While losing weight in a specific area (midsection or elsewhere) may not be as easy as we may hope, losing weight healthily can mean reducing belly fat and seeing noticeable changes with a balanced diet and regular exercise. We checked in with a doctor and health expert for 3 essential tips to keep in mind on your weight loss journey over 40, and how remembering that it’s a marathon rather than a sprint can make the process feel much less daunting. Read on for tips, suggestions and insight from Dr. Antonio Cueva, board-certified general surgeon and health expert at Renew Bariatrics.
1. Clean Your Diet
One of the best things you can do to start losing belly fat specifically, Cueva says, is to “clean up your diet.” An unhealthy diet can cause dangerous “visceral fat” (midsection/ abdominal fat) because it is usually “high in calories and low in nutrients.” When you don’t get enough nutrients, he warns, your body starts to “store the bad fat.” Consuming too many unhealthy foods and drinks, such as processed foods, sugary drinks, and alcohol, can “increase your risk of developing visceral fat, leading to risks for heart disease and other heart problems,” he says. Additionally, Cueva points out that eating a poor diet that is “high in saturated and unhealthy fats” can also contribute to visceral fat accumulation.
While the idea of rethinking your diet may feel overwhelming, Cueva notes that you can “work with a registered dietitian to create a healthy eating plan that is tailored to your specific needs and goals.” By following a customized meal plan, you can feel more on track and still eat foods that you enjoy. (It’s more about adding nutrients to your diet than taking them away!) Cueva also advises us to “focus on consuming whole, nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats.”
2. Create an exercise routine
The best thing about exercising, many might agree, is the wide range of fitness options out there for various skill levels and needs. To truly lose weight in your midsection, Cueva says that sticking to an exercising routine can help you remain motivated, and the consistent movement will naturally help you drop pounds healthily. “Another way people gain belly fat is by lack of exercise,” he explains. “When people don’t exercise, they tend to gain visceral fat. This is because when people sit or lay down for long periods, their bodies don’t use as much energy.”
This, he adds, can lead to an increase in the amount of belly fat a person has. “Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week,” he recommends, adding that “you can break this up into shorter 10-15 minute sessions if needed.”
Some examples of moderate-intensity exercises include “walking, biking, swimming, and light jogging,” Cueva suggests, and a good tip is to “find an activity you enjoy so that you are more likely to stick with it in the long term. ” In addition to moderate-intensity exercise, adding in some strength training exercises can also help to reduce visceral fat, Cueva says. “Strength-training exercises help to build muscle, which in turn helps to burn more calories at rest.” He tells beginners to try to do strength-training exercises “at least 2-3 times a week.”
3. Find What Your Stressors Are, And What Helps You Relax
Stress can also contribute to the accumulation of visceral fat, Cueva says. When people are stressed, he notes that “they tend to eat more unhealthy foods and gain weight.” Additionally, Cueva points out that stress can cause hormonal imbalances that can lead to weight gain. To avoid this, he says to “try to find ways to reduce the amount of stress in your life.”
By first figuring out what is causing stress, you can then make the process of finding what helps you de-stress much easier. “This could include things like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises,” he says. Cueva concludes that you can also try to “take some time for yourself each day to do things you enjoy, such as reading, listening to music, or spending time outdoors.”
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