The Truth About Middle-Age Belly Fat


I used to think that middle-age spread was something that happened to “other” people. That the words “spread” and “middle age” did not have to be synonymous with one another, just like the words “midlife” and “crisis” didn’t have to be. I thought I’d be one of the lucky ones, since I was a skinny kid.

Wrong: The waistline is simply not what it used to be. Neither is the weight. EspeciaI used to think that middle-age spread was something that happened to “other” people. That the words “spread” and “middle age” did not have to be synonymous with one another, just like the words “midlife” and “crisis” didn’t have to be. I thought I’d be one of the lucky ones, since I was a skinny kid.lly after menopause. I thought that by eating less and doing more ab crunches, I could avoid that lovely spare tire.

Wrong again.

For many women, getting bikini ready means tackling one dreaded area in particular our tummies.

Most of us still think the best way to achieve a washboard stomach is by doing hundreds of sit-ups. Not so, says A-list trainer and body guru James Duigan.

James, who sculpts supermodels Elle Macpherson and Rosie Huntingdon-Whiteley among others, insists there is no ‘one size fits all’ method for getting a flat belly. Instead, he’s identified five key ‘tummy types’, all of which require a different approach to achieve successful toning.

Once you’ve identified your type, you can transform it following James’ tailor-made plan and get that flat tummy fast.

The truth about belly fat

Having a flat belly or so-called ‘six-pack abs’ is a dream of most adults. If you’re middle-aged, have ever been pregnant or sometimes indulge in too much food or one too many beers, you probably have a spare tyre you’d like to get rid of. So what’s the best strategy for banishing belly fat? Is it as simple as adding certain foods to your diet, or doing particular exercises?

We turned to the experts for answers on belly fat – and the best ways to lose it.

The facts.

Estrogen plays a big role in both fat storage and its distribution.

Before permenopause, fat likes to hang out in the thighs, hips and buttocks. But during and after menopause? Fat gets restless and likes to move.

It’s favorite spot: the midsection.

And the fat that takes up residence there is different from the fat of your younger years. It’s visceral fat, meaning that it lies deep inside your abdomen, surrounding your organs. The “other” kind of fat is subcutaneous  fat, which sits right below your skin and is found in places like your thighs, buttocks and outer abdomen.

Visceral fat is more metabolically active and has a negative effect on your body; it’s linked to an increase ininsulin resistance, diabetes, heart and inflammatory diseases. That extra fat at your waistline also increases your risk of high blood pressure.

Metabolism slows when you age.

Reduced estrogen levels may slow your resting metabolic rate, and your body can’t convert stored energy into working energy as efficiently as it once did (hence, the “why am I exercising more than I ever had to just to maintain my weight?” question). So, no matter what your past activity levels were, it’s probably necessary to increase both the time and intensity.

Pay attention to portion sizes they matter more than ever before. Base your meals on lean proteins, like chicken and fish, complex carbs (like veggies, fruits and whole grains) and healthful fats (like olive oil, nuts and avocados).

Your muscle mass declines by about half a pound a year as you age, which, in turn, lowers your resting metabolism (as well as your strength and mobility).

But there’s a fix for that! Build up muscle, because muscle burns more calories than fat, according to the Mayo Clinic. Resistance training or strength training with weights or resistance bands has been shown to help.

So Does Stress.

Midlife can be a stressful time a time of change and upheaval for many of us. And stress can lead to overeating, especially overeating “bad” foods that are high in salt, sugar and fat. Aside from that, the hormone cortisol ,which increases with stress, can shift fat accumulation to guess where? the belly.

Alas, it’s not the crunches that are going to manage your belly fat (although they can strengthen the muscles underneath it). However, losing belly fat as you age is not an impossible task. It can be managed with things like diet, exercise, sleep and stress management.

The answer to flatter abs

Don’t despair; you can lose that spare tyre, experts say. However, there’s no secret formula.

“The key to losing belly fat is self-motivation, exercise, eating a more healthy diet and consuming fewer calories than you use up,” says Dr Sarah Clarke, a consultant cardiologist at Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Whether you’re an “apple” shape with excess belly fat, or a “pear” with wide hips and thighs, when you lose weight you’ll most likely lose proportionately more from the abdominal region than elsewhere.

The type of fat that is responsible for the “beer belly” shape is called visceral fat. Visceral fat (the fat surrounding your vital organs) is more metabolically active than subcutaneous fat (the fat just under your skin) so it tends to burn off quicker.

When people lose weight, it’s usually the belly that shrinks first. And the more weight you have to lose, the more quickly you’re likely to start losing your belly fat, experts say.

But avoid crash dieting. “It is much better to lose weight gradually,” says Professor Jimmy Bell, an obesity specialist at Imperial College London. “Although it takes longer, it is less likely that you will put the weight back on.”

Dietitian Priya Tew recommends losing no more than one or two pounds a week.

Can whole grains help you lose belly fat?

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a calorie-controlled diet rich in whole grains trimmed extra fat from the waistline of obese subjects.

Study participants who ate all whole grains (in addition to five servings of fruits and vegetables, three servings of low-fat dairy, and two servings of lean meat, fish or poultry) lost more weight from the abdominal area than another group that ate the same diet, but with all refined grains.

Eating refined foods such as white bread and sugary foods triggers a series of events. A rapid rise in blood sugar level is followed by an increased insulin response, which can cause fat to be deposited more readily.

However, eating a diet rich in whole grains (which also tend to be higher in fibre) helps improve insulin sensitivity. This, in turn helps the body more efficiently use blood glucose, controls blood glucose levels and reduces fat deposition. The NHS recommends that you try to choose whole grains as often as possible.

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