Tag Archives: obesity

Straight talk about how you gain and lose belly fat.

photo credit: smoking hot

photo credit: smoking hot

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.
belly-fats

“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? 

Briefly: 

  • 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.

photo credit scarymommy.com

photo credit scarymommy.com

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. 
  1. There is a kind of belly fat you should actually worry about.

    photo credit: live fit

    photo credit: live fit

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.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of serious health issues ranging from diabetes 2 to heart disease 3

 Doctors worry if they see three or more red flags:

1. A waist circumference over 40″ for men and 35″ for women.
2. Fasting blood sugar levels > 100mg/dl 
Triglyceride levels > 150mg/dl
3. HDL (the good cholesterol) <40mg/dl for men, <50mg/dl for women
4. Blood pressure > 130/85

Fortunately, there are many lifestyle related changes you can make to not only decrease your belly fat. You’ll also improve those other numbers.

  • Eat plenty of lean protein.
  • Get fiber through fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Lift weights.
  • Move your body often. Get more overall activity.
  • Sleep at least 7 hours per night – or more if you need it to feel well rested. 
  • Keep communicating with your doctor. 

4. Is it fat, skin, or something else?
 If you’re like me and have had some babies, you might have some extra skin waving at you too. That’s very normal – after all, our bellies expanded to grow a person. Sometimes our skin doesn’t bounce back after all that change. 

I have a lot of extra skin in my abdominal area – both from those pregnancies and losing a significant amount of weight. I remember asking my doctor about how I could get rid of it. She told me I could either sling it over my shoulder and learn to love it or have plastic surgery. So far I’m slingin’. 

If you’ve had a baby, give yourself time. Sometimes a diastasis recti is to blame. You have tissue that connects the two sides of your rectus abdominus. During times of rapid weight gain and especially pregnancy, that tissue can thin.

As a result, you may see a little pooch. You may also have some back pain. Head to a physical therapist or your doctor to get a diagnosis and treatment.  

5. The six pack fantasy

photo credit: Heath Cajandig

photo credit: Heath Cajandig

I can count on one hand the number of clients who have asked me to get them a six pack. I work with a lot of working parents, most of them in their 30’s-50’s. I think at some point we realize that we don’t care nearly as much about having chiseled abs as we might have when we were younger.

That’s a perfectly okay position to hold. First of all, a six pack isn’t really a measure of health or athletic prowess. It’s a sign of having both very low body fat and also well trained ab muscles. If you want one, you’ll need to train hard and diet down to a point where you can see them. 

abs-are-cool-but

That means a very low body fat percentage. And a whole lot of saying no to cheesecake, especially as we get older and don’t lose weight as easily as when we were young pups. You have to decide if those abs are worth what you need to sacrifice to get them.

But is a six pack a bad thing to want? Nah.

“A six pack is a symbol”.

I heard that the other day. This is worth thinking about.

We all have personal symbols of the work that makes us feel good. Day in and day out. For some people their symbol is the deadlift they pull off the floor. Or their bulging bicep. Or a six pack.

If you do want to see some actual muscular definition in your abs, you can do that. But a more realistic goal, especially if you’re a woman in your 30s or 40s, is to aim for definition and not an actual six pack. If you get relatively lean AND keep after your training you’ll see your abs peeking out at you.

Have another question about your belly or beyond? Leave a comment below or hit me up with an email at fit@amydix.com and I’ll be happy to chat! 

Notes:

  1. Proudler, Anthony J., Carl V. Felton, and John C. Stevenson. “Ageing and the Response of Plasma Insulin, Glucose and C-peptide Concentrations to Intravenous Glucose in Postmenopausal Women.” Clin. Sci. Clinical Science 83.4 (1992): 489-94. Web.
  2. Ohlson LO, Larsson B, Svardsudd K, et al. The influence of body fat distribution on the incidence of diabetes mellitus. 13.5 years of follow-up of the participants in the study of men born in 1913. Diabetes. 1985;34:1055-8.