42 Belly Busters That Really Work

Live longer by ditching your most dangerous fat

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Minimize Your Menopot

If you suddenly feel like you’re carrying more weight around your waist, you’re not going crazy. “Belly fat increases by 50 percent as women approach and go through menopause,” says endocrinologist Reza Yavari, MD. If this fat sits just under the skin, there’s a good chance it’s mainly a cosmetic issue. However, if you have visceral fat—the deep ab fat that surrounds your organs—you may be at an increased risk of developing diabetes and metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that predispose you to heart disease. Fortunately, there are some simple changes you can make to attack both types of fat. Here are 42 of the best.

Yanik Chauvin

Start Walking

The neighborhood-waistline link is an emerging area of obesity research. One study found that people who live in the most walkable communities are on average six pounds lighter than those in the most sprawling suburbs. Another survey of nearly 11,000 Atlanta residents found that those who spent the most time in cars were more likely to be obese than those who walked to shops and offices.


Exercise Daily

Daily activity is essential: 91 percent of National Weight Control Registry participants exercise for an hour a day, usually walking. If you don’t exercise, start with 10-minute walking sessions until you’ve built up to 30 minutes every other day. Once you’re in the habit, revamp every six weeks by varying the routine: work out at a more intense pace, or try a new activity.


Show Up

Retrain yourself to make exercise a habit that’s as regular as brushing your teeth. For the first month, just strive to get the gym, class or workout.


Keep a Food Diary

Doris Lancaster’s secret weapon is her food diary. On FitDay, a free, private online log, she keeps track of everything she puts in her mouth. “It’s tedious, but I know if I have a milkshake, it’s going on my permanent record,” she says. The diary has also helped her identify eating patterns and triggers, and knowing what drives her to overeat or crave unhealthy foods makes her less likely to succumb.


Weigh Yourself Everyday

“I was thin until I turned 30, when I seemed to put on 30 pounds overnight,” Jennefer Witter says. “I even accused my dry cleaner of shrinking my clothes!” She lost the weight by working with a nutritionist, and weigh-ins after her 30-minute cardio and weight-training sessions have kept her trim since. “I get on the scale virtually every morning,” she says.

National Weight Control Registry members say regular self-weighing is crucial: 75 percent climb on the scale at least once a week, and half weigh in daily. “People try to track their weight by how their clothes feel, but by the time your pants are tight, you may have gained 10 pounds,” says NWCR cofounder Rena Wing. The key to daily weighing is not to overreact. Your weight can fluctuate by up to four pounds on any given day. Instead, notice patterns: “I don’t freak out if I’m suddenly two pounds up. But if the number steadily climbs, I add 10 extra minutes of cardio to my workout until the weight comes back down,” Witter says.


Put Your Workout In Your PDA

If you leave exercise to chance, you won’t fit it in. Make workout appointments that can’t be broken. Either carve out the same times every week and stick to that schedule or, if you don’t have a set routine, plan a week or even a month ahead.


Sign Up for Alerts

 Some gyms, like Equinox, will text you reminding you to attend the class you signed up for. Just another reminder to help you make fitness happen. Another effective tool: cell phone alarms.


Look At Your Lifestyle

A one-hour daily workout leaves 23 hours for unhealthy habits, such as eating too much and not getting enough sleep. To succeed, think about improving every aspect of your lifestyle.


Take Off 10

Your metabolism is slower now, and it’s easier to gain weight. To counter this tendency, burn 10 extra calories an hour. Two minutes of moderate activity, such as jumping jacks or stair walking, will do the trick.


Hire Your Own Personal Cheerleader

Debbie Chabot tried every weight-loss scheme imaginable, and then she found a diet coaching service online. During weekly 30-minute phone calls, her coach helped her identify unhealthy eating patterns and gave her a safe place to talk about her insecurities regarding her weight. Before that, “I never had a person who cheered on my successes or guided me if I got off track,” says Chabot, who still checks in with her coach every week or so.


Having a cheerleader can be a big asset for weight maintenance. A study found that dieters who had social support from family and friends lost more weight over an 18-month period than those who didn’t. Internet support groups like Weight Watchers and eDiets provide a virtual community to help you achieve weight loss.


Permit No Pain

The over-40 body needs variation in movement or it will suffer wear-and-tear injuries (and boredom). Vary your routine. And never work to the point where your joints hurt.


Make the Time to Exercise

If your commute leaves you with no free time, try to fit exercises into your workday. Find simple strength exercises or stretches to do while seated (on a train or bus), climb the stairs for ten minutes on your lunch break or walk swift laps around your building for about 20 minutes before you get into the office.


Do a Little Something Energetic Everyday

Vow to do an activity that will get you breathing hard for at least 10 minutes, seven days a week. “Even if you just set the timer on the kitchen stove and vigorously clean the house or run up and down the stairs, you’ll do something good for your heart—and your waistline,” says Andrea Metcalf, a Chicago-based trainer.


Use Free Weights

Dumbbell exercises involve a greater number of muscles because your body—and not an exercise machine—provides stability. And the more muscles you work, the more calories you burn.


Graze All Day

Eating five or six smaller meals instead of three larger ones can help prevent both hunger and overeating. Mini meals steady blood sugar levels, and slow down the release of insulin, a hormone that can cause your body to store more fat, explains Maye Musk, RD, a New York-based nutritionist.


Pump Up Your Protein Intake

“When you reach 40, it becomes harder for your muscles to recover from exercise and you need more protein to assist in the repair process,” says Lisa Dorfman, RD and sports nutritionist. Try to eat about half your body weight in protein grams every day.


