Search results for belly fat

Motivating Women…Part 2: Be Yourself

Posted by on Feb 15, 2012 in aging, appearance, diet, exercise, Inspiration, weight | 4 comments

We’re taking a break from our regular Wednesday Bubble and talking with three amazing women, Shonali Burke, Kami Watson Huyse and Julie Pippert. These women are graciously sharing their stories about  the turn that their lives have taken with regard to health and fitness. Change is never easy, but neither is aging. That’s why I have been so intrigued by the upsurge I’m witnessing in the number of women in their 40s who seem to be committed to changing bad habits before those bad habits change them.

Last Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report outlining a trend among the medical community to increase its efforts to recommend that adults participate in exercise and other forms of physical activity. Since 2000, there has been a 40% increase in the number of adults who have been advised to incorporate exercise into their routines. Importantly, however, at each time point measured in the National Health Interview Survey, women were much more likely than men to have been advised to exercise. While this aspect of the Survey doesn’t elaborate on these data, studies have shown that gender does influence obesity rates and that worldwide, more women than men are obese. Not only are women challenged to run household and care for children, but many also work outside the home. This doesn’t leave a lot of time for meal planning and even less, for exercise. Nevertheless, both are essential for good health and wellbeing.

A few years ago, my friend, cookbook author Mollie Katzen suggested to me during our interview that even if women do nothing differently, as they age their bodies become less efficient metabolic machines, adding that one of the most consistent things she’s observed amongst her friends is the “oh my god, what happened to my body” moment. The ‘I’m minding my business, doing the same things I’ve always done and all of a sudden, I’ve got this spare tire, I’ve got the fat” epiphany. The answer?


Trial and Error

Health is trial and error. What works for one woman might not be exactly what works for another. We all need to forge our dietary paths and strategies that work for both our individual metabolism and our bodies. And if it isn’t working? Change it up and aim higher. Or differently.

Shonali explains that her trainer introduced her to two dietary strategies: The Primal Blueprint (aka, the Paleo diet, which focuses on balancing insulin levels in your body) and Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat‘ (again, focusing on insulin regulation). She says that while “there have been lapses,” I typically eat no grains, legumes or processed foods/foods high in sugar.” What strikes me as the most important thing in Shonali’s incorporation of a new way of eating into her life is that she tries to cook a meal every day consisting of a healthy salad and an entree that is protein-rich but also, she is “careful not to let myself feel hungry; if I am hungry, I eat…I just eat the foods I know are good for me.”

Kami says that while she may eventually go on a specific plan, like Body for Life , she prefers easing “into any dietary restrictions slowly. So far, I am just trying to back off on portions,” she explains, adding that “I have always eaten lots of vegetables and fruits but I am upping that.”  Julie is also relying on portion control and is “eating very little meat, mostly fish,” and “as much fresh food as I can instead of processed food.” As a working mom of two and with a husband who has a long commute, Julie says that it can be hard to do regular family dinners but that she worked with a nutritionist who helped her “identify ‘eat this/not that’ convenience type [healthy] foods, such as flash frozen veggies and fruit but not packaged meals.” She adds that she ‘also attends free cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma to get easy and quick recipe ideas.


Set Goals 

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed accountability and how answering to another person, e.g. a trainer, can help you get into a groove. However, it’s important that that groove is yours’ and your’s alone. Moreover, setting goals is part of that accountability but rigidity is not the aim; instead, goals need to be fluid and evolutionary.

Julie says that her “initial goal was to lose weight and get out of the overweight category. I wanted to eat right and get active. Once I achieved that, I wanted to work out a long-term health maintenance plan.” She adds that that entails tweaking portions and working on body toning. Kami’s goal is more specific: she wants to lose 10 to 15 pounds (minimum) to improve the pressure on her bad knee. After that, however, she says that “it would be great to reduce my waistline by 2 to 3 inches to get off some of the belly fat, which is, by far, worst for your health.” Shonali also says that her goals had to do with “losing a certain amount of weight and fitting into a particular dress size,” but now, she’s considering aiming even higher and is considering running and possibly training for a 5K.


To thine own self, be true

Guess what? It’s all about you. I’m serious. Don’t believe me?

All three of these women say that the primary outcome of the changes that they’ve made in their lives is that not only do they feel better, but they also feel better about themselves. Wow! Since Shonali has started last August, she has lost almost 20 pounds and 15″, reduced her BMI from 25.3 to 22.4 and lowered her body fat percentage from 31.6% to 24.3%. She’s also come down one dress size. However, here’s the rub: she says that “the numbers are great  but what I really love is that I have more energy and stamina. I am much stronger than I used to be; I sleep better, I’m more focused with my work and my confidence has increased greatly.”

