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Friday, April 18, 2008

Battling The Bulge!


When Fat Gathers In Your Abdomen

As you age and your metabolism slows down, the amount of fat in your body slowly increases. Women experience an even greater fat percentage increase than men do. Then after menopause, your body fat distribution tends to shift — less in your arms, legs and hips, and more in your abdomen.

You may think belly fat is limited to the stuff out front that you can grab with your hand — but it's the fat you can't see that's really a cause for concern. Visceral fat lies deeper inside the abdomen, surrounding the abdominal organs. Gaining this type of fat has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other health problems. Subcutaneous fat, located between the skin and the abdominal wall, is more visible but also less likely to be a health risk.

While a slowing metabolism and decreased physical activity contribute to overall weight gain as you age, those factors don't influence visceral fat accumulation directly. Heredity may be the culprit — you may simply have inherited a tendency to gain weight in your midsection. Hormones also play a role. Hormonal changes after menopause may change the way that your body breaks down and stores fat, leading to more fat accumulating in your belly.

Some women even experience a widening waist without gaining any weight. Although you may not be gaining extra fat, your abdominal fat is increasing as limb and hip fat decreases. Even in women of a normal weight, too much fat concentrated in the midsection is unhealthy.

Measuring Your Middle

You know you've gained some inches around your torso, but how can you know whether it's an unhealthy amount? You can calculate your body-mass index (BMI) or waist-hip ratio, but researchers have found that simply measuring your waist can tell you whether you have an unhealthy amount of belly fat. In fact, BMI may not be an accurate measure of body fat percentage or fat distribution, particularly after menopause.

To measure your waist, run a tape measure around your midsection at about the level of your navel. Breathe normally, don't hold your tummy in, and don't pull the tape so tight that it presses your skin down. In a woman of healthy weight, a waist measurement of 35 inches or more indicates an unhealthy concentration of abdominal fat. Some research has shown that a measurement of 33 inches or more, no matter what your weight, increases your health risks.

Fight Back The Bulge!!!

Since visceral fat is buried deep in your abdomen, it may seem like a difficult target for spot reduction. As it turns out, visceral fat responds well to a regular exercise routine and a healthy diet. Targeted tummy exercises can help to firm the abdominal muscles and flatten the belly.

Exercise. Daily, moderate-intensity exercise is the best way to lose belly fat — when you lose weight and tone your muscles, your belly fat begins shrinking, too. In fact, you may notice that your tummy bulge is the first area to shrink when you start exercising. The amount and type of exercise you should get varies depending on your current activity level and your health goals. Talk to your doctor and Personal Trainer about the right exercise program to promote good health and specifically combat abdominal fat.

Strength training. Some research has shown that exercising with weights is effective in trimming tummy fat. Talk to your doctor about how to incorporate strength training in your exercise routine.

Healthy diet. Changing unhealthy eating habits can help fight belly fat. Read nutrition labels, and replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats. Increase portions of complex carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables, and reduce simple carbohydrates like white bread and refined pasta. If you need to lose weight, reduce your portion sizes and daily calorie intake. Check out www.calorieking.com to calculate calories for almost any food or beverage. It's a great site. I use it all the time!!! :-)

Tone your tummy. While you can't "spot-burn" belly fat, you can firm up your abdominal muscles and get a flatter belly. Traditional sit-ups aren't the most effective way to firm your tummy, however. Instead, check out these exercises from Fitness Magazine to target both deeper and lower abdominal muscles:

www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/abs/exercises/ab-exercises/




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