As women age, their metabolism slows down, which means fat tends to accumulate unless they are extremely active and eat a very low-calorie diet. After menopause, fat tends to accumulate around the middle, as opposed to the legs or arms. However, you can take preventive steps with diet and exercise to minimize or avoid middle-age spread.
Two Types of Fat
When you think of belly fat, you probably think of a roll of fat you can squeeze with your hand. That is called subcutaneous fat, as it lies just below the skin. Of greater health concern is visceral fat, which accumulates around the organs in your midsection. Visceral fat is strongly associated with cardiovascular and diabetes risk. Genetics and hormones may play the biggest roles in whether you tend to accumulate much visceral fat, as diet and exercise can only have a minor impact on visceral fat, though they can strongly affect how much subcutaneous fat gathers around your middle.
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Women can lose belly fat by make several key changes to their diet, such as smaller portions and reduced daily calorie intake. Think about how much you ordinarily eat at dinner, for example, and start to take a little less, particularly of foods such as pasta, bread and desserts. Weight loss is all about fewer calories consumed than those burned, so start counting calories and see where you can cut back. Other dietary tips to help women lose belly fat include reducing consumption of saturated fats and replacing them with unsaturated fats. Also, replace simple carbohydrates, such as white flour pasta and soda, with complex carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables.
Daily fat-burning exercise, such as brisk walking or jogging, will help you lose weight all over. But if you tend to gather fat in your midsection, that may be an area where you start to see early reductions once you start exercising. You can also perform some belly-targeted exercises that may not immediately burn fat around the middle, but will tone your abdominal muscles to help flatten your belly. One exercise worth trying is known as "abdominal hollowing." To start, get on all fours and let your belly hang down as you take a deep breath. After you exhale, draw you belly up as though you were trying to push your bellybutton toward your spine and hold for 10 seconds. Release and repeat 10 times. You should feel a tightening around the waist as you hold in your belly.
To lose weight and keep it off, you may need to surround yourself with supportive people. Enlisting your family in a healthier approach to eating is a great idea and will pay dividends for everyone. A spouse or partner on board with smaller portions, healthier foods and more exercise can help keep you on track. Local support groups, particularly women-only groups, may also help keep you focused on your goal. Your physician or your local hospital may have information about support groups. See if your doctor will prescribe the services of a registered dietitian who can help you revamp your diet in a way that still allows you to enjoy tasty, but healthier foods.