Add Intervals

Increase the intensity of your aerobic routine to near your limit for anywhere from 20 seconds to two minutes, then spend about an equal amount of time exercising at a level that feels comfortable. Continue alternating the sequence during your workout.


Build In Active Recovery

Research has shown that light physical activity—including walking, stretching or just moving about—significantly reduces next-day soreness.


Stop Counting Calories

Give yourself the occasional green light for forbidden foods, despite how many calories a treat may contain. Once you let yourself decide, you may find that instead of wanting to eat too much of a forbidden high-calorie food, you’re satisfied with a small portion because you know you can have it again in the future.


Don’t Be Fooled By Your Hormones

During the perimenopausal transition (which takes seven to 10 years), what feels like a need for food can often be exhaustion instead. When you’re craving a quick fix—something most easily found in a vending machine or deli, in the form of fatty, processed food—try another tactic before assuming you’re hungry.


Focus On Your Food

The more you grab meals on the go and then multitask, the easier it is to lose track of how much you’re actually consuming. Be more mindful when eating (feel the textures, inhale the aromas), because engaging your senses slows down the process, leaving you more satisfied.


Wear A Pedometer

This tool helps you connect your hunger level to your activity level. If you know for a fact you haven’t moved that many steps, you may realize you aren’t as hungry as you thought.


Schedule In Five Minutes a Day of Full-Body Flexibility

Tight muscles can interfere with your ability to get a good workout because you may not move as quickly or freely, and thus may burn fewer calories.


End Automatic Eating

By midlife many long-term dieters have learned to rely on scheduled mealtimes—rather than their body’s signals—to decide when to eat. Just because the clock says 1 p.m., that doesn’t mean you need a big meal.


Eat Several Small Meals a Day

Eating small amounts of food several times a day has kept the weight off for Michaela McKenna.

“In the past, I’d be too busy to eat until the afternoon,” McKenna says. “Then, when the kids came home from school, I’d start grazing. I’d eat 4,000 calories by bedtime.” Now her daytime food choices consist of yogurt and a handful of almonds, or a high-protein cereal bar and fruit. At dinner she eats a small portion of whatever her family is having, such as fish and whole-wheat pasta. Eating frequently keeps her blood sugar level even, so she doesn’t have the energy highs and lows that used to lead to cravings.

If you graze throughout the day, make sure to keep the quantity per sitting to a minimum, says Molly Kimball, RD, of the Ochsner Clinic’s Elmwood Fitness Center, in New Orleans. “Aim for 200 to 300 calories per meal, about every three to four hours.”


Know What’s On Your Plate

To lose what you have to know what you’re eating, and when you go out to eat, you never know what they’re putting on your plate.


Plan Ahead

For most of her adult life, Lisa Skiles struggled against what people called her big-boned frame. Since losing weight with the help of a diet program, she has maintained her impressive loss through careful planning. Rule one: She decides what she’ll eat that day when she gets up in the morning. “Lunch with a friend means I’ll eat more than normal, so I’ll plan on a light dinner,” Skiles says.

Skiles also knows her order before she walks into a restaurant. Judith Beck, PhD, author of The Beck Diet Solution, says spontaneous eating may mean you’ll choose foods based on cravings, which usually means higher- calorie foods. Eating small portions of favorite foods is also key, according to Beck, 53, who has maintained a 15-pound weight loss for 10 years: “I like a treat at night, so I allow myself up to 250 calories of whatever I want. The trick is limiting it to after dinner, which motivates me to eat healthy the rest of the day.”


Downsize Your Dishes

Replace large dinner plates with smaller salad plates and you cut one-third of the calories in each meal, according to Milton Stokes, RD.


Eat More Slowly

It takes 20 to 30 minutes for the fullness cue to travel from the stomach to the brain. But over-40 women can have an even harder time knowing when to stop eating, because the hormones that signal satiety are among those that fluctuate during perimenopause. Eating more slowly can help you eat less.


Intensify Your Workouts

“If you already walk, add some hills and some speed. Crank up the resistance on the bike or the elliptical trainer. Don’t be afraid to sweat,” says Pamela Peeke, MD, author of Body for Life for Women.


Keep Your Core Busy

Sit and stand tall. Holding in your middle takes strength!



Spend 20 minutes, twice a week doing strength training. Carry your groceries in from the car, stack wood by your fireplace—anything!


Experiment With Meal Size

By now you know your personal need-to-eat signs—stomach rumbles, vague crabbiness, an inability to focus—so you should definitely grab a bite before you get to that point. But responding shouldn’t mean stuffing yourself senseless. Tune in to your natural “stop” signals.


Build a Support System

Find a workout buddy to help keep you on track. Or, join a healthy-focused online community, such as Spark People, where you can swap ideas and updates with other motivated members.


Add Herbs...

instead of salt, butter, or cheese. Less calories!


Watch Yourself After 3 PM

“That’s when you screw up the most,” warns health and fitness guru Pam Peeke. Her advice: Eat a lean protein and a healthy carb in the afternoon to reduce your appetite. Try Greek yogurt with almonds.



If you’re sweating you’re experiencing a high-intensity cardio workout that challenges your heart.


Walk Instead of E-Mailing

Deliver a message to a co-worker by foot and get some exercise.


Finish Eating By 8 PM

You will wake up feeling hungry so you’re ready for breakfast.



Women who are sleep-deprived are more likely to overeat and not have enough energy for exercise.


Find Your Physical Balance

Around 50, your sense of equilibrium may start to falter. Practice balance exercises daily. Stand on one foot while waiting in line, putting on socks or tying a shoe.


Set a Healthy Goal

Sign up for a marathon and follow the training program!


Next: Small Changes, Big Results


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First Published Mon, 2011-01-31 17:47

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