Pop quiz: Which of the following two-word phrases strikes the most fear among women over 50?
A. bathing suit
B. college reunion
C. belly fat
D. All of the above
The answer, of course, is “C” with the others following close behind.
If I had a dime for every email I got that asked me how to get rid of belly fat I’d be on my own private island, under a palm tree, being fed peeled grapes by a half-naked man named Sven.
Such is not the case. (And yes, from now on every person who asks me about belly fat must send me a dime.)
Why is belly fat such a big issue after 50 you ask? Great question.
I wish we could blame Justin Beiber, the Kardashians or twerking, but sadly there’s more to it.
For one, the drop of estrogen after menopause shifts the way your body stores fat.
In essence, we develop more of a male-pattern fat distribution.
Where we tended to gain weight around our thighs in our earlier years, now those rebellious fat cells like to collect around our belly.
And they stay there even if you scream at them, I’ve found.
Secondly, metabolism drops as we age. And – surprise! – it’s not because we’re sitting around more, although that also contributes.
Nope, it’s due largely to loss of muscle. Muscle burns calories at rest, so the more you have, the more calories you burn while you sit around watching Bates Hotel (anyone else watching this besides me? OMG it’s so good…).
Lastly, we generally move less as we age. It takes more energy to get up and at ‘em as time goes on.
So we sit more, eat more, and move less… creating a virtual trifecta of fertile ground for belly fat to grow and flourish.
Whether you call it a muffin top, love handles or other unflattering name, it’s got to go!
Because it’s not only harshing your mellow but increases your risk of heart disease.
And no one’s got time for that.
Hence, this post: I am always on the search for the latest research on this topic so I can share it with you. Here’s the thing: It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Some solutions may work for you and not your friend and vise versa. The important thing is to try a bunch of things and never give up.
All of the following are backed by recent studies (email me if you want the links)…
Focusing on just one thing seems so 1980s. Who does that? We have texts to read and send, emails to check, selfies to take and a whole host of other things that take us away from the moment at hand. This one. Now this one.
But stay in the moment and you’re likely to have less belly fat, according to a study from the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine. Focus on the moment at hand, breathe, and take in your surroundings instead of constantly rushing off to do things and you may find yourself slipping into a smaller pair of pants.
Not all fat is bad. In fact, we need fat to survive. But you have a number of choices. Saturated fat (solid at room temperature – think Crisco or bacon fat) is more likely to cause weight gain around the abdomen when compared with polyunsaturated fat (sunflower oil), making it a serious no-no for flat belly seekers.
Bonus: a higher level of polyunsaturated fats links to a lowered risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Yes, resistance training again! You know I’m all about weight training. It’s the only way to reverse the loss of muscle due to age, a process that starts in our 30s.
Now a study out of Harvard School of Public Health shows that men (yes, the study was with men but it often works for women, too – and I can vouch for it anecdotally) who did 20 minutes of weight training had less age-related belly fat accumulation than men who spent the same amount of time doing cardio.
No, that’s not a typo: Weight training beat out cardio for belly fat reduction.
Combining weight training with cardio produced the best results. So you need both. Strive for two to three days of resistance training and five days of some type of cardio a week, even if for 10 minutes.
Toss raspberries in your yogurt, add veggies to your salads and swap out that white bread for whole wheat and you may be able to cut back on your Spanx purchases.
A study found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day, belly fat went down my nearly 4% over five years. So no, it’s not exactly at the speed of light, but most people could use more fiber in their diets.
It helps keep you full longer and may help you go easy on those second helpings.
Aim for 25 grams of fiber a day (gradually work you way up to this number or you may experience unwanted side effects).
High fiber foods include:
Acorn squash: 9 grams per cup, baked
Artichokes: 10 grams per medium
Asian pears: 9.9 grams per medium fruit, with skin
Avocados: 10.5 grams of fiber per cup, sliced
Black beans: 12 grams per cup
Blackberries: 7.6 grams per cup
Brussels sprouts: 7.5 gram per cup
Chia seeds: 5.5 grams per tablespoon
Fig: 14.6 grams in 1 cup dried
Flax seeds: 3 grams per tablespoon
Peas: 8.6 grams per cooked cup
Quinoa: 5 grams per 1 cup cooked
Raspberries: 8 grams per cup
Split peas: 16 grams per cup cooked
Stress wreaks havoc with our bodies in so many ways, and belly fat is one of those results. Even thin women develop belly fat when they’re under stress. I’ve seen it and studies show it.
Researchers believe exposure to stressful conditions, like missing Macy’s One-Day Sale, over and over can lead a woman to overreact to stressors in their daily lives.
This stress releases cortisol, which in turn, makes it easier to store fat around the midsection.
Finding ways to de-stress goes a long way towards learning to relax and chill – and is shown to boost creativity, easy pain and generally makes you feel better.
I admit, I resisted against this for the longest time (not enough hours in a day!), but a few months ago I caved. I signed up for OMGmeditate.com and have meditated nearly every morning using the guided meditations (you can use it for free or subscribe).
I not only feel calmer overall, but I find myself better able to handle stressful situations easier. Check it out.
Which of these five tips will you try this week? Post your response below… I’d love to hear from you! And, as always, please spread the word through your social networks. It creates good karma — something we all need :).
Got questions? Email me at email@example.com and I’ll get back to you ASAP!
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Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.