Last week we discussed why we accumulate more belly fat as we age. It is an unfortunate side effect of getting older, especially when we go through menopause. However, there are ways to slow and/or stave off the unwanted fat that accumulates around our midsection. As we age, our estrogen levels drop, our thyroid and metabolism slow, our cortisol or stress hormones increase, and our distribution of fat also changes. The fat in our arms, legs and hips lessen while our tummies get bigger.
We can sit and cry and moan about it, but what’s the point? This aging thing happens to all women, so why not do something about it? It is going to require work on your part, but at the end of the day, you will feel better and you can have a flatter tummy.
Let’s start with diet. I’m not talking the diets that we’ve all tried to lose weight – I’m talking about a lifestyle of healthy eating. My opinion is that diets do not work! The moment I decide to go on a diet, the more I obsess about food and crave foods that are high in carbs and sugar until I end up binging. Most of us have been there and done that!
What Should You Eat?
As we age, it’s even more important to eat foods that are rich in fiber like fruits and vegetables, lean proteins including chicken, fish and lentils, complex carbohydrates like whole grains, starchy vegetables like potatoes or yams, and foods rich in omega-3s like flax seeds, walnuts and salmon.
It’s also equally important to limit the processed food that you eat. I like to call it “clean eating," which is eating whole foods that aren’t processed, modified or hydrogenated. In a nutshell, foods are “processed” for a couple of reasons: to increase shelf life and to mass produce at a lower cost. You can begin by reading labels and apply this one basic rule: If you can’t pronounce the names of the ingredients on the label, then you probably shouldn’t put it into your body. It’s that simple!
Our bodies are not meant to process all of these chemicals, especially those used in diet foods. Talk about bloating! The chemical compounds found in diet foods such as sucralose, aspartame and cyclamate are much harder for your digestive tract to break down. These sweeteners can also be up to 300 times sweeter than natural sugar! Three hundred times sweeter than sugar and you wonder why you have an increase in your appetite, which pretty much always leads to you overeating! Well, here you go! Start choosing natural foods that your body knows how to process.
What About Exercise?
To effectively lose belly fat, it is very important to do moderate to intense cardio workouts for 30 minutes, three to five times per week. The cardio workouts are what burns calories and fat. This is what is going to help you to lose your “muffin top.” In fact, cardio workouts are even more important than doing isolated abdominal exercises like sit-ups or crunches. If you only work on your abs without any cardio, you will build your abdomen muscles but you will also have a layer of fat covering them up.
What Else Can You Do to Fight Belly Fat?
It’s important to get lots of rest, drink lots of water, and monitor your stress. It has been statistically proven that a large percentage of obese people are sleep deprived. In addition, as we age, our cortisol levels increase. Cortisol is our natural stress hormone, and the higher it is, the higher our glucose level. Furthermore, a higher glucose count can lead to extra fat storage in the abdomen. One of the best ways to counter stress is to exercise. By exercising, you are actually killing two birds with one stone, because not only are you burning fat and calories, but you are reducing stress. Finally, don’t be hard on yourself. Gaining belly fat is a normal part of aging for women. The good news is that you can do something about it!