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Last week we talked about how stress, which triggers cortisol production, plays a role in accumulating tummy fat. But of course other factors are involved. Some you can fix, others you pretty much have to live with. For example:
• Menopause changes metabolism, predisposing you to weight gain. Where that weight accumulates is probably related to your genes. Think of your mom and her sisters. Where did they gain weight? Sorry, but you can’t order a new genetic history on the internet.
• We get shorter as we age. Even if your weight stays constant, it has to go somewhere. Generally, it’s love handles, buttocks, and tummy. Try squishing a gummy bear head-to-toe and you’ll see what I mean.
• Unless we consciously exercise our lower back muscles, they weaken. As a result, they can’t support the tummy, which then begins to bulge forward. Click here for some basic lower-back strengthening movements.
• Eating too many simple carbs, including refined white-flour products, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup, exhausts the sugar-regulating system in your pancreas. You might find yourself in the foothills of pre-diabetes, which itself can lead to abdominal weight gain.
• It’s estimated that up to 25% of women in their forties and over have mild hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Having a sluggish thyroid slows your metabolism further.
Here are four steps to trim your tummy fat:
1. Don’t bother with the weight-loss products you see all over the internet. They’re selling useless stuff that speeds your metabolism little more than a cup of Starbuck’s. Believe me, if one of these herbal weight-loss products worked without calorie restriction I’d be the first to recommend it.
2. To lose weight, you simply must reduce your calorie intake permanently. Stop all snacking, except for raw veggies and fruits. Serve meals on 9-inch plates with no second helpings. Your new approach means eating virtually no sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or other simple carbs such as white rice (half a cup of brown rice is a great substitute), white bread, and any and all sweets. Enjoy healthful fats such as avocado and extra virgin olive oil, which is 120 calories per tablespoon, so it pays to measure. Don’t bother with any “diet” because starting one implies you can go off your diet some glorious day. You can’t. If you do, you’ll gain all your weight back so quickly your head will swim. Know that your stomach will shrink if you keep to a low-cal diet–it’s a medical fact–and you’ll be satisfied eating less. If you need help with all this, schedule some time with our nutritional counselor Marla Feingold, who among other things can take you on a grocery tour and help you draft a list of foods to emphasize.
3. Exercise for weight loss. This translates into exercising for calorie burning and includes aerobics, jogging, bike, and elliptical machines rather than spot weight-loss concentrating on your abs. Try interval training , in which you pedal, run, skip rope, etc, flat-out for 30 seconds and then do calmer movements for several minutes, followed by another burst of activity. Doing crunches without working your low back will make matters worse as your abdominal muscles enlarge. Don’t bother with ab-reducing devices seen in infomercials. There’s a good reason garage sales are littered with them. And remember, the inches on your waist will almost magically disappear if you’re holding the line on calories in addition to working out.
4. If you think stress (and cortisol over-production) is involved with your weight gain, take some positive steps to de-stress. Yoga and meditation are good starts. You can start by focusing your mind to detach it from the source of your miseries. By announcing to yourself, “I will simply not let (ex-husband, psychotic boss, stoner boyfriend) bother me,” you are practicing cognitive behavioral therapy 101. Practicing indifference will release your poor tired and overworked adrenal glands from their excess cortisol production.
Two products that can augment the four steps: St. John’s Wort, for its stress-buffering effect and help with carb cravings, and Cortisol Manager, which reduces excess cortisol production in response to stress.