Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes–and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.
DEAR FORMER FAT GIRL: I am so sick of having this belly I don’t know what to do, so I thought I would write you for advice. It seems like nothing I do helps—I have tried sit-ups every night, abs-like-steel DVDs, you name it. I need to lose weight and tone up all over, but my belly really sticks out and I want it gone! Can you help?—Melissa
DEAR MELISSA: You’re not the only one dealing with this issue—I can’t tell you how many questions I’ve gotten over the years about how to get rid of belly fat. And it’s a real concern—not just for women and men who want to look better in their jeans, but for health experts who have connected so-called visceral fat with a range of serious issues. I don’t want to scare you, but the more fat you carry around your middle, the greater your risk for heart disease, diabetes and breast and other cancers. Even if you’re only 20 or 30 pounds overweight, but you carry the bulk of it in your waist, you’re at increased risk.
It may sound strange, but sit-ups, crunches and ab work isn’t the way to go. Those types of exercises will only strengthen the muscles surrounding the fat, not get rid of it. You’re better off focusing on these strategies.
- Brisk walking. A 2003 study found that women who exercised 136 to 195 minutes a week (that’s about 30 minutes a day) triggered about a six percent loss in abdominal fat. Brisk walking was the most popular exercise, but activities like strength training, cycling, swimming and tennis burned fat, too. Not only will this whittle your waistline, but it will get you fit and toned all over.
- Eating whole grains. Tufts University researchers have found that women who eat three or more daily servings of whole grains have about 10 percent less visceral fat than those who eat less than a serving a day. Whole grains are loaded with fiber, which helps keep you fuller longer, and lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
- Keeping at it. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham reported that one year after losing an average of 24 pounds, women minimized weight gain, especially in the tummy, by doing as little as 80 minutes per week of aerobic exercise or strength training. That’s less than the time it takes to watch a couple of episodes of The Real Housewives—and much, much better for you physically and mentally!