Kami’s journey has just begun (or as she describes it “just restarted”) and yet, her primary outcome echoes Shonali’s. “I feel better about myself and that is priceless.”

Julie, too, expresses a similar experience. “I lost 50 lbs initally,” she says, although this is at the low end of the weight range for her size and she’s not been able [rightly so] to maintain that. Still, She is at a healthy weight and at an average BMI. And most importantly, she explains “I have a lot more energy, huge improvements on stress and mood and I look better. That’s led me to dress better, feel better and achieve more.”

The lessons inherent in these outcomes are essential:  aging can be bumpy and sometimes, our bodies don’t behave quite as we expect them to. Dress size, body fat, weight loss are simply keys that help to unlock the door to the  most important outcome we can achieve: self-love. And when you feel good, that radiates out in unbelievably beautiful, gorgeous ways. I know it sounds cheesy but it’s true. Honestly? Be kind to yourself and to thine own self, be true. Like Kami says, the gift is priceless.

I hope that you’ll stay the course and tune in again on Friday for Part 3.

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Battle of the middle-aged bulge: pick your poison

Posted by on Nov 27, 2009 in memory/learning, menopause, weight | 4 comments

That age old battle of the bulge just got more challenging.. Researchers are saying that middle-aged women who store fat around their mid section are twice as likely as their peers to develop dementia in old age. Yikes! More reason than ever to lose that belly fat, right?

Starting in 1960, researchers looked healthy and lifestyle risk factors in 1,462 women and then at various intervals for 32 years. They found that women who were broader around the waist than the hips by the time they reached middle-aged more than twice the odds of developing dementia if they lived beyond 70 years. However, a higher body-mass index did not infer a similar risk.

Whether it’s associated with aging, testosterone or declining physical activity, weight gain around the midsection has been linked with the metabolic syndrome, which increases your risk for heart attack and stroke.

So, we’re left with a choice – heart attack, stroke or losing our minds….Or, better yet, move your body. Exercise, start eating healthier and being more mindful of what’s going in and what you are putting out. Granted, we may not be able to fight the inevitable but we can at least try to stave it off or control it as much as possible. The bulge around the middle is the hardest area to attack. But it’s not impossible.

I’d love to get some fitness experts to weigh in on this. Anyone?

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Wednesday Bubble: I’ve got the blues and it’s all good!

Posted by on Apr 22, 2009 in diabetes, heart disease, weight | 3 comments

I’ve got the blues this week; blueberries that is. And the news is all good!

Researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor are reporting that eating a diet rich in blue berries might reduce heart disease, protect against diabetes, and get rid of belly fat! Is this too good to be true? And what does this have to do with menopause anyway?

I’ve written previously on increased risk of heart disease and increased likelihood of gaining weight around the abdominal region as we age. So, if blueberries can potentially help to stave off both, that’s great news, right?

The research team studied the effect of a blueberry-enriched powder added to either a low-fat or high-fat diet in laboratory rats and compared them to rats receiving no blueberry powder.  The rats were of a particular breed that are prone to weight gain and being severely overweight.

After 90 days, rats receiving the blueberry powder (which comprised 2% of their total diet)  had less abdominal fat, and lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels. They also showed improvements in  fasting blood glucose and insulin sensitivity, which measures the risk for diabetes and heart disease (namely metabolic syndrome), respectively.

What’s more, the benefits were even greater among rats fed the powder along with a low-fat diet: they had lower body weight, lower total fat mass, and reduced liver mass (which has been linked to obesity and insulin resistance) than rats in the other study groups. The researchers also reported positive changes in measures such as fat muscle tissue (which relates to fat-burning and storage) in rats fed the blueberry powder and a high-fat diet.

The beneficial effects of blueberries are believed to be possibly related to inherently high levels of an antioxidant  known as anthocyanins, which is responsible for blueberries’ colour.

Clearly, further research, is needed, particularly in humans. In the interim, eat some blueberries: they’re high in flavor, a great source of fiber and vitamins C and K, and low in fat. And may help combat some of the less attractive pitfalls of mid-life.

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New Year? New You!

Posted by on Jan 1, 2014 in women's health | 1 comment


Want to know one of the most important resolutions that you can make? Commit to you!

