August 21, 2008
Bad Information Confuses Weight-Loss Issue
By ROAD TO FITNESS MARJIE GILLIAM
Losing weight around the waistline is a goal for many people. There are numerous misconceptions related to how to best reduce body fat in this area, probably due to infomercials claiming six-pack abs in minutes a day, supplements suggesting fast and easy weight loss, and a mountain of misinformation related to diet.
In this and next week's columns, I will address some of the more common questions I receive.
Q What type of exercises should I be doing to get rid of the fat around my waist?
A There is no such thing as spot reducing. Abdominal exercises will help to strengthen weak muscles and burn a few calories, but will not give you 6-pack abs. When body fat is lost, it is lost head to toe, and is the result of either consuming fewer calories than your body's current energy needs, and/or burning off more calories with increased physical activity. The surest and healthiest way to trim the waistline is to decrease calories slightly per meal (for a total of 250 less calories per day) while increasing physical activity levels slightly (250 more calories burned per day). It is still important to include abdominal exercises as part of your regular workout plan, as well as exercises for the lower back. These muscles support the trunk, providing for greater stability and functional strength. Strong abdominal/low back muscles act as a natural "girdle" surrounding your entire waistline, a natural protection for the spinal column and organs.
Q I am at a healthy weight and exercise regularly, but still lack flatness and firmness around my waist.
A There can be many reasons for lack of firmness in this area, even if you are not overweight. These can include:
Body-fat levels. Being at a weight considered normal for your height does not necessarily equate to low body fat levels. As mentioned in last week's column, subcutaneous fat is easy to recognize because it lies just under the skin and therefore covers the underlying muscles. If subcutaneous fat levels are high around the middle, the abs will still have a soft look and feel.
Age-related skin changes. As time goes by, the elasticity of the skin diminishes, which can leave the abdominal area looking less taut. While some age-related changes are to be expected, drinking plenty of water, limiting over-exposure to the sun and consuming sufficient amounts of Omega 3 fats, such as can be found in fish, nuts and whole grains, can help keep the skin healthy and improve its appearance.
Water retention. Too much sodium increases fluid retention, and so if you tend to favor salty foods, try using herbs, spices or other low/no salt flavor options instead. With excess sodium levels, the blood becomes saltier and water is drawn from the cells to dilute it. High sodium culprits include processed foods and restaurant/fast foods among others, so read labels, modify portions or substitute for healthier choices. Water retention and bloating can also be caused by hormone fluctuations, allergic reactions, steroid medications and other medicines as well as starchy or flour- based foods such as rice, breads or pasta if they are overconsumed. Consuming too much fiber or increasing fiber too quickly can give a bloated look to the ab area as well as cause digestive problems.
The Institute of Medicine recommends consuming 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calorie requirement. With some people, water retention and bloating seem to come and go without an obvious cause. If despite your best efforts to pinpoint the source of the problem you continue to experience difficulties, check with your doctor.
Remember that when stepping on the scale, the number you see encompasses many things, including body fluids, bones, muscle and organs. It is not uncommon for scale weight to fluctuate as much as 3 to 5 pounds a day, due to fluid loss or retention, the amount of food eaten, and how many calories we have burned or stored as fat. It is far more important to pay attention to body composition rather than a number on the scale, especially when it comes to how much, and where, fat is stored
More questions in next week's column.
Marjie Gilliam is an International Sports Sciences Association Master certified personal trainer and fitness consultant. Contact her in care of the Dayton Daily News or at (937) 878-9018. Her Web site is at www.ohtrainer.com.
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