Excess belly fat can prove problematic in many ways. It appears to pose greater threats to your health compared with fat elsewhere and can affect self-esteem. While it can strike both sexes at any age, hormonal changes and a steadily decreasing metabolism can make it more likely to appear as you reach your 30s and beyond. The basic tenets of reducing fat apply to everyone regardless of age, but as you get older, your body becomes less forgiving of unhealthy habits, and you simply need to work harder than you might have had to when you were younger.
Eat the amount of calories appropriate for your energy needs. The USDA dietary guidelines say women 31 to 50 only require about 1,800 to 2,200 calories daily to fulfill their energy needs, depending on activity level. If you carry extra weight around your belly or elsewhere, you will likely need to reduce this amount to facilitate weight loss. Many Internet sites, such as caloriesperhour.com/index_burn.php, offer free calculators to determine your calorie needs based on several factors, including desired weight and activity level.
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Increase your level of moderately-intense physical activity. Harvard Health Publications, a service of Harvard Medical School, reports you might require as much as 60 minutes a day to reduce belly fat. The 30 minutes, five days per week, guidelines you probably hear so much about apply to promoting general health and cutting your risk of common health problems -- weight loss appears to require more.
Add strength-training to your exercise regimen. Harvard points to a study of women 22 to 44 that found strength-training twice a week for a year reduced overall body fat, including belly fat. Muscle requires more energy to maintain, and the more you have, the more calories your body will burn all day long.
Eat foods that have been shown to reduce belly fat specifically. A 2008 Pennsylvania State University study found that eating whole grains rather than refined grains resulted in a greater loss of fat around the midsection. A study appearing in the July 2007 issue of "Diabetes Care" found a diet rich in monounsaturated fats resulted in the greatest loss of belly fat compared with diets rich in carbs or saturated fat. Examples of belly-fat-fighting foods include brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat, nuts, seeds, olive oil, canola oil and avocados.
- Harvard Health Publication; "Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It?"; December 2006
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- Reuters.com; "Whole Grains May Curb Belly Fat"; February 2008
- "Diabetes Care"; "Monounsaturated Fat–Rich Diet Prevents Central Body Fat Distribution and Decreases Postprandial Adiponectin Expression Induced by a Carbohydrate-Rich Diet in Insulin-Resistant Subjects"; Dr. J.A. Paniagua et al; July 2007