Men and women squirrel away fat differently, according to Harris-Pincus. On average, women have six to 11 percent more body fat than men. That extra fat typically gathers lower on the body (especially before they hit menopause) around the hips and thighs, creating a pear-shape. Men, on the other hand, tend to accumulate fat around the belly (hence, the beer gut).
You don’t have to go low-carb to ditch those extra pounds around your waist in a short period of time. In fact, opting for more whole grains might just get you there faster. Researchers at Tufts University have linked eating three or more daily servings of whole grains to as much as a 10 percent reduction in visceral body fat, the kind that ups your risk for chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
You know that protein's essential for a slimmer you. But here's why protein really needs to play a prime roll on your plate: "Your body starts to produce more insulin as you age, since your muscle and fat cells aren't responding to it properly," explains Louis Aronne, M.D., director of the obesity clinic at Cornell University. Insulin promotes fat storage—especially around your belly—and a diet high in protein may protect you against insulin resistance, says Aronne. In one study, obese women who followed a diet for eight weeks that was roughly 30 perecent protein, 40 percent carbs, and 30 percent fat lost significantly more fat—including visceral pudge—than women who stuck to a plan that was 16 percent protein, 55 percent carbs, and 26 percent fat.
It's been seven months since I started my diet, and two months since I left it. I've begun eating a light lunch, and having an occasional small snack. I'm still at 175. But I never want to lose the delicious edge of hunger before dinner, or the floating sensation when I walk. Moving takes less energy now, so I have more energy. I no longer feel like a spherical physicist. And for losing weight, dieting sure beats cleaning animal stalls.
Use the meal as a reward for a week’s worth of hard work, or the completion of a project you’ve been dreading. “It’s OK for people to blow one meal a week without feeling guilty,” says James W. Anderson, M.D., director of the Metabolic Research Group at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. “If you follow a healthy diet 95% of the time, you can relax and enjoy yourself the other 5% of the time without gaining weight.”
A study from Canada’s McMaster University (partly funded by Dairy Farmers of Canada) put women on several different diets (lower protein, low dairy; lower protein, medium dairy; higher protein, high dairy) and found they all lost the same amount of weight — but that the higher-protein, high-dairy group lost the most belly fat while also gaining and holding onto the most muscle mass. “It seems… increasing calcium and protein in the diet may help to further promote loss of fat from the worst storage area in the body,” said Andrea Josse, lead author of the study.
You might have heard the term ‘middle-age spread’. This means, as women progress towards their middle years, the ratio of body fat increases compared to the body weight. During menopause, when the levels of estrogen go down, and the amount of androgens or male hormones increase, then there is an increased risk of fat accumulation in the waist. Hormones actually regulate the fat concentration in the body, and your figure depends entirely on it!
One of the top belly fat-building offenders is stress — and not just because that bad day at work can make you feel like demolishing a pint of Cherry Garcia. When your body senses you're overwhelmed, it automatically starts producing cortisol — a hormone has been proven to eff with your body chemistry and stimulate extra fat storage in your gut. Yeah, sucks. When you're feeling worked up, close your eyes and take long, deep breaths for about five minutes. You'll immediately start to feel more relaxed, which should calm those hormones down and nix that belly sabotage.
Want to lose that belly fat? In your dreams! Seriously, though: a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to get rid of that extra fat around your waist for good. Among the 60,000 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study, those who snoozed for fewer than five hours a night were at the greatest risk of becoming obese and gaining 30 or more pounds over the course of the 16-year study period when compared to those who slept for seven or more hours.
3. Up your nutrition game in the kitchen. Take a healthy-cooking class or look for free seminars about healthy eating run by health professionals, suggests Sopov. “Everyone could benefit from talking to a registered dietitian who will take the time to pinpoint what behaviors and changes in diet will work best for your lifestyle,” she says. Check out the offerings at your local grocery store — many now have nutritionists on staff to help you reach your healthy eating goals.