber work the best.
As Dr. Oz puts it, “clean eating”. Eating whole foods that aren’t processed modified or hydrogenated. Begin by reading labels and apply one basic rule: If you can’t pronounce the names of the ingredients on the label, then you probably should not put it into your body. It is that simple!
Our bodies are not meant to process all of these chemicals, especially those used in diet foods. Talk about bloating! The chemical compounds found in diet foods such as sucralose, aspartame and cyclamate are much harder for your digestive tract to break down. These sweeteners can also be up to 300 times sweeter than natural sugar! No wonder why your appetite has increased! Start choosing natural foods that your body knows how to process.
What about Exercise? To effectively lose belly fat, it is very important to do moderate to intense cardio workouts for 30 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week. The cardio workouts are what burns calories and fat. This is what is going to help you to lose your “muffin top”. In fact, cardio workouts are even more important than doing isolated abdominal exercises like sit-ups or crunches. If you only work on your abs without any cardio, you will build your abdomen muscles but you will also have a layer of fat covering them.
What else can you do to fight belly Fat? It is important to get lots of rest, drink lots of water, and monitor your stress. It has been statistically proven that a large percentage of obese people are sleep deprived. In addition, as we age, our cortisol levels increase. Cortisol is our natural stress hormone. The higher it is, the higher our glucose level. A higher glucose count can lead to extra fat storage in the abdomen. One of the best ways to counter stress is to exercise. By exercising, you are actually burning fat and calories plus you are reducing stress! Gaining fat is a normal part of aging for women. The good news is you can do something about it!
5 Ways to Combat Belly Fat by Dr. Oz on January 2, 2012
- Eat in reverse – Eat the majority of your carbohydrates in the morning. Have your dinner be lighter, mostly a protein (chicken, fish, lean beef or pork) and vegetables.
- Increase your fiber, at least 25 grams per day. Read your labels. Kashi cereals (9 grams of fiber), oatmeal, nuts, fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and brown rice. I have always advocated Metamucil, an extra 3 grams per dose.
- One glass (6 oz.) of red wine per day (my favorite!) As discussed above, with increased age and responsibility, our stress increases. Stress increases cortisol, which increases the belly, by inflaming the fat cells. Six ounces of red wine is rich with reservatrol, an antioxidant, known to reduce inflammation.
- Confuse your muscles – Muscles get used to exercises. Vary your routines and don’t forget your cardio, 30 minutes 3-5 times per week.
- Make a belly band. Women with waists > 32 inches are at risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer. Measure your belly. If you are over 32 inches, begin your life style changes today!
Miscellaneous tips learned with my research:
1. Probiotics seem to help with digestion, metabolizing sugar and regulating insulin balance. All of which help to reduce belly fat.
2. In looking at all of the diet programs available, the Mediterranean diet seems to be the easiest to follow for long-term. Weight Watchers was number 2.
3. Strawberries are the fruit most likely to help to reduce insulin spikes.
4. Dark chocolate, > 70% coco, has flavonoids and monounsaturated fats that increase fat burning and flatten your stomach.
5. Nuts are a good source of healthy fat, fiber, and good protein.
6. Vitamin C helps burn belly fat. Best to get it with fruit and vegetables and not in a pill. With the natural foods, you also get the fiber!
7. Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) is one supplement that might be beneficial. It helps fat cells get rid of swelling and inflammation. (800 mg./day)