Monthly Archives: July 2012
I have been doing a lot of reading lately about the problem of belly fat versus fat that is collected in other areas of the body. Belly fat is a more serious indicator of a potential health problem down the road. Heart disease and stroke being the number one risk from fat around the abdomen. The U.S. Army has even included waist circumference as a measure to predict healthy potential soldiers. The used to use BMI and body fat percentage solely.
Now, how do you specifically target belly fat. The standard answer that a lot of personal trainers will give you is that you can’t spot reduce fat. For example, if you have fat around your bicep than doing curls will not get rid of bicep fat. But, there is some good news for people who worry about this excess fat around the abdomen. If you read my blog you know that I am a runner. I am running the ING NYC Marathon this fall. I have also said that distance running is not a way to reduce body fat. Instead to reduce body fat high intensity sprints and power exercise such as full body olympic movements will help torch body fat. Well here is where it gets complicated. A recent Duke University study focused on cardio endurance training vs high intensity resistance training and their responses to visceral belly fat in particular. Visceral fat is the fat that sits deeper in your belly. It surrounds your organs and is much tougher to get rid of than subcutanous fat which is more superficial and lies just under your skin. The Duke study found that endurance training actually helped get rid of the visceral fat more so than high intensity training. This is why you can sometimes see a runner who has a very “skinny frame” with a higher body fat percentage. If you look at them in a sweater you might say they are really skinny. However, if you asked them to take their shirt off you might see some belly fat. However, because their belly fat is that subcutaneous fat they are not at risk for heart disease etc. Now. think of the olympic weightlifter with a huge belly. This guy is powerful but he has the classic “beer belly” look. He is at risk for a heart attack much more than the runner.
So, what does this mean for you. If long term health is your goal. I would try to amp up your cardio. When I began running I could barely run a mile. It’s just classic overload principal. Start slowly and add on a little at a time. Maybe add 10% a week at the most. When you first start don’t worry about distance just run for a time. Say 10 minutes at first. Then the next week 11 minutes. A good way to keep you motivated would be to sign up for a 5K or a 10K a few months down the road. These races are everywhere and they are a lot of fun with other people running alongside you. If you currently work out 4 days a week then maybe do 2 cardio days and 2 weight training days. When I was 290 pounds I went to the gym 6 days a week and lifted weights. I could bench press 340 pounds. But to work on that overall health and reduce fat you need to focus on diet and add cardio. Keep in mind however that I didn’t start running until after I lost 60 pounds or so. Diet is the key to all of this.
Lastly, but probably the most important is diet. When you are lifting weights you need protein to repair muscle tissue. However, if you trying to lose weight then you have to worry about total calories. I always say get to your ideal weight first then worry about shaping your body the way you want it. I use a smart phone app. There are a bunch out there. Loseit, MYFitnessPal, or FatSecret are all good. MyFitnessPal is my favorite. If you don’t have a smart phone they also have a website. Most people will tell you that eating at home is the best way to control weight because you can control the food that you prepare. However, with these calories trackers you can look up the calories in a menu item at say subway or Dunkin Donuts and make better choices.
This may sound obvious but many yo-yo dieters just don’t do this. EAT FOODS YOU LIKE! If you are chewing carrot sticks and you just hate them then how long do you think you are going to do that? Find lower calorie options that you actually like to eat. I can’t answer this for you but there has to be something out there that you enjoy that is not 1000 calories. If you don’t do this then your diet will be temporary. You want this to be a permanent change in the way you eat and not a diet.
Cheat Days are a must. There are things that everyone loves that they just can’t have when restricting calories. My cheat day is usually Saturday night and sometimes Sunday if I am training for a race. I will usually have a few beers and dessert on Saturday nights along with dinner.
Don’t diet at special events. Christmas is not a time to worry about your weight. If you start to live this way you will always be aware of calories and what the calorie count is. It will always be in the back of your head. If you feel that you have control over your diet then go ahead because you can always get back to your routine.
It takes 14 days to create a habit. I would recommend that when you start this new lifestyle that you are extremely strict for 2 weeks. No cheat days for at least 2 weeks. Your body will adjust and you won’t feel as hungry after two weeks.
Eat to not be hungry. Don’t eat until you are full. Think about this. I am a foodie. I love food but biologically we eat because we need energy. Our bodies signal hunger. Once that signal ends than we no longer need to eat.
Eat when your hungry. If you are hungry Eat! Usually just a small amount of food will actually end your hunger.
Successful dieters are boring. They tend to eat the same things over and over again. Because they know that it is something they like and they know the calories. It makes it easy and convenient.
Finally, crate your own Eat This not That. Men’s health popular program that lets you make small changes to your diet that will save you calories each time. This was probably my number one weapon for weight loss. For example, I stop at Dunkin Donuts everyday after work. I used to get an Iced Coffee and a muffin. I go from work as a school teacher right to my personal trainer job and needed something to hold me over until dinner. After learning that a muffin at Dunkin Donuts has 600 calories and a chocolate glazed donut has only 350. I switched to a donut. How many weight loss guys will tell you to eat donuts!? But I just saved myself 250 calories a day 5 days a week. In three weeks if I did nothing else I would lose a pound right there. After a few months of ordering glazed donuts I also like egg sandwiches. The Ham, Egg, and Cheese, on an english muffin is 290 calories. Bam! I just saved 60 more calories a day. 3 months later they have an egg white flatbread turkey sausage sandwich. That is 210 calories. It is basically the same size and it fills me up just as much. I just saved 80 more calories a day. From my original muffin I am down 390 calories a day every day of the week. My original daily snack when I started going to Dunkin Donuts was an iced coffee with cream and sugar and a muffin. 700 calories. Now I get am Iced Coffee with Skim Milk and splenda and a bacon, egg, and cheese wrap. for 215 calories. I did not make all of these changes at once. That is the key. I changed one thing and when I got used to it I then changed another thing. Think about your daily habits and how you can make small changes one at a time.
Coffee with no cream
No cheese on a sandwich. (would you really miss it) that’s 150 calories.
Mustard instead of Mayo
Diet soda instead of regular soda
Brown rice instead of white rice.
Weight watcher’s bread vs your regular bread.
Lite beer instead of regular beer. etc
Find which swaps work best for you and remember choose one thing at a time. All of these swaps for me took place over the course of several years. If you tried it all at once then you would miss it too much because you are too close to your old habits. Start with one swap and then let it become a habit.