6 Bulge Busting Myths
There is no shortage of famous women with secrets for a better body: Jennifer Lopez, Angelina Jolie, Carrie Underwood.
And then there are the other myriad head-turners with books about their bodies: “The Everygirl’s Guide to Diet and Fitness” by Maria Menounos; “Body Book” by Cameron Diaz; and “I Got This” by Jennifer Hudson, to name a few.
But for real women – you know, the ones without personal chefs, personal trainers and personal fortunes in the bank – are their ideas the best ways to beat the battle of the bulge? Which of the most common weight loss tips actually work for the majority of us?
1. Get Off the Couch
There’s no way around it. Even if you’ve ditched the chips, you probably won’t make any progress if you don’t get moving. “From middle age on, there’s nothing more vital to your health and weight control than building lean muscle mass, and the only way that happens is with weight training and exercise,” says Suzanne Somers, the actress from “Three’s Company” and creator of SexyForever.com who’s been a diet and fitness guru for decades. “You’ll need to lose weight in general to lose fat from your stomach area – and the increased caloric burn from muscle helps you lose weight faster than you would otherwise.”
You can get as creative as you want with your exercise regimen, just be sure it’s rigorous enough to get results. “Ninety minutes per week is the minimum you need to keep your heart healthy and to speed up your metabolism so you can drop that belly fat,” Somers adds. “Then add strength training with weights or resistance bands – start light and work your way up.”
James Hill, Ph.D. at the University of Colorado shares that a lack of exercise lowers your metabolism, making it harder to lose weight. “A lot of what we know In this area comes from NASA, of the bed-rest studies. Within a couple of days of non-activity, the metabolism becomes inflexible. You start moving again, and it does start to change,” he says.
2. Get Some Sleep
I know, I know – I just told you to stop lying around and now I’m telling you to go to bed. But, ironic as it sounds, studies continue to show that those who get too little sleep tend to gain weight. Some of it is caused by an increased desire to eat caloric foods (munching on popcorn and drinking soda into the night hours or snacking during the day to stay awake). But there may be under-the-surface causes as well.
“One explanation might be that sleep duration affects hormones regulating hunger – ghrelin and leptin – and stimulates the appetite,” says Donald Hensrud, M.D. from the Mayo Clinic. “Another contributing factor might be that lack of sleep leads to fatigue and results in less physical activity.”
3. Get Unstressed
There’s just about nothing positive to say about stress in your life, and weight gain is one to add to the list. Unless you’re one of the rarest of creatures who starves yourself when you’re stressed, you’ve joined the rest of us who have a greater tendency to pack on the pounds as we’re noshing our way through a bad situation. Food is an easy replacement for an ex-boyfriend, an evil boss or a turncoat friend, not to mention the loss of a pet, a job or a relationship.
A study by researchers at Ohio State University found that women who experienced at least one stressful circumstance followed the next day with a single, high-fat meal had a significant slow-down in their metabolism. In the study, participants were first questioned about the stressors from the previous day, and then given a meal totaling 930 calories and including 60 grams of fat. On average, the women who reported one or more stressors from the previous day burned 104 fewer calories than those who didn’t. They also had higher levels of insulin, which adds to the tendency for fat to remain stored in the body.
“We know from other data that we’re more likely to eat the wrong foods when we’re stressed, and our data says that when we eat the wrong foods, weight gain becomes more likely because we are burning fewer calories,” says Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State University.
4. Cut the Cake
You knew it was coming – the lecture about sugar. You have to reduce your consumption of the sweet stuff for more reasons than the fact that it’s full of calories. “When your body takes in sugar, it releases insulin – or the fat-storing hormone, as I like to call it,” says Somers. “Remove sugary insulin triggers – candy, sodas, juice, cookies – from your diet right away.
There are numerous sugar substitutes, if you want your cake (and eat it too). These create the same taste sensation, but are lower in calories. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several, including aspartame, saccharin and sucralose. Aspartame tastes, perhaps, the most like sugar, so it’s a popular additive in gum, for instance. Sucralose is actually made from sugar, but has zero calories. Somers has her own brand of sweetener alternative, SomerSweet, used mostly in coffee, tea and for baking. “It measures cup-for-cup like sugar,” says Somers. “I also love agave, another wonderful all-natural sweetener.”
5. The One You Can’t Get Away From
Aging. Plain and simple, weight gain is common as you get older. The body composition changes, decreasing muscle and increasing the proportion of fat, all the while lowering the metabolism, says the Centers for Disease Control. Calculating changes in your caloric needs is one way to stay on top of it. That formula requires your height, weight, age, sex and activity level. The CDC uses Body Mass Index (BMI) information to aid individuals in evaluating whether or not they’re at healthy weight levels. The BMI is determined by another formula: a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters.
While we continue to fret about adding pounds with every year, who’s watching the kids? In today’s modern family, moms and dads are “sharing the love” with their progeny. Government agencies have been publicizing the need to tackle childhood obesity, which has been on the rise for generations. Some of the health risks to children include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea and psychosocial risks.
6. Visit the Experts
A regular visit to your chiropractor will let you know if you’re on the right track. Of course, he or she can offer you feedback, as well as set up nutritional programs for you. But that’s not all.
“Organ function, hormone levels, metabolism, digestion and every other function, in one way or another, have to alter in order to adapt to the body’s current state,” says Atlanta chiropractor April Warhola. “A chiropractic adjustment may encourage weight loss by restoring the body to a state of ease.”
Because of their expertise in spinal manipulation, a chiropractor may affect the metabolism of a patient because of the connection between the lower back and the gastrointestinal tract, causing food to pass through at an adjusted rate.
Coaching is another method of support you can receive from your chiropractic care facility. Educating patients is one of the goals of the chiropractic profession, and losing weight is a common target. “Having a motivated patient who is committed and providing them with the right support is usually effective in weight reduction,” says Jasper Sidhu, BSc, DC. “Educating patients on the benefits of exercise long after they have finished their weight-loss program is critical to success. This may not be easy, particularly if the patient is losing weight with calorie reduction alone. However, if long-term exercise habits are not ingrained, weight regain will usually be the final outcome.”