How do I get rid of the weight in my stomach? I am frequently asked this question by clients. Weight gain in the mid-section tends to occur as we get older and is caused by multiple factors such as decreased physical activity, decreased metabolic rate, and changes in hormones, thus, resulting in fat redistribution. Many people are concerned with the way extra abdominal fat makes them look, but it also makes them at risk for diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
There are two different ways to address abdominal fat. The first involves physical activity. As we get older we tend to decrease our activity levels and increase our time sitting. As a culture, our lifestyles have changed a lot over the last 50 years. We sit in the car, at work, and then when we get home. Many of us are sitting for over 8 hours a day. If you think about it, we are not engaging our core muscles and not exerting any energy during those times. How do you feel about incorporating physical activity into your daily routine? At first it may be overwhelming, but the key is to start with small goals such as walking 15 minutes a day 3 days/week then advance from there. Every one of us is different and might progress differently. For some it might be easier to increase to two 15 minute sessions 3 days/week, and for others it might be more appropriate to walk 15 minutes/day 4 days/week. Try to brainstorm different activities such as dancing, bike riding, a workout video, elliptical, yoga , or joining a local basketball team. The best workout plan is whatever works for you. The message here is to move your body.
The second way to address abdominal fat is with nutrition. Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet can help reduce abdominal fat. The Mediterranean diet involves lots of fruits & vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seafood, nuts, and moderate amounts of alcohol. Olive oil tends to be used a lot the in Mediterranean diet, and low to moderate amounts of chicken, beef, and dairy are consumed. Processed food items are rarely consumed. If the diet does not sound like something you would like, are there aspects of it you would like to incorporate? Such as, would you eat unsalted nuts as a snack? Would you be willing to eat fish 1-2 times a week? Maybe try a legume dish. Although the Mediterranean diet has been touted as increasing longevity and health in those that follow it, I believe there are other factors beside nutrition that make it so successful. The Mediterranean diet evolved from the Mediterranean region where I also feel the culture values relationships and enjoys life. Cultivating relationships and decreasing stress may also help reduce your waistline.
In conclusion, the best recipe for success is to begin incorporating physical activity and focusing on a plant based diet, while limiting processed food. Both, physical activity and healthy eating, can help reduce abdominal fat but together they are a force to be reckoned with. Studies indicate combining healthy eating and physical activity have the best success rate of long term weight maintenance of weight loss.
Your Registered Dietitian,