Working on a midsection miracle

Finding a routine to get rid of that stubborn stomach fat

Belly fat. Midriff bulge. Stomach flab. Wheat belly. That extra layer of fat around the abdomen goes by a number of names. Whatever you call it, if you’ve got it, more than likely you want it gone. Now. And it’s hard to budge.
The immediacy of fasting and trendy weight-loss diets are indeed enticing, but in the long run steady but sure wins the race. “There’s no magic pill,” cautionsBelinder Rieger, director of Rehabilitation Service and Wound Care for Davenport’s Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center. “You really have to think how long it took you to get that belly fat. It’s going to take time to get rid of it.”
“There’s no way to spot lose weight,” adds Jamie Moore, a registered dietitian at the Lake Wales Medical Center. Barring surgical removal, there really isn’t a quick fix. “You definitely don’t want to starve yourself,” Rieger adds. “That messes up your metabolism… You’ll be worse off than when you started.”
A balanced diet that includes your basic food groups is recommended, along with aerobic exercises and weight resistance training. That boils down to about 45 minutes of exercise five days a week: three days with aerobics and two days with resistance training.
“It’s never recommended to cut certain food groups out of your diet,” Rieger explains. “You’re just going to crave [those foods] more.” When fad dieters report success, it likely comes from portion control. “Watching portions, calories, that’s really what’s going to pay off in the long run,” Rieger observes.
“If you lose weight, it’s because you cut calories,” Moore agrees. In our society, it’s not unusual for people to get portions three or four times larger than they should be. Smaller and leaner cuts of meat and more fruits and vegetables are advisable, Moore reports. In fact, half of the plate should be “rabbit food,” or low calorie vegetables, she says.
At the root of the problem is inactivity. “We are so inactive as a society that we don’t burn many calories. We’ve become hybrids,” Moore explains.
Genetics, however, do determine where the weight will settle – around the hips or waist. Genes also determine where you’ll lose fat. “People think when they do sit ups they’re using the fat in that area. That’s not necessarily true,” says Dr. Carla Wolper on the research faculty at New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City.
If they want their stomach to look flatter, people can do the exercises that make their abdominal muscles stronger, but they will still have fat on top of the muscle, Wolper says. More fat is actually burned through aerobic exercises. “The ideal thing is to do both and cut some calories,” Wolper adds.
“There is no exercise that causes the belly to burn more fat than any part of the body. The idea is to tweak your diet. Cut down on your fat. Try to wean yourself down from soda to diet soda or club soda with a piece of lemon in it. Some people just need to cut their portions,” Wolper continues. “That’s the easiest way to lose weight and most people don’t do it. Losing belly fat is the same as losing fat. It means burning calories. You have to make new habits and keep them.”
For aerobic exercise, Dr. C.W. Randolph of Jacksonville Beach, co-author with Genie James of “From Belly Fat To Belly Flat” (HCI, 2007), suggests “anything cardio, but be sure to shake it up.”
“Doing the same exercises all the time allows your muscles to adapt so they burn fewer and fewer calories. Get yourself a ‘toy box’ of different activities that you enjoy and take yourself to the next level of fitness: running, tennis, Zumba, rock climbing, swim, etc.,” Randolph says.
Women with rising estrogen levels who are in their mid 30s or older may also be faced with an additional challenge, Randolph points out. “Too much estrogen in a woman’s system sets the stage for weight gain, particularly around the belly, butt and thighs. Worse, body fat actually produces more estrogen so women get caught in a double whammy,” Randolph says.
Randolph takes a three-pronged approach to combating belly fat:
1. Balance your hormones
Partner with a knowledgeable medical professional trained to analyze blood or saliva tests of your hormone levels, diagnose deficiencies, and replace what your body is missing with safe, natural bioidentical hormone replacement therapies.
2. Eat a balanced diet, including these belly-blaster foods
Cruciferous veggies (broccoli cauliflower, greens), citrus fruits, whole grains and flax seed, flaxseed oil and sesame seeds.
3. De-stress and exercise
“Women who do active cardio activities five or more times per week have been found to have significantly less issues with prolonged estrogen dominance,” Randolph says.
The challenge of keeping weight in check tends to become greater as we age and metabolism slows. A lot of women accumulate belly fat in menopause, says Rieger.
Some do face challenges with diseases or medication that may cause bloating, like irritable bowel syndrome or steroids, she adds. In those cases, switching to another medication may resolve the problem.
Curbing sugary sport drinks is wise. If you’re exercising less than an hour, you can drink water, Rieger advises. Exercising is “not a license to eat what you want,” she adds. “You run a mile to burn 100 calories,” she says. “A little piece of chocolate could be 200-300 calories.”

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