Did you know that sarcopenia, the natural loss of muscle, begins in your 30s and continues throughout your later years? You lose about 1 pound of muscle every year.
Did you know that the “middle-age spread” can appear at any age, but women may notice it most as they hit 50? You have hit the spread when the number on the scale is the same as, but your waistline may expand and the proportion of body fat to lean muscle changes.
The good news is is that it is possible to navigate through this natural process and maintain lean muscle mass while avoiding the extra belly fat that slowly creeps in during the “middle age spread. ” But how?
In a hurry? Scroll down to the tips below to learn some easy action steps to help you get flabuless abs!
“Why can I not get rid of this fat on my stomach?”
I get asked this question all the time, especially from women and especially from women as they are getting older. Tell me, do you:
- Feel constantly bloated and puffy around your midsection?
- Crave more sweets and carbs, especially when you are stressed out?
- Feel like you have no willpower?
- Pangs of guilt every time you indulge in some of your favorite not-so healthy snacks and treats?
- Feel like you are no longer as attractive as you used to be and are afraid that your significant other will lose interest in you?
- Get discouraged because it doesn’t seem to matter how hard you exercise or how little you eat, you still maintain your belly fat?
You are not alone — These are all common complaints that I hear frequently and that have been plaguing the human spirit for decades.
Information overload keeps us overweight
With the information overload that exists in our world, it is completely understandable why you would be confused or frustrated with your results. Some experts tell you to do one thing and other experts tell you to do the exact opposite. The reality is that not all weight-loss advice is appropriate for women and their delicate hormonal balance.
What might work for a woman in her 20’s may not be the best formula for the 50 year old woman. This is true for men as well.
Women are more likely to gain excess belly fat, especially deep inside the belly (visceral, intra-abdominal fat), as they go through perimenopause and into menopause. This is due to the fact that as estrogen levels drop, body fat is redistributed from the hips, thighs and buttocks to the abdomen. This fat can surround the organs and create more of a risk for disease.
For men, the natural reduction in testosterone that occurs as they age means excess calories are often stored as visceral fat and thus the accumulation of belly fat occurs.
There is another reason — the increase in stress levels and the cortisol connection that goes with this added stress. Research has supported the hypothesis that cortisol secretion might represent a connection between stress and abdominal fat distribution.
When we have chronic stress, the hormone cortisol is excreted at continual doses and the body is continually on high alert. Cortisol is not bad. It is actually quite vital for the body during levels of stress. Cortisol also increases our appetite for foods that are soothing and comforting. Is it typically a large salad that you crave after a long stressful day? Probably not. Typically it is sugary, salty or fatty foods. High levels of stress often increase anxiety, worry, and anger which, in turn, decreases our ability for deep recovering sleep. It can create a hug imbalance in our hormones.
With knowing all this, it may be safe to say that excessive amounts of intense exercise and extreme diets that are often associated with fat-loss may not be the best choice as we get older. It is all about increasing your body movement without overly stressing it and altering lifestyle habits to help you balance your hormones.
Simple tips to get you started
1. Harmonize your stress. Try a fun and relaxing night out with your friends or engaging in one of your favorite, uplifting activities. Maybe you can take a calming yoga or meditation session. Maybe you can sit with a good book while relaxing in the bathtub. One incredible technique that is scientifically proven to distress and calm your senses—Touch. Maybe it is you asking your significant other for a back or foot rub. Maybe it is going for a massage. Maybe it is you just rubbing your own arm. Whatever it is, destress today and watch how it affects your belly.
2. Simple diet changes can help your body lose it’s fat stores. Eat enough fat. Not all fats are created equal and it is being shown that it is not fat that makes us fat, it is #3 in this list. In fact, eating certain fats can help you in decreasing belly fat. Good fats that you need to be adding to your eating regime include avocado, olives, salmon and coconut oil. Including daily healthy fats will help to keep you more trim and decrease fat stores.
3. Minimize your sugar and sugary drinks. Added sugar is very unhealthy and more studies are connecting sugar with harmful effects on your metabolic health. Studies show that it has uniquely harmful effects on metabolic health. When you eat a lot of added sugar, the liver gets overloaded with fructose and is forced to turn it into fat. This can lead to an increased amount of fat in the belly and the liver; it can also lead to insulin resistance and a host of other problems. Make a decision to minimize the amount of sugar in your diet, and consider completely eliminating sugary drinks (this is like an IV of sugar blasting your body). This includes sugar-sweetened beverages, sugary sodas, fruit juices and various high-sugar sports drinks. Whole fruit is extremely healthy and has plenty of fiber to off-set the negative effects of fructose, but don’t overload on fruit. Too much sugar is too much sugar. I would recommend 1-2 servings of fruit a day.
4. Get your body moving the right way. Too much prolonged exercise can increase your chances of weight gain. Why? It is the same concept as the stress explanation above. When your body is overly stressed and not allowed enough time for recovery on a regular basis, your body starts to react by having difficulty releasing body fat. If you are excessively exercising and not taking in enough nutrients through food, your body will begin to hold onto fat as a built-in defense to make sure that your body is safe. It thinks it is in survival mode. For the average person, I would recommend 4-5 times a week of moderate exercise for 45 minutes to 1 hour a session that consists of strength training, cardio (steady states and intervals), and flexibility. Intervals and HIIT programs are very beneficial because they allow the body to fluctuate between high and low intensities, while not overly stressing the body.
5. Get your sleep. Inadequate sleep affects your appetite and causes your body to hold onto belly fat. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2006 examined the effect of sleep on almost 70,000 women. It was found that those who regularly got less than five hours of sleep gained significantly more weight than those who slept an average of seven hours a night. Make getting seven to eight hours of sleep a priority to support your belly-fat losing efforts.
6. Eat more fiber. Getting in more fiber has been linked to lower levels of abdominal fat. Eating plenty of soluble fiber helps to slow the movement of food through your digestive system and slow down the digestion and absorption of nutrients. The end result is a feeling fuller longer and reducing your appetite. The best way to get more fiber is to eat a lot of plant foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, oats, brown rice, and quinoa, for example.
7. Choose the right products. Choose toiletries and cleaning products that are natural alternatives. Chemicals and non-natural materials in make-up, toiletries, house cleaners, pesticides, insecticides, etc can wreck havoc on your hormones when you are exposed regularly. Did you know that chemical additives can directly increase or decrease your estrogen levels? These are called endocrine disruptors and can adversely affect your system. Choose healthier products by checking their safety levels on EPA’s website, Skin Deep.
It really is possible to lose the belly fat as you get older. It takes a will to change and some simple, consistent action steps to help you begin to see results.
What is one thing you can start to do today to create the positive change? Comment below!
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