Why are we so obsessed with our midsections? Take a peek on any drugstore shelf. The one that has all the sketchy yet slightly seductive fat burners and diet products. Blast belly fat! Get six pack abs! Wander over to the magazine rack and you’ll see the same headlines.
When new clients begin working with me, they often want to know how to lose some weight around their midsections.
That’s because people tend to store excess fat in a few common places. We lose and gain weight over time all over our bodies. I lost a huge amount of weight over the years and even lost fat in my feet. Yes, that was weird.
Our mid sections are just one spot where we tend to store extra fat. Every one has (and should have) some abdominal fat. But sometimes we have more than we’d like or more than we should have for good health.
Today I’ll show you what you need to know – about how we get it, when we might need to manage it, and even how six pack abs actually happen. Read on.
1. You can’t spot reduce.
“Give me some exercises to work on my abs,” my client Pam asked as she gestured to her belly with a frown.
The bad news is that you can’t spot reduce your fat. You can strengthen your abs. That’s a smart idea for functioning better as a human. But you don’t get to choose where you lose fat. I know, that sucks.
But the good news is that you can still lose that fat through smart dieting and exercise. What’s that look like?
- Regular strength training. 3-4 days of lifting weights each week will shape your muscles, help you burn fat faster, and keep your body healthy for life. Plus you’ll feel awesome.
- Extra conditioning work. To move better, burn some extra calories, and keep your heart healthy. Do short, intense sessions 1-2 days per week.
- A nutrition plan for fat loss puts you in a calorie deficit. It also prioritizes plenty of lean protein to keep you from losing precious muscle, healthy fats for hormonal health, and carbohydrates to fuel your mojo and muscle growth.
2. The times, they are a changing: menopause.
One of the things Pam noticed was how much weight she packed on around her belly. She is in her late 50s and has been through menopause. There are a few things that can lead to weight gain, especially around the belly, when our bodies go through the hormonal typhoon known as perimenopause and menopause.
- Dipping estrogen levels. Lower estrogen may favor storing fat in the belly area.
- Poor sleep. This screws with your hormones that regulate appetite.
- Less muscle mass. This may slightly decrease your metabolic rate. It’s not so much that you lose it because you’re getting older. It’s that many people aren’t as active as they were when they were younger.
- More insulin resistance, which can lead to weight gain. 1
These factors can all make it harder to lose weight as women age. And If you’re going through perimenopause or menopause, doing a few key things may make a difference:
- Eat a nutrient rich diet. This will help you feel better as you transition and help regulate your weight too.
- Be willing to decrease your calorie intake. You may require less to maintain your weight now than you imagined.
- Lift weights. Preserve your muscle mass and improve your bone density.
- Make sleep and stress management a priority.
- Consider hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) if you’re struggling. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons. HRT may decrease how much fat you store around your mid section.
- There is a kind of belly fat you should actually worry about.
Doctors talk about “visceral adipose tissue”. If you just blinked, read that again, because it’s important. This is a different kind of belly fat. One that does impact your health more profoundly. When someone has a very big belly but not a lot of “pincheable” fat, it may indicate that they have a lot of fat around their organs. This is a risk factor for metabolic syndrome.