I write about a lot of topics on Flashfree but the overriding theme is health and the importance of taking care of yourself. And no one can do that better than you can, that is, once you make a commitment to become healthier and identify strategies that work best for you. There are four tips that I’d like to offer to help you get over the initial hump.

  • Move. I can’t emphasize the importance of physical activity enough. From bone health to heart health to mental health, it is the one accessible, equal opportunity strategy, regardless of income or geography. Because even if you don’t have entry to the gym, you can walk, run, bike, step, or engage in other activities that don’t require a membership or a monthly fee. In addition to counterbalancing the calories that you ingest daily, simply  simply engaging in vigorous physical activity, i.e. 7 days of a combination of moderate intensity/intense activities that add up to 3000 MET minutes a week) can significantly decrease menopausal symptoms, in particular fatigue, depression, insomnia and hot flashes.  (Activity level is scientifically measured by units known as METs, or metabolic equivalents; vigorous activity is equivalent to 8 METs and moderate activity to 4 METs).
  • Be conscious.  My grandmother used to say ‘everything in moderation.’ When it comes to diet, I don’t engage or believe in deprivation but I do try to balance out the occasional junk  and sweets with healthy, daily  doses of vegetables, fresh fruit, lean proteins and fiber. Researchers say that what you eat is extremely important. In a study of over 500 women, the strategy that worked best, leading to an average weight loss of 17 pounds over six months, entailed boosting intake of soluble fiber, fruits, veggies, whole grains and sources of plant stanols/sterols (i.e. almonds, brussel sprouts, wheat germ/bran, peanuts, olive oil and omega-3s). However, they also started moving more and adding regular, moderately intense activity to their daily routines.
  • Engage. Want to know the key to health and wellbeing? Your friends. Data from a study published in Psychological Review in 2000 suggests that women’s inherent response to stress is to ‘tend and befriend’ rather than ‘fight or flight;’ in other words, there is a biologically-defined strategy or pattern that involves caring for offspring, joining social groups, and gravitating towards friends under stressful circumstances. This is driven, at least in part, by the release of the hormone oxytocin, which coupled with endogenous opioids and other sex hormones, promotes maternal behavior as an alternative to the male-oriented fight and flee response. Other findings  have also shown that friendships help prevent the development of physical impairment and facilitate a more joyful existence. What’s more, having a strong social network can lower blood pressure and heart rate and improve cholesterol levels. The bottom line? Nature has provided us with a built-in prompt to maintain those ever important bonds. Our inherent tendency to nurture completes the picture.
  • Laugh. Several years ago, researchers discovered that humor therapy and anticipation of laughing or being amused (also known as mirthful laughter)  boosts mood hormones and raises human growth hormone (which optimizes immunity levels. Mirthful laughter has been shown to lower stress hormones and improve the functioning of certain cells – natural killer cells – that favour immune function. Daily laughter also helps lower cholesterol, decreases inflammation that contributes to disease and improves overall wellness. A good belly laugh goes an awfully long way. That funny bone? Seek it out.
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Battle of the bulge

Posted by on Aug 28, 2009 in Uncategorized | 0 comments


You know that donut that’s forming around your midsection? The one that doesn’t seem to budge even though you’ve boosted your exercise regimen and take a restrained approach to eating whenever possible? The one that some experts say has nothing to do with hormones and others say it does?

New data from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, which I’ve referenced previously in many posts, suggest that testosterone might be the culprit here. In this particular analysis, researchers examined the potential relationship between testosterone and visceral (belly) fat in 359 middle-aged women who were in various stages of the menopause. Visceral fat was measured via CT scans, and blood was drawn to assess sex hormone (i.e. estrogen and testosterone) levels.

Study findings, which were published in the online edition of Obesity,  showed  that levels of active testosterone were the strongest predictors of the development of the middle-aged bulge, even more so than estrogen. What’s more, this association remained even after the researchers made adjustments for total body fat, age, race and other risk factors.

Besides appearance, abdominal fat is linked with an increased risk for the metabolic syndrome, a collection of risk factors that in concert, promote coronary heart disease. What’s more, circulating levels of testosterone may increase one’s risk for developing the metabolic syndrome.

It’s challenging. We’re told to exercise more, restrain our eating, limit alcohol intake and yet, there’s still no magic bullet to kill the middle -age bulge, especially since the battle may ultimately lie with hormonal balance. But don’t lose hope; I suspect that before many of us are through the worst of it, researchers may finally identify a viable, effective strategy.

In the meantime, don’t give up. I’m not sure that all is lost. At least, I hope not!

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