Monday, July 14, 2014

Whittling the Waist

Who doesn't want a smaller waist? As we age, most of us struggle with weight gain around the middle. And there is more at stake than just looking good in a bikini or a speedo. Carrying excess fat around the belly raises the chances of heart disease, the number one killer of both men and women over fifty. This is because belly fat is much more volatile, i.e. unstable. The only good thing is that it is often easier for women to lose this fat than the more stubborn (stable) fat around the hips and thighs. If your fat is located lower down, you may not love it, but it's not nearly as dangerous.

This summer, I have been working to whittle my own waist. I've combined several techniques, including both dietary changes and exercise. I've lost a few pounds and I've watched my previously bloated belly go down. (Of course, I've lost fat all over, not just from the belly. There is no such thing as "spot reducing" as women's magazines once touted. No exercise or diet can reduce fat in one specific area.)

A growing belly is most often due to over-consumption of poor quality carbohydrates. (Do you drink beer? There is a reason they call it a "beer" belly!) The first step is to improve the quality of the carbs you eat. What are the best carbs? Dark green veggies top the list. (Yes, vegetables and fruits are mostly carbohydrate!) Start by adding at least one serving of dark green, leafy veggies to your daily meal plan. I often have power greens at both lunch and dinner. (Power greens = kale, collards, spinach, swiss chard, etc.) To begin losing fat, substitute a serving of veggies for a serving of grain-based carbs at each meal. This simple substitution reduces calories and ups the nutritional value of each meal.

If you have been eating grains, an easy way to jumpstart your fat loss is removing all refined grains from your diet. Nothing made from flour! If you must eat grains, make sure they are WHOLE. (Whole grain breads and cereals do not count! Those grains have been processed!) If bread is a deal-breaker for you, substitute sprouted whole grain bread which contains NO flour. (Ezekial Bread is one brand. Trader Joe's also makes this type of bread. Sprouted grains are easier to digest.)

Have you been indulging in desserts? Speaking of empty calories, sugar is about as empty as you can get. Refined sugar contains nothing your body needs, only excess calories. And each time you consume something sugary, your blood sugar spikes, so your insulin rushes to push all that excess sugar into your fat cells for storage. The quickest way to put on fat is to consume processed sugary junkfood. Instead, substitute whole, fresh fruit. A handful of cherries or raspberries, a sliced peach, a bowl of blueberries. These are all in season now. Enjoy your summer fruits just as they are, with no added sugar.

When you make these improvements to your diet, you will see progress around your waistline very quickly. But to increase the fat loss, you should also up the exercise. My hubby and I used to do one long walk each morning with our dogs. Now we walk twice per day, 45 minutes each time. On top of this, I have added daily swimming in our pool. Once a week I teach a bootcamp class in the park. Three days per week, I teach a dance-based fitness class. And two yoga classes per week, as well. All of this adds up to lots of calorie-burning! Whatever your current routine, I'll bet you can add a little bit more. Exercising twice per day, once in the morning and once in the evening, will speed up your results. Don't kill yourself, though! Overtraining will stall your weight loss. Build up slowly to a higher level. If you feel overly tired, take a day off and rest.

And get enough sleep. High quality sleep. Cut back or cut out the alcohol which disturbs your normal sleep patterns. (Alcohol is another example of empty calories.) Most of us need about 8 hours of sleep per night. Naps are also a great way to catch up on rest. Add a nap into your schedule whenever possible. Even a 10 minute nap can make a difference. (After all that added exercise, you are going to need those naps!!)

Remember to measure your waist before you begin your whittling program. Then you will be able to watch the numbers go down as you burn off that excess fat. I hope you will post your results in the comments section below so we can all congratulate you on your success!

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